What does a physicist look like?

27 April 2016

About 10% of Institute members responding to an IOP diversity survey identified as black or ethnic minority (BME), 9% declared a disability, and around 28% were female, according to results presented in the IOP publication What does a physicist look like?

What does a physicist look like?

The survey was conducted in July 2015 and about 13% of IOP members responded. All types of IOP members – from affiliate, student and associate members to chartered engineers or chartered physicists – were invited to take part, and the response rates mirrored the IOP's age profile. Around 44% were aged 15–29, 12% were aged 30–39, and 20% were aged 40–49, while 11% were 60–69 and 8.5% were 70–79. Just 3.2% were aged 80 or above.

When asked about religion or belief, 38.7% of respondents said that they had none, 21.6% were atheists and 28.5% were Christian. The remaining responses were “other” (3.2%), Muslim (1.09%), Hindu (0.9%), Jewish (0.7%), Buddhist (0.7%) and Sikh (0.3%).

In a question about sexual orientation, 83.5% identified as heterosexual, 5.2% as bisexual, 3.4% as gay men, 2.5% as other and 0.9% as gay women.

Participants were asked about their socio-economic background, defined by the highest level of qualification held by either of their parents. Around 25% had at least one parent with an undergraduate degree and 27.7% had a parent with a postgraduate qualification, while for 11% of respondents no qualifications were held by either of their parents and for 29.2% neither parent had higher than school-level qualifications.

Of respondents who declared a disability, 18% said they had a mental health condition, 14% had multiple disabilities and 12% had a specific learning disability. Nearly 8% had Asperger's or an autistic spectrum disorder, 8.7% were mobility impaired, 5% were deaf or hearing impaired and 2.6% were blind or visually impaired. Among disabled respondents there were 17.7 % who said their disability was a health condition and the same proportion listed their disability as “other”.

The survey also drew on the IOP's data concerning the proportions of males and females among its Council and committee members, award winners, honorary fellows and successful teacher scholarship applicants.

This was the second of the IOP's membership diversity surveys. The first was conducted in 2011 and the next is planned for 2019.

The IOP’s head of diversity, Jenni Dyer, said: “Members taking time to respond to the survey and telling us more about themselves, albeit anonymously, has provided invaluable information that is helping our organisation work towards being fully inclusive, so that all members can participate fully in our activities.”