Two more university departments become champions of equality

17 January 2014

The IOP has named two new Champions in its Project Juno initiative to foster gender equality – the Schools of Physics and Astronomy at the universities of Nottingham and Edinburgh. Their Champion status means that they are making progress in tackling gender inequality in physics and have firm plans to improve their practice still more.

Two others – the physics department at the University of Durham and the School of Physics at Trinity College Dublin – have achieved Practitioner status, which is a step on the way to becoming a Champion.

While around 20% of physics undergraduates are women, they only make up around 7% of physics professors, and Project Juno was set up in 2007 to address this under-representation and to encourage better practice both for women and for men.

It recognises and rewards departments that can show how they are addressing issues such as equality of opportunity and reward, selection procedures and career progression, management arrangements and culture, and flexible working practices.

The latest awards, agreed by the IOP’s Juno Assessment Panel in January, bring the number of Champions to nine and Practitioners to 12. A further 23 departments have signed up to be Juno Supporters, which means that they endorse the Juno principles and are committed to working towards Practitioner and then Champion status.

A Juno Champion has to show that it has embedded the Juno principles throughout the department, while it continues to gather evidence on the progress it has made and has an action plan for the future.

Prof. Cait MacPhee, a biological physicist who led on the bid for Champion status at the University of Edinburgh, said: “The Juno process gives us a wonderful opportunity to stand back and look at the changes we’ve made over the last 10 years, and to celebrate the improvements that make the School of Physics and Astronomy a great place to work for all staff.”

Prof. Penny Gowland, who was part of the bid for Champion status at the University of Nottingham, 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 to address this problem.”

To achieve Practitioner status, departments have to show that they have gathered evidence on where they are now in relation to the Juno principles and have a framework in place to deliver equality of opportunity and reward.

Responding to the announcement of Practitioner status for the University of Durham’s Department of Physics, Alastair Edge, a reader there, said: “We welcome the support that the Institute of Physics has shown us in the process of making our department a better place to work.”

Prof. Eithne McCabe, of Trinity College Dublin’s School of Physics, said: “Trinity College Dublin School of Physics has made the increased participation of women in physics a key priority and is delighted to be awarded Juno Practitioner status. We recognise how improving the numbers, retention rate, profile and culture for female physicists will impact positively on the Irish economy as a whole and we feel we have an important role to play in this.”

Prof. Peter Main, the IOP’s director of education and science, 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 is creating an inclusive environment that supports the development and progression of all staff, regardless of gender.”

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