This article was originally published atThe Conversation.The publication contributed the article to Space.com'sExpert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
Lisa Kewley, Director, ARC Centre for Excellence in All-Sky Astrophysics in 3D, Australian National University
It will take until at least 2080 before women make up just one-third of Australia's professional astronomers unless there is a significant boost to how we nurture female researchers' careers.
Over the past decade, astronomy has been rightly recognized as leading the push towards gender equity in the sciences. But my new modeling,published in Nature Astronomy, shows it is not working fast enough.
Related: 20 trailblazing women in astronomy and astrophysics
TheAustralian Academy of Science's decadal planfor astronomy in Australia proposes women should comprise one-third of the senior workforce by 2025.
It's a worthy, if modest, target. However, with new data from the academy's Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) program, I have modeled the effects of current hiring rates and practices and arrived at a depressing, if perhaps not surprising, conclusion. Without a change to the current mechanisms, it will take at least 60 years to reach that 30% level.
However, the modeling also suggests that the introduction of ambitious, affirmative hiring programs aimed at recruiting and retaining talented women astronomers could see the target reached in just over a decade and then growing to 50% in a quarter of a century.
Before looking at how that might be done, it's worth examining how the gender imbalance in physics arose in the first place. To put it bluntly: how did we get to a situation in which 40% of astronomy PhDs are awarded to women, yet they occupyfewer than 20% of senior positions?
On a broad level, the answer is simple: my analysis shows women depart astronomy at two to three times the rate of men. In Australia, from postdoc status to assistant professor level, 62% of women leave the field, compared with just 17% of men. Between assistant professor and full professor level, 47% of women leave; the male departure rate is about half that. Women's departure rates aresimilar in US astronomy.
Read more:'Death by a thousand cuts': women of color in science face a subtly hostile work environment
The next question is: why?
Many women leave out of sheer disillusionment. Women in physics and astronomy say their careers progress more slowly than those of male colleagues, and that the culture is not welcoming.
They receive fewer career resources and opportunities. Randomized double-blind trials and broad research studies in astronomy and across the sciences show implicit bias in astronomy, which means more men arepublished,cited,invited to speak at conferences, and giventelescopetime.
It's hard to build a solid research-based body of work when one's access to tools and recognition is disproportionately limited.
There is another factor that sometimes contributes to the loss of women astronomers: loyalty. In situations where a woman's male partner is offered a new job in another town or city, the woman more frequentlygives up her work to facilitate the move.
Encouraging universities or research institutes to help partners find suitable work nearby is thus one of the strategies I (and others) have suggested to help recruit women astrophysicists.
But the bigger task at hand requires institutions to identify, tackle and overcome inherent bias a legacy of a conservative academic tradition that,research shows, is weighted towards men.
A key mechanism to achieve this was introduced in 2014 by the Astronomical Society of Australia. It devised a voluntary rating and assessment system known as thePleiades Awards, which rewards institutions for taking concrete actions to advance the careers of women and close the gender gap.
Initiatives include longer-term postdoctoral positions with part-time options, support for returning to astronomy research after career breaks, increasing the fraction of permanent positions relative to fixed-term contracts, offering women-only permanent positions, recruitment of women directly to professorial levels, and mentoring of women for promotion to the highest levels.
Most if not all Australian organizations that employ astronomers have signed up to the Pleiades Awards, and are showing genuine commitment to change.
Seven years on, we would expect to have seen an increase in women recruited to, and retained in, senior positions.
And we are, but the effect is far from uniform. My own organization, the ARC Centre of Excellence in All-Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D), is on track for a 50:50 women-to-men ratio working at senior levels by the end of this year.
TheUniversity of Sydney School of Physicshas made nine senior appointments over the past three years, seven of them women.
But these examples are outliers. At many institutions, inequitable hiring ratios and high departure rates persist despite a large pool of women astronomers at postdoc levels and the positive encouragement of the Pleiades Awards.
Using these results and my new workforce models, I have shown current targets of 33% or 50% of women at all levels are unattainable if the status quo remains.
I propose a raft of affirmative measures to increase the presence of women at all senior levels in Australian astronomy and keep them there.
These include creating multiple women-only roles, creating prestigious senior positions for women, and hiring into multiple positions for men and women to avoid perceptions of tokenism. Improved workplace flexibility is crucial to allowing female researchers to develop their careers while balancing other responsibilities.
Read more:Isaac Newton invented calculus in self-isolation during the Great Plague. He didn't have kids to look after
Australia is far from unique when it comes to dealing with gender disparities in astronomy. Broadly similar situations persist in China, the United States and Europe. AnApril 2019 paperoutlined similar discrimination experienced by women astronomers in Europe.
Australia, however, is well placed to play a leading role in correcting the imbalance. With the right action, it wouldn't take long to make our approach to gender equity as world-leading as our research.
This article is republished fromThe Conversationunder a Creative Commons license. Read theoriginal article.
Follow all of the Expert Voices issues and debates and become part of the discussion on Facebook and Twitter. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher.
Go here to read the rest:
- Astronomy Fans; July 15 - YOU Are Invited to a Free Lecture on Telescopes and Technology to See the Stars - Glendale Daily Planet - July 10th, 2021
- These are the best astronomy images of the year - Livescience.com - July 10th, 2021
- Ennead Architects' Shanghai Astronomy Museum opens this month as the largest in the world - The Architect's Newspaper - July 10th, 2021
- Astronomers Use Artificial Intelligence to Reveal the Actual Shape of the Universe - SciTechDaily - July 10th, 2021
- Astronomers find 100 black holes in Palomar 5 - EarthSky - July 10th, 2021
- 25 ethereal astronomy photos that literally light up the skies - Mashable - July 10th, 2021
- Incredible Finalists of the 2021 Astronomy Photographer of the Year - My Modern Met - July 10th, 2021
- Astronomers use artificial intelligence to reveal the true shape of universe - WION - July 10th, 2021
- What caused an old, giant star to disappear for over half a year? - SYFY WIRE - July 10th, 2021
- Jason Report on the Impacts of Large Satellite Constellations - National Science Foundation - July 10th, 2021
- Astronomers accidentally discover massive galactic structure with Green Bank Telescope - KRON4 - July 10th, 2021
- Oxford recognises Annie Cannons invaluable contribution to astronomy archive, 1925 - The Guardian - July 2nd, 2021
- Queer Astronomy, Part 1: Acknowledging the problem | astrobites - Astrobites - July 2nd, 2021
- Wonders of the Universe: 23 mind-blowing photos from the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2021 shortlist - BBC Focus Magazine - July 2nd, 2021
- In Photos: Angry Sun, A Blue Martian Sunset And Weird Dolphin Head Star In Astronomy Photographer Of The Year Entries - Forbes - July 2nd, 2021
- Ancient Greek Astronomers -- And Modern Moguls -- Aim for the Stars - Greek Reporter - July 2nd, 2021
- How big is the universe? Henrietta Leavitt led Edwin Hubble to a better, bigger answer. - Vox.com - July 2nd, 2021
- Are We Missing Other Earths? Dramatic New Evidence Uncovered by Astronomers - SciTechDaily - July 2nd, 2021
- Astronomers Are Zeroing In On The Birth Of The First Stars - IFLScience - June 28th, 2021
- The Largest Comet Ever Found Is Making Its Move Into a Sky Near You - The New York Times - June 28th, 2021
- Asteroids named after UH astronomers | University of Hawaii System News - UH System Current News - June 28th, 2021
- 500 astronomy labs yet to see light of day - The Hindu - June 20th, 2021
- Astronomers spot largest rotation in the universe - EarthSky - June 20th, 2021
- Astronomers discover largest known spinning structures in the universe - Space.com - June 18th, 2021
- UW astronomer redefines the scientific hero as part of The Great Courses - UW News - June 18th, 2021
- Astronomy Professor Develops Innovative Medical Imaging Device - The College Today - June 18th, 2021
- 'Changing-Look' Blazar Spotted 6.3 Billion Light-Years Away | Astronomy - Sci-News.com - June 18th, 2021
- Astronomer Kelsey Johnson Reflects on the Science Behind the Search for UFOs - University of Virginia - June 18th, 2021
- 3.3-Billion-Light-Year-Long Arc of Galaxies Discovered | Astronomy - Sci-News.com - June 18th, 2021
- Texas A&M astronomer weighs in on upcoming UFO report - Times Record News - June 18th, 2021
- Earth, space, time, and more: Read how Indian scholars had recorded astronomical facts centuries before they were discovered by Westerns - OpIndia - June 18th, 2021
- How far away are supernovae? Astronomers find a way to tighten measurements - SYFY WIRE - June 18th, 2021
- Astronomers Have Tracked Down the Source of High Energy Cosmic Rays to Regions Within the Milky Way Itself - Universe Today - June 11th, 2021
- The rise and rapid fall of the Stingray Nebula - SYFY WIRE - June 11th, 2021
- Astronomers To NASA: Please, Build This Telescope! - Forbes - June 11th, 2021
- The Vatican's Space Observatory Wants To See Stars And Faith Align - NPR - June 11th, 2021
- UMD Astronomer Spots Triple Galaxy Merger That Sheds Light on Black Hole, Galaxy Formation - Maryland Today - June 11th, 2021
- Astronomers Confirm the Existence of Magnetic Waves in the Suns Photosphere - Universe Today - June 11th, 2021
- The first lone neutron star ever seen outside the Milky Way - SYFY WIRE - June 11th, 2021
- Out of this world: How Mills Observatory was nearly built on Dundee Law - The Courier - June 11th, 2021
- The delicate beauty of illuminated dust - SYFY WIRE - June 4th, 2021
- GW Physics Professor Awarded Shaw Prize in Astronomy - GW Today - June 4th, 2021
- Young Nebula Hints at Formation of Stars in Early Universe - PRNewswire - June 4th, 2021
- Recreation Services finds success with virtual programming - UC Riverside - June 4th, 2021
- Giant planets live in the suburbsGiant planets live in the suburbs - EarthSky - June 4th, 2021
- AfAS and the IAU-OAD Sign Cooperation Agreement to Strengthen Development Through Astronomy In Africa - Space in Africa - June 4th, 2021
- June Astronomy: As the Summer Begins, Mars and Venus Engage in a Cosmic Dance with Pollux and Castor - Coachella Valley Independent - June 4th, 2021
- Spinning Disks, Oddball Stars, and Strange Planets Help Astronomers Test Theories About Planetary System Formation - SciTechDaily - June 4th, 2021
- NASA Is Giving Two Venus Missions a Chance - The Atlantic - June 4th, 2021
- The most ancient spiral galaxy yetThe most ancient spiral galaxy yet - EarthSky - June 4th, 2021
- Victoria Kaspi named co-winner of the 2021 Shaw Prize in Astronomy - McGill Reporter - McGill Reporter - June 2nd, 2021
- What's the story behind the stars? - Space.com - June 2nd, 2021
- Physics and Astronomy Lecture: A New Era in Solar Observations - Coos Bay World - June 2nd, 2021
- International Astronomical Union OAO Announce Three Projects for Funding Scheme - Space in Africa - June 2nd, 2021
- Will the Next Space-Weather Season Be Stormy or Fair? - The New York Times - June 2nd, 2021
- Astronomy: A beginner's guide to stargazing wherever you live - Stylist Magazine - June 2nd, 2021
- Tip # 16: If you use GPS and take pictures on your phone, thank you Astronomy - 05/21/2021 - The Press Stories - May 22nd, 2021
- Ruth Freitag, Librarian to the Stars, Dies at 96 - The New York Times - May 22nd, 2021
- Astronomers discover how the Milky Way galaxy was formed - WION - May 22nd, 2021
- Beyond the Boundaries of Time and Space - Astrobites - May 22nd, 2021
- Conan Gray's Astronomy test reveals how compatible you are with your crush - PopBuzz - May 22nd, 2021
- Outer space is like the wild west: Astronomers worry SpaceX satellites could change the night sky forever - MyNorthwest.com - May 22nd, 2021
- Astronomers Detect The Highest Energy Light Ever That Could Change Laws Of Physics! - Mashable India - May 22nd, 2021
- Wait: Do black holes *really* swarm in the core of globular cluster NGC 6397? - SYFY WIRE - May 22nd, 2021
- Celebration of International Astronomy Day with Canon Europe's space-themed craft kits - Africanews English - May 20th, 2021
- Cicada Swarms Were First Studied by a Black Naturalist in the 18th Century - History - May 20th, 2021
- Pune Boy Clicks Clearest Photos Of The Moon - Punekar News - May 20th, 2021
- The Milky Way may have grown up faster than astronomers suspected - Science News Magazine - May 18th, 2021
- Astronomy: Discovering the Universe with cutting-edge technology - Open Access Government - May 18th, 2021
- Pune: 16-year-old astronomy lover clicks stunning pic of moon with 55,000 images - Republic World - May 18th, 2021
- Astronomers Measure the Background Brightness of the Night sky Across the World. Canary Islands are the Darkest in the Survey - Universe Today - May 18th, 2021
- Astronomy events 2021: These happenings will make you starry-eyed this summer - Woman & Home - May 18th, 2021
- Maui Teens and UH Astronomer Featured in Xploration Awesome Planet TV Show - Maui Now - May 18th, 2021
- Dark matter might heat exoplanets enough to make them glow - SYFY WIRE - May 18th, 2021
- Tour UVic's telescope and chat with astronomers during Greater Victoria's 'Star Party' Victoria News - Victoria News - May 18th, 2021
- Nehru Planetarium director, who helped make astronomy accessible to the young, dies of Covid - The Indian Express - May 18th, 2021
- International Astronomy Day: Astronomy Quotes That Will Inspire You To Explore The Cosmos - International Business Times - May 18th, 2021
- Astronomers get rare and surprising before and after shots of a star going supernova - CBC.ca - May 18th, 2021
- Astronomers keep finding mysterious circular rings in the sky and don't know how to explain them - Livescience.com - May 11th, 2021
- National Radio Astronomy Observatory featured in the 2021 STEM for All Video Showcase - Newswise - May 11th, 2021