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(Photo:&nbsp;ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)

Why don’t more women pursue astronomy/astrophysics? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Will Waalkes, astrophysics grad student at CU Boulder, on Quora:

The sciences suffer from a lack of representation along many (perhaps most) axes of identity, gender being one of those axes. The problem is complex and multi-faceted but interest is not the problem. Young girls show just as much interest and passion for STEM as young boys, and yet something happens, at multiple points.

Part of it is that science has typically been marketed more toward men than women. Boys are supposed to like getting their hands dirty, and girls are supposed to like dresses and makeup. So women, historically, are not encouraged to pursue astronomy as much as men. This trend is changing though, as gendered expectations for career paths become less prevalent.

However, female students who now enter the field are met with a sea of white men, limiting the opportunity for women to feel represented by people who can relate to their experiences. Having a research advisor or an instructor who looks like you and has had similar life experiences to you is an immense privilege, and one that not many women get to have in astronomy. Things like this make the academic environment less welcoming for women.

Probably the most significant factor is outright sexism and gender-based/sexual harassment. Most women I know in astronomy can, if they wish, recount multiple stories of being sexually harassed by colleagues or advisors. A friend of mine once told me that she had been either harassed or assaulted by 2 male advisors and something like 4 male grad students during her time in academia. Does that sound like an environment that can attract and retain women?

These days, the male/female statistics in astronomy are beginning to even out, and I probably know more female grad students than male. But astronomy is still overwhelmingly white and ableist and cishet. There is a lot of work to do.

At the end of the day, there is no fundamental biological difference between men and women (or extend this onto other axes of privilege, like race) that would lead to an inherent difference in the number of women versus men in astronomy. That means that if we see significant differences in representation, prejudice/bigotry/harassment/neglect must be operating on some level.

This questionoriginally appeared on Quora – the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

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(Photo: ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)

Why don’t more women pursue astronomy/astrophysics? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Will Waalkes, astrophysics grad student at CU Boulder, on Quora:

The sciences suffer from a lack of representation along many (perhaps most) axes of identity, gender being one of those axes. The problem is complex and multi-faceted but interest is not the problem. Young girls show just as much interest and passion for STEM as young boys, and yet something happens, at multiple points.

Part of it is that science has typically been marketed more toward men than women. Boys are supposed to like getting their hands dirty, and girls are supposed to like dresses and makeup. So women, historically, are not encouraged to pursue astronomy as much as men. This trend is changing though, as gendered expectations for career paths become less prevalent.

However, female students who now enter the field are met with a sea of white men, limiting the opportunity for women to feel represented by people who can relate to their experiences. Having a research advisor or an instructor who looks like you and has had similar life experiences to you is an immense privilege, and one that not many women get to have in astronomy. Things like this make the academic environment less welcoming for women.

Probably the most significant factor is outright sexism and gender-based/sexual harassment. Most women I know in astronomy can, if they wish, recount multiple stories of being sexually harassed by colleagues or advisors. A friend of mine once told me that she had been either harassed or assaulted by 2 male advisors and something like 4 male grad students during her time in academia. Does that sound like an environment that can attract and retain women?

These days, the male/female statistics in astronomy are beginning to even out, and I probably know more female grad students than male. But astronomy is still overwhelmingly white and ableist and cishet. There is a lot of work to do.

At the end of the day, there is no fundamental biological difference between men and women (or extend this onto other axes of privilege, like race) that would lead to an inherent difference in the number of women versus men in astronomy. That means that if we see significant differences in representation, prejudice/bigotry/harassment/neglect must be operating on some level.

This questionoriginally appeared on Quora – the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

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