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York University Encourages More Women to Take Up Physics


5:16pm 8th March 2013

To mark International Women’s Day, leading physicists from the University of York and five other top universities are encouraging their colleagues across the country to do more to reduce the gender disparity in physics.

In a new video launched today (8 March), the six physics departments – who have all been awarded Institute of Physics’ (IOP) Juno Champion  status for their efforts to overcome barriers to women in the subject – explain how their involvement in Project Juno has led to better working environments for all staff, regardless of gender.

The IOP published research last October showing that 49 per cent of all co-educational maintained schools in England did not send any girls on to do physics A-level in 2011. Further along the academic career path in physics, only 19 per cent of researchers, 15 per cent of lecturers and 5.5 per cent of professors are female.

The IOP is working to overcome the shortage of women in the subject through Project Juno.

Professor Peter Main, Director of Education and Science at IOP, said: “Juno is a Code of practice that’s based on five principles and we’ve encouraged universities to embody these principles and to demonstrate not only that they agree with them but also that they are putting them into practice. When the departments can demonstrate that real change has happened, particularly a real change in culture, they can aspire to Juno Champion status.” 

The University of York received Juno champion status in October 2011.

Dr Irene D’Amico, Chair of the Department of Physics’ Departmental Equality Committee, who features in the Juno video, said: “In York the journey towards achieving Juno Champion status has promoted widespread awareness of the problem of under-representation of women in physics. We made a critical assessment of our culture and practices, realising that parts were already very good, but also accepting that some needed modifying.

“The journey continues through our structured action plan to address gender imbalances. Tapping into the full brain-power of the country – including men and women equally – will help in improving our future.”

Women make up 19 per cent of academic staff in York’s Department of Physics, well above the national average of 12 per cent. This includes two Professors, a senior lecturer, three lecturers and a reader.

Professor Sarah Thompson, Head of Physics at York, said: “The Equality Committee helps the Department provide a working environment where all staff are encouraged to work to their full potential and are rewarded without regard to gender, race, age, sexual orientation, disability or belief. We are committed to ensuring consistency of experience for staff at all levels in the Department, particularly in induction, appraisal and support for professional development.”

Six UK physics departments – from the Universities of York, Cambridge, Glasgow, Warwick, Imperial College London and Royal Holloway University of London - have been accredited with Juno Champion status and feature in the new video.

Watch the film here.

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