The IAU General Assembly from Honolulu, Hawai’i, USA saw more than 3000 attendees from 74 countries across the world, including almost 100 members of the press. Those who attended experienced two weeks packed with symposia, meetings and events, highlighting the latest discoveries in astronomy, as well as the importance of astronomy and society, culture and history.
Several important milestones in the life of the International Astronomical Union also took place, with the Commission reform, four new Resolutions, agreements on new Offices, and elections making sure that the IAU’s role to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation continues to be implemented with care, professionalism and enthusiasm.
During the IAU General Assembly, I had the honour to take on the role of General Secretary together with three other newly elected IAU officers: Silvia Torres-Peimbert, Mexico, President; Ewine van Dishoeck, the Netherlands, President-elect; Maria Teresa Lago, Portugal, General Secretary-elect.
It is a historic moment for the IAU to have three women in its Office and a proof that the organization is careful to offer equal chances to its extraordinary members, whether they are male or female.
With regards to the new Officers, I would like to expand a bit on a thought I shared during the Closing Ceremony and which seems to have not come across as I intended. During my speech, I mentioned how honoured I am to be working with such outstanding scientists, whom I know personally, and whom I consider that on top of their scientific stance bring to the office qualities that are essential and in alignment to the IAU’s consolidated role in education and astronomy for development.
I have the privilege to have known Silvia, Teresa and Ewine since the beginning of our professional career and now, after 30-40 years, I can without the shadow of a doubt only feel admiration for their accomplishments and contributions to our understanding of the Universe we live in. I also very much look forward to working together with them and learning from them, while sharing my own experience.
I understand and agree that mentioning gender is too often received as not appropriate but I was willing to take the risk and express my deep admiration for my fellow officers. Even if the topic of gender equality is a complex and delicate one, it is not my wish to ignore it just because it is hard to approach in a 100% correct, balanced and beneficial manner. Discussing the role and position of women in astronomy is of great relevance for the IAU and also for society in general. I would like to apologise that my remarks offended some, and to admit that I can also see their points of view. I do wish to communicate that my message was a personal and sincere tribute to the new Officers and to women in astronomy in general.