Helping women to reach for the stars

The School of Physics and Astronomy has been recognised for its work in encouraging and supporting more young women to become physicists.

The School has been made a Juno Champion by the Institute of Physics (IOP) for showing its commitment to the Juno Project, which seeks to redress the long-standing issue of too few women at the highest levels of physics academia in the UK.

Professor Penny Gowland, from the School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “I am very proud of our Juno status; it’s great to work somewhere where everyone is so inclusive and tolerant.  It’s sad that so many young women are dissuaded from studying physics, given that it offers so much in terms of intellectual stimulation and career opportunities, but at least our School is providing strong role models to help address this problem.”

To achieve the new status, the School improved its working culture by introducing more flexible working arrangements, offering provision for childcare or allowing for a more transparent organisational structure.

The school joins eight other physics departments named Juno Champions in the UK and Ireland.

While women make up around 20% of physics undergraduates, this number drops to a tiny 7% of university professors.

Following a report by the Institute of Physics, cosmologist Dr Clare Burrage produced a blog encouraging girls to study physics at A-level. She said: “If you’ve ever looked up at the night sky and been awed by the stars, I promise you that they only become more beautiful the more you understand about what they are and where they’ve come from. There’s still so much that we don’t know about the universe and so many ways in which physics will change the world we live in. Don’t let anybody tell you that you shouldn’t be a part of that.”

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.”

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