Thursday 1 October 2009

Woot! Press release now out

The She is an Astronomer Forum has gone public - we have a nice new press release out, and there is a link on the main page. It has some nice quotes - they've kindly put in a quote from each moderator - and a good one from Helen Walker: "A recurrent theme that has emerged from [interviews with female astronomers] is the importance of support and mentoring from other women working in the field." So let's all encourage each other online!

The forum is growing slowly but steadily. A really nice place to look is the team introductions - you can meet the other moderators and also the people who set it up.

Another "She is an Astronomer" interview you must definitely read is that of Aida Berges, founder of the Hyper-Velocity Stars project among many other achievements on the Galaxy Zoo Forum. Aida has many interesting personal stories to tell you, but the most striking thing in her interview is the progression in the society she knows: "I come from a third world country . . . In my time girls were supposed to marry young and be housewives, but now I see that the universities there are full of women studying and that makes me so proud. There are no barriers now for us, maybe just a few reluctant men, but we are winning."

That is such a wonderful change from what I usually hear and feel. In my own country women have been largely emancipated for a long time: our problems aren't that we can't get into education or professions, but, more commonly, issues such as what we are able to do with our achievements - which is sometimes a little and sometimes a lot. A few people I talk to, and some places I have worked in, have made me feel hopelessly disregarded or taken advantage of - but those few instances pale into insignificance beside this.

Of course, there are so many people, men and women, who for one reason or another can't achieve what they should in the first place, but that's another multitude of stories. For me, Aida's interview emphasised how important other people are in your life and your achievements: teachers, friends, family . . . My family and the mother of my oldest childhood friends gave me astronomy books when I was little, and Chris, I think, decided that I would become an astronomer three years ago (was it that long?), all of which were crucial occurrences. So if you're at all interested in gender equality, please come along to our forum and meet us!

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