While the number of women studying science at an undergraduate level worldwide continues to rise, work still needs to be done to formulate strategies for action to address the under representation of women in both astronomy and science beyond the student years. A study of astronomers in the USA (Urry, Status 2000) shows that women make up 25% of the graduate student population, 15% of the postdoctoral and assistant professor level, and just 5% of the professors within the field of astronomy. Are these numbers similar in Australia?
Notwithstanding recent efforts to improve the status of women in astronomy (such as the Baltimore Charter and the creation of the IAU Working Group on the Status of Women in Astronomy), many women astronomers still feel themselves to be at a gender-based disadvantage. Networking has proved to be a very positive resource, but without a formal structure such efforts remain fragmented and too dependent upon individual initiative. Australia’s prime astronomy organisation – the ASA – aims to recognize and assist the needs and endeavours of women astronomer through the establishment of this Chapter for Women in Astronomy.