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Women in Planetary Science

March 15, 2008

Have you ever looked around you, in class, in faculty meeting, or at a conference, and realized that you were the only woman in the room?

Most of us have felt this way, at one point or another, and it can be a shock. Few of us signed on to be a “woman in science” particularly — we just wanted to do science, and, yes, we happen to be women. Most of the time our gender doesn’t matter. We do perfectly good science. We are vital members of our research groups. We publish. We apply for grants. We serve on review panels. We travel to conferences. We join or lead mission teams. And that is how it should be.

But sometimes, sometimes, gender still matters.

After years of whispered discussion in the hallways, over lunches, and at the close of meetings, it is time to bring this issue out into the sunlight.

What does it mean, today, to be a woman in planetary science?

On Monday night, the NASA Administrator challenged the attendees at the 39th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference to imagine what planetary science will be like 200 years from now.

The next morning, I asked a group of women to take that vision a step further … who will be doing planetary science 200 years from now? Will half the scientists be women? If not, why not?

They sat down at tables to enjoy a hot breakfast and discuss any obstacles that may prevent the development of a scientific cadre equally composed of men and women.

After a time of animated conversation, laughter, excitement, and a bit of frustration, the women came back together to report on their morning conversations. Each table identified a major issue and some possible solutions that may be tried, locally, nationally, or with the support of our funding agencies. Over the course of the next week, these conversations will be reported on this blog as idea-starters.

We invite you to join in the conversation that these ideas will undoubtedly inspire, and join the growing group of women who are starting to talk together about our goals, and how they can be achieved, one by one.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 16, 2008 4:48 pm

    I just wanted to thank Susan and congratulate her on what I’m sure everyone who attended will agree was a highly successful breakfast and the start of some very important conversations.

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