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ASTROMOVES: Studying Astrophysicists' Careers and other Cultural Astronomy Topics

ASTROMOVES: Studying Astrophysicists' Careers and other Cultural Astronomy Topics

ASTROMOVES is funded by the European Union in the form of an Marie Skłodowska Curie Action Individual Fellowship. This blog shares research findings and discussions about ASTROMOVES, but also captures the other Cultural Astronomy research and activities of PI Jarita Holbrook. The reader may find here information about Astrophysics Culture, African Indigenous Astronomy, and Indigenous Astronomy in general.

ASTROMOVES: The Gendered Results

For the ASTROMOVES project, effort was made to include non-heterosexuals in order to include more gender categories. However, in the end, in order to protect the anonymity of the scientists only three broad gender categories were used: Heterosexual females, heterosexual males and LGBTQIA+ members. Having that third gender category is an achievement for a study of astrophysicists, but one can’t help but wonder how the gendered findings would shift as the numbers increase for various gender categories. Why are the three categories sex, sexuality and gender mixed together? During the interviews with the scientists they often conflated these together in their descriptions of themselves, thus they approved the three gender categories that are used. What about shifting gender identities? For the most part, the scientists gave their current identities. In two cases, the scientists did present their evolving gender identity from undergraduate to the present.

For the University of Edinburgh’s Gender.ED 2023 showcase, I made the following short film on some of the gendered results of the ASTROMOVES project:

Reiterating some of the findings:
LGBTQIA+ is the third gender/sexuality group with heterosexual males and heterosexual females being the other two. This group name was decided through conversations with the non-heterosexual people that were interviewed for ASTROMOVES. In general, the scientists mix or combine gender/sexuality when they spoke about their identities, thus the third group conforms to that cultural practice. It is unusual but becoming more standard to have more gender/sexuality identities represented in research studies.

In terms of ethnic/racial diversity the scientists interviewed represent broad heritage from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East but no Pacific Islanders, and no First Nation from Australia or the Americas.

Females were more likely to have been unemployed since obtaining their doctorates. The heterosexual males were the least likely to have been unemployed at only 2 of the 18 scientists interviewed.

Maternity policies vary by country, for example Slovakia has 3 years of funded maternity years, Sweden has 1 – 1.5 years.

There are many negative emotions that people associate with having to move so ofter to maintain a career in astrophysics and adjacent sciences. In the example presented is loneliness.

Intersectional identity can play a role in job decision making.

In many STEM disciplines, impostor syndrome is associated with females. However, in astrophysics both males and females are vocal about struggling with impostor syndrome.

COVID was an unexpected part of the ASTROMOVES study. The scientists most impacted by COVID were those that sheltered alone. Those that had families with young children spoke at length about having to adjust to balancing family time and work time. However, unlike other studies, both males and females spoke of this struggle.


“Jarita Holbrook, dir. 2023. ASTROMOVES: The Gendered Results. H264. Documentary.”

When quoting, also include the name of the scientist that you are quoting, for example:
“Tana Joseph in Jarita Holbrook, dir. 2023. ASTROMOVES: The Gendered Results. H264. Documentary.”


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