She Is An Astronomer Project celebrates women astronomers and invites women to the field

Having written a biography of planetary astronomer Heidi Hammel for young readers, I was delighted to learn of the launch of a program called “She Is An Astronomer” as part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009.

Read on for the news release or find it here.

************ IAU0909: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 21 APRIL 2009 17:00 CEST ************

The She Is An Astronomer project seeks to break down
misconceptions and gender issues in astronomy and science

21 April 2009, Paris: The highly anticipated International Year of Astronomy 2009
Cornerstone project , She Is An Astronomer, was launched today. She Is An
Astronomer aims to help achieve several of the United Nations Millennium
Development Goals, including promoting gender equality and empowering women.

Gender equality is a priority concern for the whole scientific community, regardless of its
field, cultural background or geographic location. This is also the case for astronomy,
where only approximately one quarter of all professionals are women. In some countries
there are no female astronomers, whilst in others more than half the professional
astronomers are female. These numbers drop towards more senior levels, suggesting that
scientific careers are heavily affected by social and cultural factors and are not determined
solely by ability. The International Year of Astronomy 2009 Cornerstone project, She Is An
Astronomer (SIAA), has been established to address these issues and tackle the main

The SIAA programme of activities was announced today during the European Week of
Astronomy & Space Science at the University of Hertfordshire, UK. Boasting a mixture of
international, national and local events ranging from conferences, meetings and
workshops to address gender issues, events targeted at teenagers, and the central SIAA
website, the variety is designed to appeal to a wide cross-section of the professional and
public communities.

The official SIAA website, www.sheisanastronomer.org, provides a one-stop-shop for
gender issues in astronomy and science. The site boasts five sections: profiles of living and
historic astronomers; resources for female astronomers; events taking place during
IYA2009; an SIAA Ambassadors’ Area; and a forum where issues, lessons and challenges
can be discussed, including the opportunity to question experts. The website provides
neutral, informative and accessible information and will be used to advertise new events,
keeping interested parties at the forefront of developments. Examples of best practices and
relevant statistics will be pooled, making them accessible to the wider community. Content
will be regularly added during 2009, resulting in a vast depository that will remain online
long into the future, acting as an ongoing legacy.

Several of the international and national meetings arranged for 2009 feature a SIAA
presence. These include the IAU General Assembly in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, meetings in
the US and Egypt, a book launch in Australia, an exhibition in Germany and many local
events. Spain is conducting its first ever survey of women in astronomy and has also
produced a calendar featuring historic female astronomers.

IYA2009 encourages us to discuss magnificent and complex topics, from black holes to the
mysteries of our Sun, but without losing sight of the core human aspects. SIAA will play its
part in ensuring that the Year’s impact is definitely felt here on Earth.

The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together almost 10 000
distinguished astronomers from all nations of the world. Its mission is to promote and
safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. The
IAU also serves as the internationally recognised authority for assigning designations to
celestial bodies and the surface features on them. Founded in 1919, the IAU is the world’s
largest professional body for astronomers.

She Is An Astronomer website: http://www.sheisanastronomer.org
IYA2009 website: http://www.astronomy2009.org
European Week of Astronomy & Space Science: http://www.jenam2009.eu

For more information
Helen Walker
She Is An Astronomer Project Chair
STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
Space Science and Technology Department, Building R68
Harwell Science and Innovation Campus
Didcot, Oxon, OX11 0QX, UK
Tel.: +44 (0) 1235 446 490
Cell : +44 (0) 7870 977 018
E-mail: [email protected]

Further contacts
Pedro Russo
IAU IYA2009 Coordinator
ESO ePOD, Garching, Germany
Tel: +49 89 320 06 195
Cellular: +49 176 6110 0211
Fax: +49 89 320 23 62
E-mail: [email protected]

Yolanda Berenguer
UNESCO Focal Point for the International Year of Astronomy 2009
Tel: +33 1 45684171
E-mail: [email protected]

Dr. Karel A. van der Hucht
General Secretary, International Astronomical Union
IAU Secretariat, Paris, France
Tel: +33 1 43 25 83 58
E-mail: [email protected]

Lars Lindberg Christensen
IAU Press Officer
ESO ePOD, Garching, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6761
Cellular: +49 173 3872 621
E-mail: [email protected]

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