WG.5: Working Group on Women in Physics

Recommendations from IUPAP International Conference on Women in Physics
Maison de l'UNESCO, Paris, France
7-9 March 2002

Many specific recommendations emerged during the conference. Not all will be applicable to all countries or situations. They should be reviewed by each country team, which should translate the applicable ones and work to implement them in their country. The recommendations are grouped into categories, but many are likely to have impact in other categories, too. Note that most of these recommendations, when implemented, will improve physics for both men and women.

General Recommendations

1. Coordinate data collection and access internationally on physics demographics, including gender, to watch and influence trends. Collect data regularly (every one to three years) and in a consistent way, to watch and influence trends. Request data from national and regional physical societies. Find out also why women leave physics.

2. Create, support, and encourage networks for women physicists: local, national, international, including a world-wide e-network. Create women-in-physics web pages in each country, with links to each other and to information on successful strategies and programs. Provide a well publicized international web presence for Women in Physics.

3. Involve men, especially highly respected physics leaders, in improving the climate for women (and minorities) in physics.

4. Have transparent, gender-blind processes for important decisionmaking. Transparency can be aided by having a requirement for decisions to be reported and explained. Important decisions include those related to recruitment, selection, salary, promotion, peer review, conference programs, allocation of space and equipment, and other issues affecting important working conditions.

5. Establish mechanisms to assess and improve the climate for women (and minorities) in physics. Proven approaches include creating special committees for women in physics and focusing resources and attention on this issue. Examples include having a source of matching funds for initial years of a tenure-track position filled by a woman, and committees that visit universities, research institutes, and other physics employers to advise on their climate for women.

6. Encourage written rules and policies (for example an equality policy) to achieve fairness and transparency in policies, practices, and decision making.

7. Provide Web 'index' of links to international funding sources.

8. Remove barriers to full participation of girls and women (restrooms, dormitories, etc).

9. Adjust the reward structure at all levels to encourage desired behaviors.

Attracting Girls into Physics (childhood to university)

1. Revise educational curricula and materials to connect physics with medicine, biology, technology, the environment, etc. and to show diverse physics career paths and job prospects. Ensure physics courses, math courses, textbooks, equipment, and funding for girls' education are as good as for boys' education, and feature women physicists as role models.

2. Strengthen the training of science/physics teachers and include opportunites for them to do research and to interact with working scientists. Train teachers and counsellors about gender issues (girl-friendly classroom atmosphere, examples of interest to girls). Attract qualified school teachers with fair pay, respect, and working conditions.

3. Publicize physics role models who counteract the stereotypes and whose stories are examples of career success and leadership positions.

4. Educate parents about opportunities for daughters and how to encourage them.

5. Help smart girls network (clubs, enrichment opportunities, and encouragement).

6. Attract more girls to compete in prestigious physics competitions.

7. Raise boys to share family responsibilities and to expect women to have professions.

8. Get international help and funding for schools in developing countries

9. Involve universities, research institutes, and industries to help schools and strengthen teacher training.

Launching a Successful Career (University to Mid-Career)

1. Have flexible entry and graduation requirements for physics majors, and provide early opportunities for students to participate in research.

2. Train/sensitize faculty and supervisors to gender issues (female-friendly atmosphere, respectful and collegial treatment).

3. Provide enlightened and supportive mentors and supervisors for women physicists. These people should find funding, teach the women the « rules of the game » and how to write successful proposals, introduce them to important professional contacts, give them challenging assignments and opportunities, provide constructive feedback on unsuccessful proposals or interviews, give them credit, and advocate them in the physics community. .

4. Provide training for women physicists in presentation of results, paper writing, grant applications, etc.

5. Shorten the post-post-doc phase with its inherent insecurity and relocation requirements.

Balancing Family and Career

1. Respect and value family obligations (quality child care convenient to workplace and at conferences, flexible working hours).

2. Pause 'career clock' and have flexible age limits and rules for grants and fellowships, to not disadvantage people who take time for family responsibilities. (Accord career interruptions for « family service » the same respect as for « military service ».)

3. Provide funding sources to help people return to physics after a career pause.

4. Solve the dual-career couple problem by facilitating geographically co-located job opportunities and creative solutions, such as shared positions.

Getting Women into Physics Leadership

1. Appoint women physicists to leadership positions and include them on important committees in their institutions, countries, professional societies, and IUPAP.

2. Involve more people in leadership. Consider innovative approaches, such as shared positions, term appointments, and novel structures.

International Aspects

1. Create opportunites for R&D employment, funding, and research equipment in developing countries (not just factories employing cheap labor).

2. Provide opportunities for collaboration and exchanges between regions and countries. Provide resources for conference travel for physicists from developing countries, and for physicists from developed countries to be visiting lecturers in developing countries.

3. Establish and sponsor international speaker program(s) for women physicists: web-accessible data base of names and topics; source of travel support.

4. Sponsor prestigious, topical international physics summer schools with female and male speakers, organizers, and participants.

Contact IUPAP   |   Search IUPAP   |   IUPAP Home