[WAM logo]

Women in Astronomy Meeting (WAM)

Monday 21 July 2003
at the IAU XXVth General Assembly

The IAU XXVth GA Women in Astronomy Meeting (WAM) luncheon was held on Monday 21 July in the lovely Skyline Terrace of the Convention Centre North and was was attended by over 180 IAU delegates. The event was booked out, showing a very encouraging level of interest in the status of women in astronomy. The meeting was attended by the IAU Executive, including the current President, the Presidents Elect for this and the next GA, several holders of the position of General Secretary and many senior astronomers, including directors of observatories and presidents of professional bodies, as well as many students and young astronomers.

WAM Summary

The keynote speech was be delivered by Dr Andrea Dupree (CfA), who gave a summary of the Women in Astronomy II meeting held in Pasadena late June 2003. Her summary of that meeting reported that women are not represented at highest levels; women do not receive the top honours and prizes; the number of women in astronomy positions is not increasing at a rate commensurate with the availability of qualified female students; that 'the playing field must be leveled' in hiring and rewards (as gender bias is alive and well in our society even if it is unconscious); and that astronomy is challenging, creative, and exciting! The conclusion is that for scientific excellence, we cannot afford to lose the intellectual power of 50% of the gene pool.

The main goal of the WAM lunch was to review the status of women in astronomy and to plan strategies and actions for improvement. In particular, we aimed to establish an IAU Working Group on the Status of Women in Astronomy. We were delighted to be able to report that the proposal was approved by the IAU Executive a few days previously. The IAU Working Group will ensure that women in astronomy have a session at every IAU GA. The Working Group will establish a comprehensive database of statistics of women in astronomy and coordinate the global collection of such statistics, and work to provide a useful network for women in astronomy.

All WAM participants received a flyer with a subset of the percentage of women IAU members, a summary of the 1992 Baltimore Charter, and seven suggested issues for discussion including career paths & recruitment issues, role models & mentors, child raising & childcare. Each of the 18 tables had a scribe who took notes during a 40 minute discussion to report back to the meeting in a plenary session. Some of the recurring issues discussed included:

  1. Hard statistics are essential. There exist bodies of evidence from the USA, UK, Australia, France and maybe other countries. It is essential that we compile a uniform set of statistics.
  2. There are some countries (e.g. France, Italy) which have definite programs to provide permanent jobs for young astronomers, particularly women.
  3. Cultural differences exist clearly no one approach works for all situations.
  4. Family support and flexible working conditions are essential.

For a complete record of the day, we have collected all the notes from the 18 scribes and a more complete summary will be reported in the next IAU Information Bulletin. We will also ask for wider contributions to goals of the Working Group (which clearly should include contributions from people who did not attend the WAM lunch or the Sydney GA) and constituents of the Working Group Executive Committee, which is expected to comprise about 20 people.

A summary report was included in the IAU Information Bulletin 94.

Where to next?

We are asking for contributions to goals of the IAU Working Group on the Status of Women in Astronomy. A Working Group website will be setup, an Executive Committee established, and a membership established. If you wish to be a member of the Working Group, please contact Sarah Maddison, who will add your name to our mailing list.



The success of the WAM lunch was greatly helped by the feedback & suggestions of the WAM Working Group. We also thank Andrea Dupree for her keynote speech, and the Darling Harbour Convention Centre for a lovely room and a great lunch. And of course all the attendees, who made the meeting such a success.

WAM Co-chairs: Anne Green (Sydney) & Sarah Maddison (Swinburne)

Return to IAU WG on Women in Astronomy

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Maintained by: Sarah Maddison (smaddison@swin.edu.au)
Authorised by: Prof. Karl Glazebrook (kglazebrook@ 15;win.edu.au)
Tuesday, 14-Apr-2020 21:31:40 AEST