siaa_logo_blue Mary Kontizas kontizas_circle

National and Kapodistrian University of Athens


Job Title: Assistant Professor


She is an Astronomer: How many years since you got your maximum degree?

Mary Kontizas: I obtained my PhD from Edinburgh University in 1977, 32 years ago.


SIAA: What is the most senior position you have acheived?

MK: I have been Assistant Professor since 1986.


SIAA: Do you feel it was more difficult for you to get a job or a promotion in comparison with male astronomers?

MK: It was very difficult in both cases but for the promotion is even worse. I got to the level of assistant Professor in 1986 and after that all females of my age are stuck.  Promotions of females at high positions particularly for my generation was unthinkable. It is just a mentality that has been passed to these days. My relation with the Greek astronomers, other colleagues and the administration people in the Physics faculty are excellent and I feel their respect in their attitude.  Unfortunately my colleagues (male) are very reluctant to recognize publicly the misjudgment of their predecessors. However I had never problems of recognition with my European and International research activities even in my Institute (I supervised many PhD students, and some of my students are working in highly recognized European Institutes).


SIAA: Are women under-represented in your institution?

MK: I am one of the first two female astronomers in Greece. In the early 70s, when I met the Professor of Astronomy in Athens University, for an interview for a new research assistant's job, he told me that he did not believe it was likely for me to continue with my career after marriage (I was engaged at the time). He also said that he could give me a temporary job at the University but at the Observatory he would not employ even FEMALE CATS!! To be fair, I must say that it was just the mentality of those days! Otherwise this Professor was very nice and extremely helpful during my first steps of my career (finding a grant for my PhD studies in Edinburgh, UK). He was very helpful with young people, when he was convinced that they were really motivated for further education and research. BUT beyond that promotions for women astronomers was out of question!


SIAA: What is your family status?

MK: I am married with strong support from my family, (my husband is also an astronomer, he was director of the Astronomical Institute at the National Observatory of Athens and chairman of the Greek National committee for Astronomy).  No children.


SIAA: Have you had any career breaks?

MK: I had no breaks in my career.


SIAA: How many hours per day do you normally dedicate to work?

MK: Full time as any active researcher (10-12 hours).


SIAA: What would most help you advance your career?

MK: Change  of mentality about women in top positions.


SIAA: What recommendation would you make to young women starting their career in astronomy?

MK: I believe things are changing fast from now on but in any case NEVER get DISCOURAGED!! Keep working and do not try to focus on the difficulties. Do not try to open the closed doors, move on to the open ones and put all your efforts to the activities allowed to you. This keeps your balance and personal strength to full capacity. Try to help your younger female colleagues and students to achieve high standards in both science and professional ethics.


SIAA: What achievements in your career to date are you most proud of?

MK: I supervised many PhD students and some of my students are working in highly recognized European Institutes. I was a member of Science Working Group for the creation of the Virtual Astrophysical Observatory 2000-2005. I am a great supporter of all Virtual Observatory developments.