South African Large Telescope (SALT)
|Cape Town, South Africa
|Job Title: SALT astronomer & visiting scientist at MIT
She is an Astronomer: How long is it since you got your maximum academic degree?
Amanda Gulbis: 7 years
SIAA: What is the most senior position you have achieved?
AG: My current position is an astronomer at SALT. Prior to this I was a research scientist.
SIAA: Do you feel it was more difficult for you to get a job or a promotion in comparison with male astronomers?
AG: No. In my experience, career advancement occurs because of ability and connections. I deal with other astronomers as equals and have been treated similarly. However, I am still early enough in my career that I don't have personal experience with tenured or permanent positions.
SIAA: Are women under-represented in your institution?
AG: Women are certainly in the minority at both my institutions – 25 percent of the astronomers at the SAAO are female. Encouragingly, my field of planetary science actually has had increasing numbers of women in recent years.
SIAA: What is your family status?
AG: I have been married for seven years to an extremely supportive person. My husband is a teacher, which we joking refer to as a "highly portable" job. In reality this is not a joke because it is extremely helpful to have a spouse who can find a fulfilling job practically anywhere in the world where astronomer is done.
SIAA: Have you had any career breaks?
AG: No, although I know of multiple women who took breaks (mostly for children) and have returned successfully to work.
SIAA: How many hours per day do you normally dedicate to work?
AG: It varies. Currently I work approximately nine hours on many days. Observing nights are often longer and special observing runs can require 24+ hours of work continually. For many years I worked 12+ hour days, but it really has depended on the stage of my career and the job/institution.
SIAA: What would most help you advance your career?
AG: Doing my job well and taking advantage of opportunities.
SIAA: What recommendation would you make to young women starting their career in astronomy?
AG: Astronomy is a wonderful job – it's challenging, it's interesting and above all it is never boring. It is also a career that requires some sacrifices and inconveniences. While it is absolutely possible to have a balanced life (both in and out of work) you need to be close to people who understand this and are supportive.