Data on women of color within AMS
It is difficult to provide data on women of color in the atmospheric sciences for two reasons. First, there are relatively small numbers of degree recipients (especially at the graduate level) and the statistics aren’t disaggregated to atmospheric science by ethnicity and gender at any level beyond the bachelor’s degree. Second, the atmospheric and related sciences is a field that includes people with formal degrees in several disciplines—in fact the 2005 survey of AMS members revealed that only 64 percent of AMS members had terminal degrees in Atmospheric Science (Murillo et al, 2008). With those caveats, we can get some idea of the educational pathways of women of color in the atmospheric and related sciences from NSF compiled statistics (NSF 2010).
• From 2001 to 2009, women of color20 earned 161 out of 5,645 Bachelor’s degrees awarded in atmospheric science (3 percent), and 1403 out of 36,683 degrees in Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Earth Sciences (4 percent).
• From 2001 to 2009, women of color earned 134 PhD’s out of the 3,605 PhD’s earned by US citizens or permanent residents in the fields of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Earth Sciences, approximately 4 percent.
Based on the most recent survey of AMS members, conducted in 2005:
• Of the 5,394 members who responded to the survey, 1,016 indicated that they were female, and of those 159 were woman of color (suggesting women of color comprised only 15 percent of the women in the society). Of those, 83 of the women indicated their race or ethnicity as Africa American or Black, Hispanic, American Indian of Alaskan Native.
• Of the respondents who indicated they were women of color, 46 (29 percent) held PhD’s, 54 (34 percent) held Master’s degrees, and 43 (27 percent) held BS degrees. For comparison, 38 percent of all members held PhD’s, 26 percent Master’s degrees, and 27 percent Bachelor’s degrees (Murillo et al 2008).
• Sixty-six of the women of color reported working in the university environment, which was by far the largest employment sector. Six of them held the rank of full professor, two were associate professors, and four were assistant professors. For comparison, 14 women and 129 men held the position of full professor, seven women and 64 men held the rank of associate professor, and 12 women and 59 men held the rank of assistant professor (Tucker et al 2009).
• Thirty of the women of color reported working for a government agency or FFRDC.
20 In this paper, women of color includes US citizens identified as Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native. Because the first category includes women from groups that have not been historically under-represented in science, this is not synonymous with women from under-represented communities.
• More recently, McPhee and Canetto (yet to be published) examined faculty and graduate student demographics of 35 graduate programs carefully chosen to represent the full range of graduate programs in climate science. Of the 834 faculty surveyed, four were females from a historically under-represented group and 16 were Asian females. Of the graduate students, only 2.8 percent were females from an underrepresented group.
Challenges or barriers to success that confront women of color in AMS
Like many scientific societies, the culture of AMS reflects the culture of its members. While the society has become more diverse, especially in its early-career members, the membership is still dominated by majority ethnicities and males. It is hard to quantify the impact of the double-bind, i.e. being simultaneously part of two under-represented groups. One AMS member talked about having to “unzip herself” before coming to work. She described the effort it takes to suppress her social and cultural practices and instead adopt the communication styles and norms that are common in majority cultures. The very small numbers of women of color is itself a barrier. In describing a series of in depth interviews with female graduate students in atmospheric sciences, Canetto wrote “we have not analyzed the data on women of color separately because given the small sample, to report on them separately would jeopardize the respondents' anonymity and/or confidentiality --even simply the privacy of their decision to participate in the study.” There have been several other barriers proposed, based on either personal experience or generalization from barriers that may be shared by many women or ethnic minorities. These include:
• Lack of role models, as suggested by the small number of women of color in faculty positions.
• Lack of support networks or community, a probable impact of the relatively few women of color in the field overall.
• Challenges of balancing family and career, which seems to disproportionately affect women (in the 2005 survey, female members were less likely to be married then male members, see Murillo et al. 2008).
• Many minorities and particularly women are drawn into more educational, outreach or service-related activities, which tend to provide less reward and advancement than traditional academic research.
• While everyone is affected in tight budget environments, declining grant opportunities and career openings constrict the career pathways and options available to women of color.
Policies and/or programs implemented by AMS to enhance the participation of women of color and to advance their academic careers
AMS practices and policies reflect a commitment to inclusivity and have benefited women of color, though none specifically and uniquely address women of color. A list of relevant policies and programs follows.
• AMS statements affirm an organizational commitment to diversity and inclusivity. The diversity statement, one of the few AMS statements without an expiration date, is the most obvious example, and a newer statement requiring respectful and appropriate behavior at AMS meetings is in development.
• The AMS Board of Women and Minorities, founded in 1975 in recognition of the fact that AMS demographics didn’t reflect the diversity of the US, is charged with examining
workplace issues, including educational and professional opportunities, for all segments of the society, with a special emphasis on women, people from groups historically under-represented in society, people with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender AMS members. It includes women of color in its purview and has been led by a number of women of color.
• Women of color hold and have held other leadership positions, including serving on the AMS Council (which acts as the chief governing body), heading committees and chairing boards, and serving in high-level staff positions. Women of color have also won prestigious society awards, including the Anderson Award for outstanding contributions to diversity, and the rank of Fellow for outstanding contributions over a substantial period of years.
• The Women in Atmospheric Sciences Luncheon provides a place for women, including women of color, to network and interact with role models, explore issues and develop career strategies, and explore the intersection of gender and science. The luncheon at the 2012 Annual Meeting included specific discussion of the unique circumstance for women of color as part of a general discussion of how gender, ethnicity, and race impact vulnerability and resilience in meteorological disasters.
• Several less formal events at the AMS annual meeting are provide networking and professional development for newer members from many communities. The Color of Weather welcomes students and young professionals of color, the Coriolis Reception promotes awareness and creates a welcoming community for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and friends and allies, and the Young Professionals Reception reaches out to people who are close to the transition from student to professional member. None of these events are designed for specifically for women of color, but all of them welcome women of color and reach out to women of color in planning and inviting.
• AMS has hosted a number of programmatic sessions that explore diversity as part of the annual meeting. Topics have included examining K-12 and college programs that promote diversity, exploring Dr. Martin Luther King’s teachings and their relevance to AMS (taking advantage of the annual meeting including MLK day) and careful statistical analysis of atmospheric science demographics. Recently, a session on ways of knowing has explored traditional ecological knowledge related to weather and climate and sought to build collaborations between AMS scientists and indigenous communities. A disproportionate number of women of color participated in this session.
• A biennial meeting of Heads and Chairs of departments in the atmospheric and related sciences organized by the AMS has frequently included sessions on increasing recruitment of minorities into meteorology programs.
• Since 1993, the AMS has sponsored minority scholarships for undergraduate students pursuing degrees in the atmospheric and related sciences. In the last five years, 15 of the 27 minority scholarships have gone to women.
The AMS has also partnered with external programs to broaden participation in the atmospheric and related sciences, including women of color. These include:
• SOARS, which for 15 years has helped talented undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds transition to graduate programs in the atmospheric and related sciences through research experiences at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, strong scientific, academic and life-skills mentoring, and a learning community model. Over 147
protégés have participated in SOARS, 90 percent are members of ethnic minorities, and over 50 percent are women. Most SOARS protégés have presented their work at AMS-sponsored meetings and participated in the AMS events described above.
• The incoming president of AMS, Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, is co-PI along with two women of color, on an NSF-funded grant called the Diversity Climate Network. The goal of the program is to use longitudinal tracking of Earth Science students from Grade 9 through graduate studies to pinpoint effective practices for student recruitment and retention in the climate sciences.
• Howard University, a Historically Black University, has an active graduate program in the atmospheric sciences, and has contributed substantively both to the overall diversity of the field as well as to the number of women of color to enter the atmospheric sciences. In addition to close to ties to AMS, with faculty members serving on AMS Boards and faculty and students active in AMS meetings, Howard is the primary impetus behind the AMS-supported Color of Weather reception.
• The AMS has been an organizational partner in the Minorities Striving and Pursuing Higher Degrees of Success in Earth System Science (MS PHD'S) initiative since its inception.
Lessons learned and overall policy recommendations to increase the representation and career satisfaction of women of color
• Engage women of color in leadership positions. While the number of women of color in the AMS is small overall, they are well-represented in leadership positions within the society. This provides role models, visibility, improved decision making via the inclusion of diverse perspectives, and facilitates responsiveness to a diverse set of communities and issues.
• Focus on the overall climate of meetings and society efforts. AMS, like many historic societies, has practices that date back to its time as a male, majority dominated society. It has been in the process of revising those practices with input from its newer members. Examples include the proposed statement on professional and welcoming conduct, the increased number of networking and career-oriented receptions, outreach events that target local communities, a prestigious award for diversity, and an active Board on Women and Minorities.
• Expand the scope of research to address issues related to gender and ethnicity. While it is tempting to believe that a predominantly physical science is independent of gender, ethnicity or socio-economic consideration, it is clear that the impact of meteorological events and climate variability and change has components along these axes. Making this a legitimate field of research, through additions to the scientific program and special meetings, has made the science relevant to a more diverse audience, including women of color. Similarly, as outreach and community engagement have been increasingly embraced as an AMS priority, we have welcomed and honored a diversity of skills and an accompanying diversity of people.
• Build a community for women of color, even if it requires combining with other disciplines. The small size and relative lack of diversity of the AMS makes it difficult, currently, to offer a robust professional network for women of color. By joining with other societies in complementary disciplines, it might be possible.
National Science Foundation, 2010: National Center for Science and Engineering
Statistics, special tabulations of US Department of Education, National
Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, Completions Survey, 2001–09.
Murillo, Shirley T.; Pandya, Rajul E.; Chu, Raymond Y.; Winkler, Julie A.; Czujko, Roman; Cutrim, Elen M. C., 2008: AMS membership survey results:
An Overview and Longitudinal Analysis of the Demographics of the AMS, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, vol. 89, issue 5, p. 727.
Tucker, Donna; Ginther, Donna K.; Winkler, Julie A., 2009: Gender Issues Among Academic AMS Members: Comparisons with the 1993 Membership Survey, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, vol. 90, issue 8, pp. 1180-119.