Physics departments winning the fight for gender equality

4 July 2013 | Source: IOP

Over 75% of UK physics departments have demonstrated their commitment to fighting gender inequality by signing up to the Institute of Physics (IOP) Juno Code of Practice.

Project Juno award

The Department of Physics at Lancaster University became the latest Juno Champion on 1 July after displaying its determination and commitment to addressing gender inequities across its student and staff body.

While the physics department at the University of Cambridge, also known as the Cavendish Laboratory, first awarded Champion status in 2010, has just renewed its Champion status.

Particle physicist Dr Laura Kormos, who led the Department at Lancaster's bid for Championship status, said, "I am proud to work with colleagues that value diversity, honesty and openness, and proud of the changes that we've made together."

James Stirling, Head of Physics at Cambridge, commented, “The Department is very proud of our Juno Champion status, and so renewal was very important for us. This is all part of our programme for making the Cavendish a better place to work for all our staff, and the Institute's support for our efforts is greatly appreciated.”

The Juno initiative, running since 2007, aims to redress the long-standing issue of the underrepresentation of women at the highest levels of physics academia in the UK and Ireland.

While women make up around 20% of physics undergraduates, this number drops to a tiny 7% further along academia at the level of university professor, suggesting female physicists are less likely than their male counterparts to progress into the most senior positions in physics. 

The Juno principles improve working culture for all departmental staff, creating, for example, flexible working arrangements, provision for childcare and a more transparent organisational structure.

The potential for improvement has driven high levels of engagement amongst UK physics departments and led to an increase in the number of departments now achieving Juno Practitioner or Champion status.

Additional to the news from Lancaster and Cambridge, a further three universities have now achieved Practitioner status – the step towards Champion status – this July.

The new Practitioners are the departments of physics at the Universities of Birmingham, St Andrews and the National University of Ireland, Galway. The latter is the first University in Ireland to achieve the Practitioner award.

Encouraging more departments to engage in the Juno project, Professor Peter Main, Director of Education and Science at the IOP, 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 of Juno is creating an inclusive working environment that supports the development and progression of all staff, regardless of gender.”