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Closing the gender gap


By Matin Durrani
My eye was caught this morning by a new report from the Institute of Physics, which publishes, about the number of physicists at UK universities.

Entitled Academic Physics Staff in UK Higher Education Institutions, you can read the full report here, but what I found particularly interesting were the data on women in physics.

The report reveals that the proportion of staff in UK physics departments who are women has risen steadily from 13% in 2003/04 to 16% in 2009/10. (See figure above: data in it are from the UK’s Higher Education Statistics Agency.)

As one might expect, the biggest rises are at more junior levels, with the proportion of female lecturers going up from 11.3% to 19.8% over that period. Senior-lecturer numbers have increased from 9.0% to 11.2% and although the proportion of female professors has risen form 3.9% to 5.5%, women in these top positions are still very much in the minority.

Given that women make up about 22% of UK physics undergraduates, is it too much to hope that in 15 or 20 years’ time women will also make up a fifth or so of physics professors?

Another intriguing statistic concerns the highly international level of UK physics, particularly among women. According to the report, the proportion of female staff at UK universities who are not from the UK has risen from 46% in 2003/04 to 51% in 2009/10. This is much higher than the fraction of male non-UK nationals at UK universities, which has gone up from 31% to 40% in the same period.

Overall, across both men and women, the biggest proportion of non-UK staff working in UK physics departments come from Germany, followed by Italy, the US, China, Russia, France, India, Greece and the Netherlands. Make of that what you will.

You can read the full report here.

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