It is impossible to pose, explain and solve in a mere 15 minutes a complex puzzle like this that has been with us for centuries. There are so many different facets; it is hard to focus on a problem that has no nucleus and to summarize a situation that has neither beginning nor end, and some of you are therefore bound to disagree with at least some of what I say.
I singled out the three questions, “Is there a problem?”, “Is there need for improvement?” and “What are the possible ways to improve the situation?”, because each seems to beg the next and all three can therefore be tackled together. The official answer to the first question is “No, there is no discrimination, and no Problem”, because the large majority of institutions declare themselves Equal Opportunity Employers, and statistics show that women are usually appointed to positions in at least the same proportion, relative to their malepeers, as they apply. The nagging worry is why they do not feel able to apply in the sort of numbers that reflect their population. This is more than a social problem; anyone who counts the cost of educating his or her daughter to the age of 25 will know that it has an economic side too. And the reality of the Problem? I attended the 1992 Baltimore meeting on “Women in Astronomy”, and for the first of the two days the 175 or so women in the 200-strong audience simply let off steam, flung mud, aired grievances, and demonstrated that a Problem was very much in evidence; everyone had one, in some disguise - except, possibly, those who occupied the seats on the Panel the next day and answered the political questions. But put 175 men together in a free-for-all, and they would probably discuss .... maybe how best to spend the next $M100 on space astronomy.