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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pet Peeves via WiA

I posted on Monday that I would be spending this week at the Women in Astronomy and Space Sciences conference. Hannah over at WiA wrote a great day-by-day summary of the event and, over on my NN blog, I wrote my own summary of the more salient points.

I want to start by saying that I found the conference invaluable, and am happy I could take part; however, one point I did bring up on my other blog was regarding the judgments and biases women have of each other, and how this does not help our cause. There are two things that kept popping up in conversations that I would like to address.

#1: “Following” or “Trailing” spouse

We need to stop using this phrase! It’s offensive to both parties – for the “follower” it makes it seem like they are weak, powerless, and have no value in their career; for the “leader” it makes it seem like they are overbearing, only care about their career, and are just plain jerks.

People need to realize that the majority of couples these days make decisions together. Marriage is a partnership, after all. If a couple decides that living together in the same city is important to them, and to their marriage, then they should not be penalized or judged for that. It does not make either party less serious about their career.

Please, please, please stop using this phrase! The “two-body problem” is much nicer, and a better description of the issue.

#2: Astronomers don’t “want” non-academic jobs

Throughout the conference, many talked about the benefit of non-academic careers, and how those jobs (and the people who have them) should be valued. I am in complete agreement, and think astronomy and physics students need to have more information on these types of careers right from the beginning.

The thing that bothered me was the implication that people who took these careers only did so because they couldn’t get a tenure-track position for whatever reason (children, geographical location, health, having to work part-time, etc.). Why is it so hard to understand that some of us actually want these jobs? That we strive for them from very early on? It’s not a consolation prize for us. Please stop treating us like second-class citizens just because we don’t want an academic job.

This also doesn't mean that we think people who want or have academic jobs are idiots, or that those positions are no good. It just means something else is better for us.

We are all here to work together - be it on astronomy or women's issues – but if we keep judging the choices of others, we will get no where fast. How can we expect others to support our decisions, if we can't do it amongst ourselves? Let’s agree that my way might not be your way, and that’s okay, as long as we are all living life the way we want.