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Media Invited to "Women in Astronomy IV" in Austin

Press Release From: American Astronomical Society
Posted: Wednesday, April 19, 2017

“Women in Astronomy IV: The Many Faces of Women Astronomers” will take place 9-11 June 2017 at the JW Marriott Austin, 110 E. 2nd St., Austin, TX 78701, immediately following the 230th AAS meeting (https://aas.org/meetings/aas230) being held in the same venue 4-8 June. The conference is sponsored by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and the American Astronomical Society (AAS) with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Through the AAS, the WiA IV organizers are offering complimentary press registration to bona fide working journalists and public-information officers (PIOs); see details below.

WiA IV conference website:
https://aas.org/WiAIV

WiA IV travel & lodging information:
https://aas.org/WiAIV-travel
(deadline for hotel reservations at the conference rate: 18 May)

WiA IV conference program:
https://aas.org/WiAIV-program

Conference Rationale

Over the past few decades, women in astronomy and related careers have made great strides toward increased representation and higher status in their profession. However, they continue to face serious challenges. Women represent significantly less than 50% of astronomy professionals in jobs in science, engineering, data analysis, management, and more. Only 34% of astronomy graduate students and 28% of astronomy postdocs are women. In more senior positions, the percentages of women are lower -- for women of color, dramatically lower. For example, in 2012 the American Institute of Physics found that fewer than 1% of the faculty members in all physics and astronomy departments in the United States are African-American women or women of Latin American descent.

In the current environment, women are still affected disproportionately by sexual harassment, imposter syndrome, and unconscious bias, and by involvement in the many family-related activities and responsibilities traditionally discharged by women. All these issues are experienced differently by women of color, who face many barriers to success in science. In particular, research indicates that women of color experience higher rates of sexual harassment than white women. The challenges facing LGBTIQA women and women with disabilities are less well documented but possibly even more serious. For all these reasons, the WiA IV meeting will address the challenges specific to women and what institutions can do to create welcoming, equitable workplaces.

The conference features two keynote speakers: Peggy McIntosh, Associate Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College; and Lydia Villa-Komaroff, a molecular biologist, corporate executive, and co-founding member of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). WiA IV will focus on issues that affect a wide spectrum of women in astronomy, with panel discussions and workshops with titles such as “Migration, Immigration, and Science;” “Concrete Steps to Make Your Department More Inclusive;” and “Beyond the Whisper Net: Policy, Logistics, and Strategies to Curtail Harassment.” The conference will address challenges specific to women and what institutions can do to create welcoming, equitable workplaces. Sessions will be structured with the aim of producing policy white papers, tool kits, and resource lists.

Press Registration

WiA IV offers complimentary press registration to bona fide working journalists and PIOs, as described on described on the AAS press-credentials page (https://aas.org/media-press/eligibility-press-credentials-aas-division-meetings).

To request complimentary press registration for WiA IV -- which is separate from, and unrelated to, press registration for the 230th AAS meeting -- please send an email message to AAS Press Officer Rick Fienberg with your name, media affiliation (or “freelance” if applicable), and telephone number. Upon confirming your eligibility, he’ll forward your information to the WiA registrar. The deadline for advance press registration is Thursday, 11 May 2017; after that date, you’ll have to register on-site in Austin.

Because WiA IV will be a relatively small meeting, there will be no special accommodations for the news media, i.e., no press office or other special facilities. As of this writing, the organizers do not anticipate holding any press conferences.

Please note: A few of the WiA IV workshops will be on topics that may be considered sensitive. In these cases, confidentiality may be requested at the beginning of the session. Press registrants will be welcome to attend confidential sessions and may report on what happens there in general terms -- but with no attributed or identifiable quotes.

Contacts:
Dr. Rick Fienberg
AAS Press Officer
+1 202-328-2010 x116
rick.fienberg@aas.org

Dr. Nancy Morrison
Chair, WiA IV Scientific Organizing Committee
+1 419-202-4856
nancy.morrison@utoledo.edu

The first “Women in Astronomy” meeting was held in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1992; subsequent gatherings occurred in Pasadena, California (2003), and again in Baltimore (2009). In 2015 the inaugural “Inclusive Astronomy” meeting convened in Nashville, Tennessee, covering advocacy and resources for inclusion in the astronomy community of people holding various identities. Links to all these past conferences are available on the website of the AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA, https://cswa.aas.org).

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