Supporting diversity and excellence in IOP Awards

Read this blog from Sarah Bakewell, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, to hear more about our approach to EDI in the IOP Awards and find out more about the 2021 IOP Awards EDI data.

See a video message from Sarah


Excellence is everywhere

The last 18 months or so have been difficult for many people throughout the pandemic, so it is wonderful to be able to announce and celebrate our 2021 IOP Award winners, who have all been selected for their excellent work in and contribution to physics.

Congratulations! Recognising excellence through awards is one way to showcase great physics work and highlight inspiring role models and this years’ winners are no exception.

Making changes to promote inclusion and diversity

When I joined the IOP in February 2021, there was a focus on our awards. How do we drive up the diversity of those being nominated whilst ensuring we maintain quality and don’t seem tokenistic?

We reviewed and made some changes to our processes, for which we have been commended by our Nominations Committee. We introduced self-nomination, collected broader diversity data by voluntary self-declaration and publicised the IOP Awards in an even wider range of places to let people know that they were open for nominations.

I was delighted to see that 63% of nominations came with completed diversity data. The response rate compares well against our membership data overall. We now have a benchmark on which to build comparisons in the future and measure the impact of any changes we make to improve our processes and further encourage greater diversity.

Some of the data highlights:

  • 234 nominations for IOP Awards overall, of which 222 met the award criteria
  • 30 people self-nominated, of which 24 met the award criteria

Of our winners (those who shared their diversity data):

  • 19% are black, Asian or from a minority ethnic background – compared to 16% of UK academic physics staff
  • 31% are women – compared with 25% of respondents to the IOP’s most recent diversity survey, 34% of winners in 2020 and 19% of physics department academic staff
  • fewer than half are from outside of London or the south-east of England
  • 14% of 2021’s winners are straight white men with no disability and a parent or carer who went to university

This data evidences a direct correlation between the diversity of nominees and the winners. The more diverse the nominees, the more diverse the award winners. And we haven’t compromised on quality in any way.

See the full 2021 IOP Awards data as well as comparative gender and regional data with previous years.

There is more work to do!

We know that we have more to do to ensure that physics is welcoming and supportive across all settings and whilst there’s been good progress this year, there’s room for improvement. There were no female winners for the Technical Skills Awards this year and there has only ever been one female winner for the Isaac Newton Medal and Prize.

Some of this may be attributed to closed facilities and furlough over the last 18 months, but in highlighting these areas we are being transparent about where excellence needs to be celebrated more broadly across the physics community.

Over to you…

Thank you to everyone who nominated others or themselves for an IOP Award this year. We rely on you and the physics community to recognise excellence in the work of your colleagues and teams and support the drive for greater diversity. By sharing the data, we hope to inspire you to see where the physics community can collectively push to celebrate excellence, everywhere.

I invite you to take a look at this year’s fantastic winners for inspiration and start thinking now or discussing with colleagues who you may want to nominate for the next round of IOP Awards.

If you have any questions, you can get in touch with us at [email protected].

To find out more about our work to support a more inclusive environment in physics, take a look at our diversity and inclusion page.