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Heroes and S-heroes: fostering diversity and gender equality in Astronomy

Dr. Francesca Primas

August 24, 2017 – 11:00 am – CSIRO/ARC Building (Curtin Campus).

A diverse workforce is key to ensure balanced views, inclusive approaches and in the long run larger economical benefits worldwide. Among the different aspects that make-up diversity, the gender dimension of science and technology has become one of the most important and debated issues worldwide, impacting society at every level. Gender equality at large is one of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which clearly call for action related to science, technology and gender balance.

Astronomy’s prime international organisation – the International Astronomical Union – has recognized and supported the needs and endeavours of female astronomers through the establishment of an Executive Committee Working Group, at its XXV General Assembly (Sydney, Australia – July 2003). Despite many recent efforts and improvements achieved on the status of women in astronomy (including the Baltimore Charter, the Pasadena Recommendations and the IAU Resolution B4), most studies continue to show the same patterns of gender disadvantages, both horizontally (per discipline) and vertically (per seniority level). How far are we then? How successful our actions have been so far? Are our goals too ambitious or maybe unrealistic?

Considering the timescales required for any measurable change, the challenge is for all of us to be taken up, not only at the (intern)national/corporate level in terms of supporting laws and policies, but also at the individual level. If each of us would reflect on what equal opportunities entail in their daily lives, would evaluate how their (scientific/research) environment can be further diversified and made more inclusive, even these tiny individual commitments could make a difference and have a tangible impact on the younger generations.