Monday, June 06, 2005


Over lunch today I was perusing the latest issue of STATUS, which is the publication of the American Astronomical Society's Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy. If you don't receive the paper copy, you can read it here: June 2005 STATUS.

I, of course, appreciate all the hard work that all the CSWA people do. But I always feel like there is an implicit assumption they are making, which is that it is "bad" to go into teaching and "good" to go into research. Or, that you go into teaching when you can't get a "good" research job. For example, in the article by Virginia Valian, who works on gender equity, she says:

"[...] people at institutions with heavy teaching responsibilities, few resources and insufficient staff have neither the time nor the money to perform the scholarly research they were trained for and that might win them jobs at more prestigious institutions. Women are overrepresented at such underfunded institutions, where they cannot reach their full potential."

I agree that at a "teaching institution" there is little time and money for research, and therefore scientists are not necessarily spending time on what they were trained to do (research). I think what irks me is the judgement that somehow those of us who teach are not reaching our "full potential." What if people choose to teach because that's what they're very good at, or that's the need they see in society that they would like to fill, or because of hundreds of other reasons that influence people's career choices? Instead, it always sounds like the people who "had no choice" end up at these "teaching" places.

But anyhow ...

Speaking of implicit assumptions, the work going on at Harvard on implicit associations is very interesting. Researchers are investigating implicit prejudices that we have (whether we mean to act on them or not.) Want to test yourself? Visit Project Implicit.


At 2:13 PM, Blogger hoagieboy said...

Nice post.

I think it ends up being an echo chamber for these people. You don't get to positions of power and influence within AAS (yeah, even Status) without having research credentials. When those people look at the world they see it through the lens of research. Their commentary on the world of astronomy then influences others to have the same beliefs about the importance of research to teaching. No one in the field ends up being happy to be a teacher (except for you).

Still learning about my initial preferences. . .

At 2:33 PM, Blogger maki-girl said...

I guess you're right about it being an echo chamber. I feel like I should do something to try to change that mentality, but at the same time I feel myself withdrawing from this whole "research" world. They already count me as leaking out of the pipeline anyways. Hmmmm. Then I think, why should I care? I like what I do, I make a difference (as small as it is), and I don't have to sit around measuring my office square-footage and complaining about being disrespected by the men around here.

At 2:34 PM, Blogger maki-girl said...

So far, according to Project Implicit, I think men are better at science and I prefer white people over black people :(

At 5:46 PM, Blogger hoagieboy said...

There's something in addition that I'm not quite grasping in the article. She identifies that there is an overrepresentation of women in teaching focused jobs, but she only questions that in terms of those women not doing research. Is there a deeper issue that's more important in terms of the distribution of labor in astronomy. Read that in connection to the gradschool advise column, and I think you might see where I'll go with it when I get a chance to write again.

At 6:04 PM, Blogger Blog World said...

You don't take a photograph, you make it.
Ansel Adams- Posters.


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