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Women Physicists Challenge Family Unfriendly Fellowships

Originally published 3 September 2002

The team of senior women physicists (including the University of Warwick’s Professor Sandra Chapman) who represented the UK at the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics first international conference on Women in Physics, looking at the under-representation of women in physics world-wide, have now produced a detailed report entitled “Women Physicists Speak” on the issue with recommendations including:

  • Action to involve more women physicists in science leadership. Key science bodies should ensure that young women are prepared for leadership roles and also consider innovative approaches, such as shared positions and term appointments.
  • Pause the ”career clock” and have flexible age limits and rules for grants and fellowships, to not disadvantage people who take time for family responsibilities. Provide funding sources to help people return to physics after a career pause.
  • Solve the dual-career couple problem by facilitating geographically co-located job opportunities and creative solutions such as shared positions.
  • Revise educational curricula and materials to ensure that topics and approaches that are favoured by girls are given due weight and show diverse physics career paths & job prospects.

The report’s authors note that the number of women physicists has increased over the last 50 years, particularly over the last 20, but, in spite of strong encouragement from central government, we are a long way from gender balance. The full report will be launched at meeting at Institute of Physics, 76 Portland Place London, on Thursday September 5th at 3pm. The speakers at the launch will include Sir Brain Fender, Dr Joan Mason (chair of AWISE), Dr Judith Glover (Researcher into Women's employment in science, engineering and technology) and Dr Helen Walker (Chair of the Women in Astronomy committee).

For further information contact:

Professor Sandra Chapman,
Space and Astrophysics,
University of Warwick
Tel: 02476 523390

Notes for editors:

In March 2002, the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) held the first international conference on Women in Physics, devoted to understanding the reasons for the under-representation of women in physics worldwide, particularly at the more senior levels. The conference was attended by a large number of very distinguished women and men who had devoted some considerable time to thinking about the issues. Delegates agreed a number of actions intended to raise the profile of physics among women and to make it easier for women to pursue a career in this area. The delegates came almost exclusively from academia and the topics discussed centered largely on aspects of education and research.

The authors of the report were Professor Gillian Gehring (team leader) University of Sheffield, Professor Sandra Chapman University of Warwick, Dr Yasmin Andrew UKAEA, Dr Joanne Baker University of Oxford, Dr Dimitra Darambara University College London, Dr Helen Heath University of Bristol, and Mrs Ann Marks physics teacher.