I'm about to start the third year of a postdoc in the department of Astrophysics at Princeton University, and I love my job. And I love coming to work. And I am a woman. It may not seem like loving my job my gender would be related, but for a while now I've been thinking that my love for my job is at least partly linked to my department's policies about young researchers and towards women in science.
- The department has an open doors policy - and people make a real effort to chat to visitors when they come to the department. Now just having an open doors policy does not necessarily mean that all people have a voice, but I've found that faculty are supportive of events such as the discussion groups on diversity and equity (even when that support is hanging back from a discussion in order to give people space to discuss things that might be hard to mention openly) and request feedback on ways to make the department better.
- The Astrophysics department here at Princeton is trying to increase the numbers of women in the department at all levels. Now, with numbers being roughly 24% at all levels (more specifically 30% undergraduate majors, 16% postdocs and research assistants and 25% faculty), we still have quite a way to go, but the department has shown with recent hires that they want to increase that percentage. This makes me feel less like a 'foreign body' as a woman. That being said we, like many places, definitely need to do more to increase the number of members in our department who are minorities, but the university as a whole is strongly invested in tackling the issue of diversity in the university, and I recently attended a very worthwhile workshop on the topic (http://www.princeton.edu/
- We have astro coffee to discuss new results every morning. That is also a great way to welcome
"Grand Central Station" in Peyton Hall
- Babies and pets a welcome at work. I have neither a baby or a dog, but the fact that the
department is relaxed and people feel like they are accommodated makes for a happier place. This was the thing I was most surprised to find, and makes a huge difference.
- We have a semi-formal system in place to provide me with mentorship, and I could choose my mentor. I also then can mentor grad students, should they take advantage of that (and we are actively trying to find better ways to make it work). In addition the chair and co-chair of the department make an effort to actually keep informed on how I'm doing not only in my work life, but also if there are other issues that I might be facing. That doesn't mean we have heart-to-heart chats every day, but I feel like if I have a problem I'm not actually alone. This started right from the very beginning when the admin staff were super helpful in getting me moved from the UK and settling me in.
|A dog. At work! Who's a silly doggie|
writing Pyton on a laptop? Who's that?!
Can the doggie write Python while
getting his ears scritched? Ooooh!
In addition, while there is much still to do before we have equal numbers of women and men in our department, the attitudes and policies within the department make me feel like it is a priority within Princeton Astrophysics to increase the female to male ratio.
We keep hearing discouraging news about women in science, and we have a long way to go. But I think not only are there concrete things we can do now, but we can take encouragement from places where good decisions are being made. And if you create a place people want to be in, they are more likely to be happy, healthy and productive. And that is why it matters that I love my job.