WiA: Women in Astronomy

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Last week I attended the WiA Workshop here in Sydney. The website is here. I found the workshop very good, even if I didn’t get to attend it fully (because of issues related to being a mother)!

Having missed the first talk, because I really had to be a parent helper at Year 1 Maths groups, I got there in time to hear the talk by Nicole McKenna from the National Foundation for Australian Women. The point that struck me most was the ‘unconscious bias’ against female achievers, by both genders. She mentioned a study where students were asked to comment about a story involving the career of Heidi / Howard. The story was the same, but some students were told it was Heidi, and others were told it was Howard. All other aspects were identical. But at the end, students founds Howard more like-able than Heidi??? Why?? This made me consider occasions where I may have had similar unconscious biases – I ended up thinking about our Julia Gillard…

After tea, we heard from several different female astronomers about their careers. This was the only time at a meeting, did I hear about the effort that goes on behind the scenes by mummy astronomers. The few mummy astronomers I know chat about this kind of thing privately – about juggling research, sick children, grumpy husbands, traveling, and in-laws… but it was so good hear about it at an official meeting!

I didn’t get to attend the session after lunch because I had to pick up my older son from school. I came back with him to the last discussion session. But alas, the WiFi in the conference room was too slow and I could not find any way to keep a 6yr old amused and had to leave… Made me realize how much I depend on the internet to babysit kids!!

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