Expanded funding for programs that ease the transition of individuals across critical junctures in the pipeline—high school to college, community college to university, undergraduate to graduate school;
Funding for master’s-to-Ph.D. programs;
Cross-disciplinary training as an on-ramp to astronomy and astrophysics careers; and
Historically, women were once as underrepresented in professional astronomy as minorities are today, especially as faculty members. Now, there is ongoing progress toward parity, although still shortfalls relative to the general population. The fraction of astronomy graduate students that are women has increased from a quarter to a third over the past decade, and the fraction gaining Ph.D.s and occupying assistant and associate professor positions is also a quarter. However, only 11 percent of full professors are women, fortunately a proportion that is likely to improve as more women advance up the ranks. The Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy of the AAS works both as a focus group on these important issues and as a support and mentoring group for female members of the AAS across professional ranks.
The arguments for seeking gender equality parallel those for increasing the involvement of underrepresented minorities as professionals in the field. Interestingly, the NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program has achieved a participation rate for women of nearly 50 percent in astronomy summer research assistantships. To increase the number of women in the field, some schools have also taken the promising approach of identifying undergraduate women for master’s programs that act as a bridge into the profession. The efficacy of these programs should be monitored, and if they prove to be successful such programs should be supported more widely. In addition, two identified pressure points for women can be addressed. The first is that in middle school, girls frequently lose interest in mathematics and science,21 and astronomy can play a role in keeping young women interested in science through high school. After-school programs and camps supported by NSF, in particular, need to be assessed for their effectiveness in drawing girls into science. The second pressure point arises when professional and family obligations conflict and women, in particular, find their pursuit of an academic career derailed. Targeted mentoring programs and family-friendly education and employment policies can help to attract and retain women in astronomy. Practical steps that have been proposed include allowing parental