In the Astronomy Nucleus from UDP in Chile we want to know about you. Credit Figure: Grogan, K.E. Nature (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0747-4
We all know there is a serious gender imbalance at the faculty level in almost every astrophysics department on this planet. We know this is due to several factors, among which, that faculty positions were offered to the candidates available, who in older times, were mostly men. There is therefore hope that naturally in the modern times this will be different, because graduate programmes are relatively gender balanced now.
Unfortunately this is not really the case. Still the number of applications of female candidates is too low compared to the male candidates. Many women still quit their careers due to the so-called leaky pipeline effects (see picture and article). Therefore, to achieve a more balanced faculty body in astronomy departments, we must take this effect into account, especially now that the leaky pipeline has been particularly dangerous during the Pandemic!
While astronomy departments that are aware of these issues are trying to do their best given the different rules and expectations imposed by “the academic system”, I would encourage women, whether or not they feel they will be a victim of the leaky pipeline, to take action: apply for permanent jobs! Even if you’re too young, or your number of papers/citations/grants/invited talks is small, apply! We can’t protect you from not dropping out of the pipeline if you hide and let that impostor inner voice tell you that your application isn’t strong enough. And even failed applications provide you with valuable experience, and help you to build a stronger and more competitive application for the next position!
There is evidence that young women, women who haven’t managed establish their network until their second postdoc, and women who take a career break due to maternity leave, flourish much later. In fact, once a woman starts flourishing at a mature stage of her career, she only flourishes more and more with time. So, trust that you can apply at younger ages to faculty jobs before the pipeline might kick you off, and have faith that the future has a place for you in astronomy.
If you don’t have enough “achievements" yet, don’t focus on that because that doesn’t make you proud. Imagine instead how the successful future senior-professor-version of yourself would be if you were hired by that department, and focus on that. Dream of what you want to become, how you want astronomy to be in 10 years from now, and what role you’ll play in creating that future for yourself and others. Put yourself ahead in your field and predict how your skills will be needed in the future. Make your vision contagious such that the committee reading your application gets excited about being part of your future success.
Don’t be afraid of failure, in case you’re selected and your vision wasn't accurate at the end! Everyone can fail, regardless of how many papers/achievements others have already in their CV. We will never achieve gender balance, and the rules will set by the same criteria that discriminate us if young women don’t dare to dream and jump into faculty jobs even before they feel “ready for it”. Many of us at faculty levels are actively fighting for this, and we need your applications to have more chances to win. Together we’ll make the changes we want!
Indeed, in the Astronomy Nucleus from Diego Portales University there is an opportunity for you!
If you’re interested, I’m happy to be contacted.