Gender equality in astronomy does not end with the male / female gender binary.
A study Led by non-binary astrophysics Kaitlin Rasmussen, the researchers looked at gender equity in astronomy and what practices might address the remaining outstanding issues or have a negative impact on researchers who do not fit binary male or female gender identities.
This study, published in 2019, was inspired by surveys conducted by astronomers who analyzed gender equality in astronomy. They and others in the field, as they point out in this study, noted that many of the articles that have been published on gender equity in astronomy are led by astronomers rather than experts in gender studies, Rasmussen told Space.com in a recent interview. . “They were all men against women, and sometimes non-binary people weren’t even addressed or would be addressed as a footnote.”
Related: Women of color in astronomy face a higher degree of discrimination and harassment.
While other studies have not sufficiently included non-binary scientists, Rasmussen said, there have been a number of studies that, over the years, have examined problems in the space sector and developed methods that could be used to improve the lives of people. People in these marginalized minority groups working within the sector.
Previous studies They have also shown that people who are part of minority gender and sexual groups face an increased risk of harassment and assault in the fields of astronomy and planetary science.
“I am privileged to be white and male in presentation,” said V Wegman, a former NASA intern who completed two internships at NASA’s Langley Research Center who worked on a third internship at the agency and who also worked at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and was not involved in these studies, he told Space.com. However, they shared, when they came out as non-binary, “I was really intensely discriminated, I suppose you could say, with my fellow students … it was impossible for me to complete the labs because they never let me participate.” This discrimination even led Wegman to abandon his last internship at NASA.
With this new document, the researchers aimed to take a closer look at the specific gender disparity for non-binary people with respect to things like “who is getting postdoctoral positions, who is holding a degree,” Rasmussen told Space.com. They hope that by making changes, including who works on these studies, the field can improve to better and more effectively support its non-binary members.
“What happens with the non-binary identity is that more and more people are realizing that they don’t fall into the category of male or female,” said Rasmussen, adding that the more non-binary people there are, the more people there will be. . they are not treated fairly within the field.
In the study, the researchers made a number of recommendations about ways the field can change to better support its non-binary members. These recommended changes include alterations in methodology, especially with respect to the collection and reporting of gender data.
The study also suggests that gender data should never be shared outside of the context for which it was collected, and that privacy remains an important consideration with such data. The group also recommends that while institutional reform is “beyond the scope of this document,” they wrote, to truly achieve gender equality, institutions must adopt a “more complex gender model than the one historically used by equity initiatives. “
In addition, they point out that the gender of people is often presumed based on external features such as a name or physiology. But, they emphasize, making such assumptions is “inevitably discriminatory.”
“For non-binary people in particular, there is simply no acceptable outcome here: we are wrongly classified in a binary genre, or we are considered uncategorizable and discarded. While this may sound trivial, experiences of disorder and erasure have psychological consequences and very real professionals for non-binaries, transgender and gender non-conforming people, “the authors wrote in the article.
“Our final recommendation, and perhaps the most important one,” added the authors, “is to listen. Look around to see who the most marginalized and vulnerable members are and make sure that their voices are not only included but prioritized in conversations about equity and inclusion: that their needs and ideas are heard and valued. “
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