Champions extol the virtues of Juno

8 March 2013

On this International Women’s Day, Friday 8 March 2013, leading physicists from Imperial College London, the Universities of Warwick, Cambridge, Glasgow, Royal Holloway University of London and the University of York are encouraging their colleagues in physics departments across the country to do more to reduce the gender disparity in physics.

In a new video launched today, the six departments – all of whom have been awarded Institute of Physics’ (IOP) Juno Champion status for 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.

In October last year, the IOP published research which shows that 49% of all co-ed maintained schools in England did not send even one girl on to do physics A-level in 2011, reflecting a sad cultural malaise in UK education which is, unjustifiably, leaving many girls behind.

The percentages are even starker further along the academic career path with 19% of physics Researchers being female, 15% of our physics Lecturers and only 5.5% of our physics Professors.

On IOP’s effort to overcome the shortage of women in the subject, Professor Peter Main, director of education and science at IOP, explains, “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.” 

Dr Lyndsay Fletcher from the University of Glasgow says, “I think the fact that Glasgow is a Juno Champion sends the message that we are working constantly to improve and there have been a couple of really concrete things that have come out of Project Juno.

“The first thing is our PhD Student Forum and through it certain processes and PhD student assessment have changed for the better. Also, some of the organisational structures of the department have been clarified in a way that weren’t clear before.  It’s not just about women in physics; it’s about making a happy department that functions well.”

Professor Joanna Haigh from Imperial College London, the first female Head of Physics in the department’s 150 year history, explains what Project Juno has led to in her department, “We try to make sure that there are flexible working arrangements, provision for childcare and good working practices and now, because we’ve got many more people talking to each other, we have a better environment than we did before.”

Professor Robin C Ball, Head of Physics at the University of Warwick, on taking on the challenges that Juno poses, explains, “We’ve moved on from seeking to run a clean ship to setting ourselves targets which we don’t know how to achieve.  That forces us to think the unthinkable and be true champions in making a difference to how things work.”

In a call to see greater involvement from a wider range of departments across the country, Professor Main concludes the short film, “It will be better for the women, it will be better for the men and it will be better for the students.  Join in with Juno.”

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