Irish universities planning to get more women involved in physics

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The low level of female participation in physics is something that universities have been looking to address for some time, but a new rewards-based scheme aims to encourage more engagement – for men and women – through better practice.

Three physics departments at Irish universities are already involved in the Juno initiative, which gives awards at three levels (depending on how much the department has been able to demonstrate and achieve): Supporter, Practitioner and Champion.

Juno

‘Juno is based on five main principles, and the first is getting the organisation right for looking at gender issues,’ says Prof Eithne McCabe, chairsperson of the Juno committee at Trinity College Dublin (TCD). ‘It focuses to a large extent on a transparent and inclusive working environment and the idea is that if you make the working environment and the culture better for everyone, then women will benefit perhaps disproportionately.’

‘Amongst undergrads, the number nationally for females getting degrees in physics was about 22 per cent, which is extremely low,’ she says. ‘The numbers [of women] are low at every stage but fall very significantly by the time you get to academic staff – at Trinity, around 11 per cent of the permanent academic staff are female, the lowest for all the science subjects.’

While it is unreasonable to expect that any initiative could have a radically transformative effect over night, each step towards creating a greater gender balance is clearly one in the right direction.


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