siaa_logo_blue Laura Parker parker_circle

McMaster University

Hamilton, Canada

Job Title: Assistant Professor


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

Laura Parker: I received my PhD 4 years ago, in 2005.


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

LP: I am ~2 years into my tenure-track faculty position, and I can certainly say that being a female has not made getting a job more difficult, quite the opposite in fact. I was hired into this position under a Canadian program called the "University Faculty Award". These awards are targeted for women and Aboriginal people in tenure-track faculty positions in the natural sciences and engineering. The award comes with funding for 5 years, which helps universities make more hires than they normally could. Unfortunately, this program has now been cancelled, but for me it made a huge difference in my career path. I started my faculty position only 2 years after I finished my PhD, which is not particularly common in astronomy.


SIAA: Are women under-represented in your institution?

LP: I am in a joint physics and astronomy department and the women are better represented here than in many Canadian departments. Among the astronomy faculty (10 research faculty) there are 3 females. I am in a tenure-track position and the other 2 are tenured. We also have very good representation of females among the graduate student population with half of the astronomy grad students being female.


SIAA: What is your family status?

LP: I have a partner who is also an academic. No children.


SIAA: Have you had any career breaks?

LP: No, I was a student continuously from kindergarten through to the completion of my PhD. I started my post-doctoral fellowship 1 week after my PhD defence (gave me time to move to a new country), and I started my faculty job remotely before wrapping up my post-doc


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

LP: I'm typically in the office for 8 hours a day during the week. Most evenings and 1 day on the weekend I do more work from home. I prefer to work at home in the evenings rather than very long hours in my office.


SIAA: What would most help you advance your career?

LP: Having more time to publish papers. With all of the other pressures of being a professor it is sometimes difficult to find the time to focus on finishing up papers.


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

LP: Women of equal ability to their male peers tend to view themselves as less able. I would advise female students to not assume they are in any way less able, less clever, less worthy than their, perhaps more confident, peers.