Press Release

Youngest Astronomers are Mostly Women

By SpaceRef Editor
June 27, 2003
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PASADENA, CA. The latest study of American Astronomical Society
members reveals that almost 60 per cent of the astronomers in
the youngest age bracket are women. The report was made today
at the Conference on “Women in Astronomy II: Ten Years After” at
the California Institute of Technology.

The study was presented by Dr. Kevin B. Marvel, Deputy Executive
Officer of the American Astronomical Society, the national
organization of professional astronomers with headquarters in
Washington, DC.

About 200 astronomers and other experts, including political,
demographic, and social science specialists, and including many
young women astronomers, are attending the conference.

When Marvel revealed the latest statistics, based on data on 5962
of the Society’s roughly 6500 members, the projection of a
bar graph showing the female majority in the youngest age bracket
of astronomers was greeted by loud applause from the conferees,
assembled in Ramo Auditorium on the Caltech campus in Pasadena.

Specifically, he reported that of AAS members born between
January 1, 1980 and January 1, 1985, 56.8 per cent are women.
In the next older cohort of astronomers, his study shows that
of members born between January 1, 1975 and January 1, 1980,
just 39.7 per cent are women.

Although the results are considered positive, reactions are also
guarded. “I’m cautiously optimistic. This shows real progress
for women astronomers but differential attrition of women at key
stages –from graduate student to postdoc, for example, or from
undergraduate major to graduate student– remains a serious
concern,” said Dr. C. Megan Urry. Urry is Professor of Physics
at Yale University in New Haven, CT, and Director of the Yale
Center for Astronomy & Astrophysics, as well as a principal
organizer of the Conference.

Marvel notes that “The demographics of our youngest members is in
stark contrast to our more senior members. For AAS members 50
years of age and older, fewer than 10 per cent in any five-year
age bracket are women. There is no doubt that the astronomy
community is changing.”

The Women in Astronomy II Conference continues at Ramo Auditorium,
Caltech, through 5:00 PM PDT Saturday, June 28. Besides oral
presentations in the Auditorium, poster papers are on display in
an adjoining garden.


A photograph of Dr. Kevin B. Marvel can be found online at

A photograph of Professor C. Megan Urry is online at

The website of the Conference on Women in Astronomy II is at

The American Astronomical Society website is at

SpaceRef staff editor.