NASA Sponsors Women in Astronomy and Space Science 2009 Conference

From L to R: Anne Kinney, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.; Vera Rubin, Dept. of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institute of Washington; Nancy Grace Roman Retired NASA Goddard; Kerri Cahoy, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.; Randi Ludwig. University of Texas, Austin, TexasSpace science research institutions have traditionally been populated by a strong male workforce, but this structure is rapidly changing. Today’s workforce is much more diverse with individuals from various cultures and backgrounds, a higher percentage of women, and in many cases, up to six generations in the same workplace.

Both management and employees are in need of tools to help them understand where they are headed and how to get there successfully together. To help meet these challenges, the "Women in Astronomy and Space Science 2009: Meeting the Challenges of an Increasingly Diverse Workforce," conference is being held on Oct. 21-23, 2009, at the Inn and Conference Center, University of Maryland University College, Adelphi, Md.

"NASA has a high concentration of dedicated scientists," stated Anne Kinney, Director of the Solar System Exploration Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "The goal of this conference is to foster diversity and help build a stronger workforce in science, engineering and technology which will open doors for everyone."

This three-day conference highlights the diversity of today’s scientific professions by establishing the statistics of the current workforce and defining the roles of institutions and professional societies in preparing future scientists to succeed in their chosen fields. Discussions will provide strategies for fostering a successful work environment, allowing both managers and employees to explore pertinent topics including management best practices, early career needs, work/life balance, and managing future expectations.

Professional societies, institutions and organized groups have always played an important part in improving the status of women and minorities in the scientific workforce. Topics presented include best practices for recruiting, promoting, mentoring, and retaining women and minorities in majority-dominated fields. Speakers will share their personal route to careers in areas such as international development, science management, non-profit organizations, and aerospace administration and answer questions.

Opening day remarks will be presented by Anne Kinney, Director of the Solar Exploration Division at NASA Goddard, and the keynote welcome by Ed Weiler, NASA Associate Administrator, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington.

Group shot of attendees at the Women in Astronomy and Space Science 2009
Attendees at the Women in Astronomy and Space Science 2009.
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The keynote address will be presented on the final day of the conference by Congresswoman Donna Edwards, and a panel discussion, "What It Takes to Become a Principal Investigator, Project Scientist, or Instrument Scientist," will be chaired by Nobel laureate and NASA Senior Astrophysicist John Mather of NASA Goddard.

A tour of the White House will cap off this exciting conference with a discussion with Tina Tchen, Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls. The discussion will focus on women in science, engineering, technology and math and where they are headed in future.

In conjunction with the Women in Astronomy (WIA) and Space Science 2009 Conference, a professional skills development COACH workshop was held on Tuesday, October 20. The participants learned negotiation skills through interactive means including case studies, personal assessments, and role-playing.

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