The 2013 CSWA Demographics Survey: Portrait of a Generation of Women in Astronomy

by Jess K on March 5, 2014

The below is reproduced from the January 2014 Status: A report on Women in Astronomy.  The 2013 CSWA Demographics Survey, by A. Meredith Hughes, Wesleyan University.

As we consider how best to promote the full participation of women in astronomy, it is important to use quantitative methods to monitor progress and identify problems. Accordingly, collecting demographic data is central to the mission of the AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA).  For the past 15 years, CSWA has built upon demographic data collection efforts spearheaded by a group of astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in 1992. The initial STScI survey was the first to investigate astronomy independent of physics. The CSWA’s 1999 and 2004 surveys maintained a consistent methodology, and a large body of longitudinal data has resulted. To this day, the STScI/CSWA data set is unique in including not only PhD-granting astronomy departments, but also the astronomy portions of some of the large combined physics and astronomy departments (e.g., Johns Hopkins, MIT, Stony Brook) and a sampling of non-academic institutions where many PhD astronomers are employed (e.g., NRAO, NOAO, and SAO). It also differs from AAS demographics surveys in that it does not depend on membership in the AAS, which can vary substantially by academic level and institution. The results of previous surveys are presented in the proceedings of the Conference on Women in Astronomy (1992) and in past issues of Status (Urry 2000Hoffman & Urry 2004).

The current survey marks a decade since the last data collection effort and two decades since the initiation of the STScI demographics survey. With a rich, 20-year-long data set – and nearly 100% participation from the institutions surveyed – we are now able to provide an overview of how the representation of women in astronomy has evolved over the last generation. We obtained the data and contact information for previous surveys from Karen Kwitter, and much of the data collection and initial analysis was conducted with the help of volunteers from the community: Julia Kamenetzky, Brian Morsony, Karly Pitman, Stephanie LaMassa, and Johanna Teske. Surveys were initially sent to department chairs in December 2012, requesting that chairs report the demographics of their department as of January 1, 2013.

Read more at Women in Astronomy or in the January 2014 Status.

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