Women in Astronomy: still a long way to go
September 22, 2022

Women in Astronomy: still a long way to go

It has been known for decades: women are under-represented in Astronomy and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields due to various factors suppressing their careers, and the recent global surveys do not show promising trends. 

For this reason, the IAU (International Astronomical Union) strategic plan from 2020-2030 aims to address the challenges faced by Women in Astronomy, foster inclusiveness, and facilitate the advancement of the next generation of astronomers in order to improve ‘gender balance’ and ‘equal opportunity’ in the workplace by adapting effective policies and action plans. 

The situation, in fact, is still dramatic. While there have been global efforts in the past to address these issues and achieve the gender balance in Astronomy, somehow, it has been marginally successful due to ineffective action plans. And the participation of the Astronomy community in inclusiveness, advancement of next-generation astronomers, and gender balance activities is still too low.  

The data collected in 2021 are quite worrying” says Mamta Pandey-Pommier of the LUMP/CNRS, Université de Montpellier (France), chair of the IAU working group. “Among the total IAU members, only 21.2% are female, and an astonishingly low (1.6%) participation of members from both the genders is seen in the Women in Astronomy working group. And of those, only 11.4% is male, indicating that these issues are not yet seen as issues that should concern everyone”.

A possible reason can be found in the lack of funds to support women in astronomy at every career stage. “For example, most of the gender balance-related work is being carried out on a volunteering (unpaid) basis as no funds are provided to address these issues by funding agencies and institutions.” adds Mamta.

In order to raise awareness and participation on the topic, take stock of the situation and analyse possible solutions, the IAU Women in Astronomy Working Group activities and their survey results were presented at EPSC2022 in Granada this week by Mamta and Arianna Piccialli of the Royal Belgium Institute of Space Aeronomy (Belgium) on behalf of the entire Working Group. 

Further information:
Pandey-Pommier, M. and Piccialli, A. and the IAU WiA WG members: IAU Women in Astronomy Working Group activities and survey results, Europlanet Science Congress 2022, Granada, Spain, 18–23 Sep 2022, EPSC2022-1175, 2022.