The American Astronomical Society (AAS) has endorsed a new set of
recommendations to improve the status of gender equity in astronomy. The
recommendations, endorsed at the 205th meeting of the Society in San Diego
from January 8 to 13, 2005, were prepared by the Society’s Committee on
the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA). The recommendation document,
entitled Equity Now: The Pasadena Recommendations for Gender Equality in
Astronomy is available online at The
recommendations cover tenure-track hiring, career advancement and
recognition, institutional policies, varied career paths, cultural issues
and statistical information. The AAS Council endorsed the recommendations

Dr. Patricia Knezek, current chair of the CSWA, and a scientist at WIYN
Observatory in Tucson, Arizona, noted, “The demographics of astronomy in
the United States are changing – currently more than 50% of AAS members in
the age group 18-23 are women. These recommendations will help ensure that
these women will be able to pursue their careers to the fullest.” Adds
Dr. Knezek, “What a change from ten years ago – it’s indicative of the
fact that while there may not be equity yet, awareness is increasing, and
progress is being made.”

These recommendations were a collaborative work with the initial effort
made by attendees of the “Women in Astronomy II: Ten Years After” meeting
held in June 2003 in Pasadena, CA. Participants of the 2003 meeting
assessed the progress for women in science, offering insights into causes
of the slower advancement of women, and discussed strategies to accelerate
the achievement of equality.

The insights and strategies that came out of the Pasadena meeting were
then incorporated into a formal document by the CSWA, which was then
released to the entire AAS community for review and comments. The CSWA
included the community input and comments into the final document
presented to the Council.

The document is derived from the following guiding principles: (1) Women
and men are equally talented and deserve equal opportunity; (2) Full
participation of men and women will maximize excellence in the field; (3)
The measure of equal opportunity is outcome, i.e., gender equity been
attained when the percentage of women in the next level of advancement
equals the percentage in the pool; and (4) Long-term change requires
periodic evaluation of progress and action to address areas where
improvement is necessary.

“The key principles expressed in these recommendations are very
important,” notes Meg Urry, Professor of Physics at Yale University and
former Chair of the CSWA. “Although abundant research has documented the
barriers to women’s equal participation in science, some public figures
still ask whether women lack the innate ability for sufficient dedication
to science. This document articulates the positive steps that will remove
those barriers and lead to better science in our field.”

The CSWA was established in the 1970’s by the American Astronomical
Society to monitor the status of women in the field of astronomy and
recommend changes to improve it. In 1992, a seminal meeting on Women in
Astronomy was held in Baltimore, Maryland. This conference led to the
Baltimore Charter for Women in Astronomy, which offered a rationale for
and steps toward gender equity in astronomy. The Baltimore Charter was
based on input from the astronomical community, and the American
Astronomical Society endorsed its goals in January 1994.

In the ensuing decade many institutions recognized that there are
impediments to the success of women in science and have developed
strategies to increase diversity. The Committee is encouraged by the
progress that has been made but recognizes that major inequalities still
exist, and continues to work to remove those inequalities.

AAS President Robert Kirshner (Harvard University) expressed his support
of the Recommendations. “I am glad that the AAS has made such a strong
statement of our beliefs. We want everybody who loves astronomy to make
their dreams come true, and we hope that universities and other
institutions will take concrete steps to help women overcome the hundreds
of little barriers that make their career paths more difficult. We see a
wonderful pool of women graduate students: we look forward to the day when
they are living out their dreams as astronomers.”

Senior astronomer, Dr. Margaret Burbidge (UC San Diego), who was in
attendance of the recent AAS Meeting in San Diego as well as the Baltimore
and Pasadena Meetings was pleased at the AAS Council endorsement of the
Pasadena Recommendations. “The Pasadena meeting was very exciting to me.
I have the group photo of the Baltimore meeting on my office wall. My
enduring memory of the Pasadena meeting will be the lecture, with women in
all the seats! I look forward to the outcome when gender equity will have
been attained.”

Further Information:

CSWA Pasadena Recommendations:

Women in Astronomy II: Ten Years After 2003 Pasadena CA:

AAS Council Membership:

The Baltimore Charter: