IOP names UCL department as a gender equality champion

10 February 2015

The IOP has recognised the Department of Physics and Astronomy at University College London (UCL) as a national leader in gender equality through the IOP’s Project Juno initiative.


The Institute has named the department as a Juno Champion, joining 11 other physics departments around the UK and Ireland that have made exceptional efforts to embed gender equality in physics.

The Juno initiative, which has been running since 2007, aims to redress the long-standing issue of under-representation of women in physics at UK and Irish universities. The Juno principles are aimed at improving the working culture for all departmental staff by creating, for example, flexible working arrangements, provision for childcare and a more transparent organisational structure.

The IOP praised a number of efforts within the department at UCL, including:
• the increased proportion of female staff as the department has expanded
• the department’s changed undergraduate admissions procedure, which has moved away from traditional adversarial interviews
• good practice in workload management and core hours, which makes the department more family friendly
• arrangements that make it easy for staff to return from maternity and paternity leave
• surveys of staff to identify areas that need action.

Prof. Jon Butterworth, head of physics and astronomy at UCL, said: “Diversity and gender balance are priorities for UCL and for this department, and there is obviously much work to be done in physics, as a subject, to improve them. We're very proud to be recognised as champions of positive change in this continuing process.”

Juno Champions have been pivotal in developing best practice that is shared across the physics community, identifying and tackling the barriers to female career progression. A further 34 departments are involved in the Juno scheme as Juno Practitioners or Juno Supporters.

The IOP’s president, Frances Saunders, said: “The Institute encourages all physics departments to work towards achieving Juno awards; providing challenging and constructive feedback that recognises their progress against the Juno principles. Adopting the Juno framework, and actively pursuing the agenda it sets out, creates a working environment that is inclusive and supports the development and progression of all staff.”

While women make up around 20% of physics undergraduates nationally (25% at UCL), the number drops to only 9% further along academia at the level of university professor (18% at UCL). This suggests that female physicists are much less likely than their male counterparts to progress to the most senior positions.