Why Women in Astronomy IV?

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. The numbers of women at higher-status positions are lower, the higher the position. [1] For women of color, the numbers are dramatically lower. For example, in the spring of 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.[2] Statistics on other marginalized groups are less readily available, but anecdotal evidence indicates that they are also underrepresented in astronomy.

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 [3], who face many barriers to success in science [4]. In particular, research indicates that women of color experience higher rates of sexual harassment than white women [5]. The challenges facing LGBTIQA women and women with disabilities are less well documented but possibly even more serious. For all these reasons, this meeting will address the challenges specific to women and what institutions can do to create welcoming, equitable workplaces.

What will the meeting entail?

WiA IV will focus on issues that affect the full spectrum of women in astronomy. It will explore the multiplication of disadvantage at the intersection of more than one identity for women of color, members of the LGBTIQA community, women with disabilities, and other underrepresented and marginalized women. This conference will identify the ways in which the field of astronomy must change in order to reap the full benefit of a scientific environment in which the effects of gender bias are minimized.

The meeting will primarily use workshops, panels, and small group discussions to provide many opportunities for discussion, training, collaboration, and networking within and across career stages.  Contributed poster sessions will provide the chance to share recent research, both programmatic and astronomical in topic.

Our goal is to develop recommendations for participants to take back to their departments and a white paper with suggestions for action by individuals, departments, scientific societies, federal agencies, industry, and other partners — actions that will contribute to equitable workplaces and advance the status of women in astronomy.

Women in Astronomy IV (WiA IV) is cosponsored by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and the American Astronomical Society, with support from the National Science Foundation. WiA IV is envisioned as part of a future series of conferences on the theme of diversity and inclusion in astronomy, which will be supported by the AAS and organized by the AAS diversity committees, by the organizers of Inclusive Astronomy[6], and by other members of the astronomical community.

About Current Events Full Explanation

The WiA IV Organizing Committee (OC) has considered the implications of the Texas Legislature’s proposed SB No. 6, and ways in which we might mitigate the intended effects of the bill. The bill, if passed, would restrict access to bathrooms by transgender people and prevent local nondiscrimination ordinances. Beyond the obvious, and disturbing, effects that this proposed bill would have on the transgender members of our community, several very important factors were considered during our deliberations. The City of Austin is itself a target of this bill. Austin has attempted to provide, through ordinances, protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents. SB  No. 6 includes language that specifically prohibits localities, like Austin, from adopting ordinances that provide important LGBTQ-related protections.

We are aware that the unintended effects of boycotts include ‘cascading’ financial harm to what are often the lowest-paid, least-protected workers in the service industry. In a similar vein, non-profit organizations, such as  the sponsors of this conference (AAS and NRAO), would experience significant financial loss through existing contracts with the venue. These losses would inevitably affect the ability of both organizations to provide important staffing, programming, and services to our community.

We believe that thoughtful, directed effort to facilitate an inclusive, welcoming experience for our transgender, immigrant, and international colleagues is within the reach of our community.

Welcoming plans include:

  • Arrangements for bathrooms in meeting spaces to be ‘gender-neutral’ for WIA IV meeting
  • Identifying area restaurants with LGBTQ-inclusive policies
  • Workshops/panels on gender identity/expression and immigration status included in WIA meeting
  • Statement regarding future meetings in states with anti-trans/anti-LGBTQ laws
  • Additional actions may be adopted

Code of Conduct

Women in Astronomy IV is dedicated to providing an inclusive and safe conference experience for everyone regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, age, or religion. We do not tolerate harassment of conference participants in any form. Sexual or otherwise offensive language and imagery are not appropriate for any conference venue, including talks. Due to the sensitive and personal nature of some of the topics addressed at the meeting, confidentiality will be expected from the participants at some sessions. Conference participants violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the conference without a refund at the discretion of the conference organizers. Our anti-harassment and confidentiality policy can be found at under the "Code of Conduct" tab.


[1]A. M. Hughes, 2014 January, Status, p. 1, "The 2013 CSWA Demographics Survey: Portrait of a Generation of Women in Astronomy," http://www.aas.org/cswa/status/Status_2014_Jan.pdf

[2] R. Ivie, G. Anderson, and S. White 2014, "African Americans & Hispanics among Physics & Astronomy Faculty: Results from the 2012 Survey of Physics & Astronomy Degree-Granting Departments," https://www.aip.org/sites/default/files/statistics/faculty/africanhisp-fac-pa-123.pdf

[3] http://www.genderbiasbingo.com/double-jeopardy/#.V8dBiXgxqIx

[4] http://www.aas.org/cswa/6.3.-American-Astronomical-Society.pdf

[5] C. R. Feldblum and V. A. Lipnic, 2016 U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, Report of Co-Chairs, p. 21, https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/task_force/harassment/upload/report.pdf

[6] https://vanderbilt.irisregistration.com/Home/Site?code=InclusiveAstronomy2015