Nottingham physicists are winning the fight for equality

22 Jan 2014 05:56:48.620

PA 19/14

The University of Nottingham’s School of Physics and Astronomy has been awarded Juno Champion status by the Institute of Physics (IOP) for taking action to address gender inequities across its student and staff body.

Seeking to redress the long-standing issue of too few women at the highest levels of physics academia in the UK, Nottingham’s School of Physics and Astronomy joined Project Juno to demonstrate its commitment. It has now been recognised for its best practice. 

Professor Penny Gowland, from the School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “I am very proud of our Juno status; it’s great to work somewhere where everyone is so inclusive and tolerant. It’s sad that so many young women are dissuaded from studying physics, given that it offers so much in terms of intellectual stimulation and career opportunities, but at least our school is providing strong role models to help address this problem.”

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To achieve the new status, the school improved its working culture by introducing more flexible working arrangements, offering provision for childcare or allowing for a more transparent organisational structure.

The message is spreading

The school joins eight other physics departments named Juno Champions in the UK and Ireland.

While women make up around 20 per cent of physics undergraduates, this number drops to a tiny seven per cent further along academia at the level of university professor, suggesting female physicists are less likely than their male counterparts to progress into the most senior positions in physics. 

Reach for the stars

Following a recent report by the Institute of Physics, cosmologist, Dr Clare Burrage, produced a blog encouraging girls to study physics at A-Level. She said: “If you’ve ever looked up at the night sky and been awed by the stars, I promise you that they only become more beautiful the more you understand about what they are and where they’ve come from. There’s still so much that we don’t know about the Universe and so many ways in which physics will change the world we live in. Don’t let anybody tell you that you shouldn’t be a part of that.”

Professor Peter Main, Director of Education and Science at the IOP, said, “The Institute is here to support all physics departments to achieve Juno awards by providing positive and constructive feedback on their progress against the Juno principles.

“Of course, the real, tangible benefit of Juno is creating an inclusive working environment that supports the development and progression of all staff, regardless of gender.”   

Project Juno

The IOP’s Code of Practice was developed in response to a recommendation of the International Perceptions of UK Research in Physics and Astronomy report that a special focus to attract and retain women in physics is needed.

The Code is based on best practice identified from IOP’s “Women in University Physics departments: A Site Visit Scheme”, which ran from 2003 to 2005. It sets out practical ideas for actions that departments can take to address the underrepresentation of women in university physics and emphasises the need for dialogue, transparency and openness.

There are three levels of engagement with the Code. As a Supporter, physics departments endorse the five principles set out in the Code of Practice. Practitioner status requires the department to demonstrate that its Juno journey is well underway and an initial evidence-based action plan demonstrating how the department aims to achieve Champion status is created. 

As a Champion, physics departments are confirmed to have met the five principles. There are now seven Champion departments, 11 Practitioners and 22 Supporters.

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More information is available from Joe Winters, IOP Head of Media on +44 (0)20 7470 4815,
Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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