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Fixing the leaky pipe is no longer just a pipedream

Institute of Physics launches project Juno to advance women’s careers in physics higher education

Issued 14 June, 2007

The problem of “the leaky pipeline” in higher education - where 20% of new physics graduates are girls, but fewer than 5% of professors are female – has been well documented. The Institute of Physics launches Project Juno, a code of practice for university departments to use to encourage more girls and women to develop their careers in higher education and research.

Project Juno sets out practical ideas in the form of five key principles to address the under-representation of women at all levels in university physics. Based on the findings of a series of visits to university departments over two years (note 2), it summarises the good working practices found in some university physics departments into a code of practice to which academic departments can sign up to become recognised as a Juno Supporter or Juno Champion.

“There are many benefits to a physics department in becoming a Juno Champion” said incoming Institute president, Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell, at the project’s launch, “By meeting the five Juno principles a department shows that it has a working culture in which all staff and students, both men and women, can achieve their full potential – and that has to be good for recruitment and retention of talented staff and students. Juno is not just for physics – the code of practice is applicable to any academic department concerned with promoting diversity. ”

Juno’s five principles cover issues such as having systems in place to monitor the gender balance of a department so that problem areas can be pinpointed. Open and transparent procedures for appointment, promotion and selection procedures are recommended, as are fair and equitable procedures for career progression and training. Departments are urged to take gender awareness into account when making their organisational and management arrangements in order to promote a culture that is inclusive and supportive. Finally, promoting and supporting flexible working practices such as part-time working, career breaks and parental leave for both sexes is suggested.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell continued, “Many academic physics departments are already doing some of the actions that Juno recommends and are open to suggestion for ways in which to improve their gender friendliness. We believe that if all departments sign on to become Juno Supporters - which means that they endorse the project’s principles – and then work to implement them so that they become Juno Champions then we will see real differences in the numbers of women remaining in higher education careers.”

Gillian Butcher of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester said: " The Department of Physics and Astronomy is doing a good job at attracting women into its undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, with its percentage of female students being higher than the national average. At lecturer level and above, however, the department's percentages are lower than the national average. The university is committed to addressing the gender imbalance in the sciences having signed up to the Athena SWAN charter, which is complementary to Project Juno, the Athena SWAN charter covering the broader areas of science. The department welcomes Project Juno as a practical guide to ways of attracting and retaining women staff in physics."

ENDS

Notes for editors

Copies of the Project Juno Code of Practice will be available at the launch at Institute of Physics headquarters (76 Portland Place, London W1B 1NT) or from the Institute’s press office. For more information and interviews, please contact Dianne Stilwell, public relations manager, Tel: +44(0)7957 200 214, +44(0)20 7470 4875 or e-mail: dianne.stilwell@iop.org. Journalists are welcome to attend the launch event – contact Dianne for details.

2.The Women in University Physics Departments site visit scheme involved an external panel of visitors spending a day in a university’s physics department to investigate its “gender friendliness”- that is, how welcoming it was to female students and staff. The visiting panel talked to staff and students at all levels of seniority, both male and female. Each visit was followed up with a confidential written report sent to the head of department highlighting good practice, as well as areas that were not so satisfactory – this in no way constituted a formal audit, but was instead seen as giving friendly advice to the head of department.

3.The Institute of Physics is a scientific membership organisation devoted to increasing the understanding and application of physics. It has an extensive worldwide membership (currently over 35,000) and is a leading communicator of physics with all audiences from specialists through government to the general public. Its publishing company, IOP Publishing, is a world leader in scientific publishing and the electronic dissemination of physics.

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