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Women in University Science Departments. Peter Main Director, Education and Science, IOP Gender Equality Event UCL 18 th March 2008 peter.main@iop.org, www.iop.org. Plan of Talk. Diversity Programme Site Visit Scheme JUNO Code of Practice Working with other organisations.

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Women in university science departments

Women in University Science Departments

Peter MainDirector, Education and Science, IOP

Gender Equality Event

UCL18th March 2008

peter.main@iop.org, www.iop.org

Plan of talk
Plan of Talk

  • Diversity Programme

  • Site Visit Scheme

  • JUNO Code of Practice

  • Working with other organisations

Diversity programme
Diversity Programme

  • 1.5 FTE staff

    • Katharine Hollinshead: Programme Leader

    • Saher Ahmed: Programme Coordinator

  • Examples of Activities

    • Career breaks guidance

    • Women in university physics departments report

    • Diversity in HE (with the RSC)

    • Best practice guide on Disability


  • Wrote to each department in the UK and Ireland (copied to the VC)

  • Visits by invitation only and there was no charge

  • Visited 17 (out of 46) physics departments in all.

The visit
The Visit

  • Paperwork (sent beforehand) included admissions statistics, gender disaggregated student numbers, pass rates, staff handbook etc.

  • Meeting with departmental management , admissions tutor, director of teaching, HR representative etc

  • Meetings with:

    • Female academic staff (where none, women staff from cognate subjects)

    • Male academic staff

    • Female RAs and PGs

    • Male RAs and PGs

The visit1
The Visit

  • Lunch with female UGs. No staff were present

  • Laboratory tour

  • Informal feedback at the end from the chair of the panel to the HoD

  • Confidential written report is sent to HoD with recommendations.


  • Women underrepresented in seminars and colloquia

  • Most departments were not monitoring statistics

  • Departments without women suffer in many ways (eg admissions, role models). Male staff are usually aware of this but are very reluctant to do anything about it.

  • The fact that the visit took place meant that gender issues were discussed, perhaps for the first time.

  • Situation on the ground is often very different from what management believe.

The best departments
The “Best” Departments

  • Sympathetic Head of Department (they were all male). In some cases, it was clear that former HoDs had been very biased.

  • Male participation in family-friendly policies. If they did not, women felt they were perceived as “letting the side down” by, for example, taking maternity leave or fitting their hours around the nursery.

  • A high fraction of young staff. Young fathers appreciate the problems but younger men are generally more sensitive to gender issues.

The best departments1
The “Best” Departments

  • Women involved in senior management. But women were often disinclined to get involved because they found the prevailing attitudes so unpleasant.

  • Strong, informal social networks for women. (In some places found that men had unconsciously created an uncomfortable atmosphere by being so friendly among themselves).

Important issues
Important Issues

  • Formal, transparent procedures at all levels.

    • Recruitment (no secret discussions, women on interview panels)

    • Promotion (major issue)

    • Appraisal (particularly for RAs)

    • Workload allocation

    • Women on “serious” committees

    • Career breaks

Important issues1
Important Issues

Even successful female RAs and PGs did not want an academic career:

  • Not consistent with starting a family

  • Average age of academic appointment is ~ 35.

  • Effect of multiple short term contacts

  • Lack of a well-defined career structure

  • Lack of good careers advice

  • Lack of role models

  • Long hours culture

Important issues2
Important Issues

  • Childcare facilities were usually thought to be inadequate and, where they were good, did not have enough places. The best matched their hours to those of the university.

  • Harassment. Although almost every place had a procedure for dealing with harassment, the panels were told of several cases, almost none of which had been dealt with in a satisfactory manner.

Women in university science departments

General Report

  • General report highlighting the issues and disseminating good practice has been published

  • Created a lot of interest amongst other learned societies

Women in university science departments

JUNO Code of Practice: Principles

  • A robust organisational framework to deliver equality of opportunity and reward.

  • Appointment, promotion and selection processes and procedures that encourage men and women to apply for academic posts at all levels.

  • Departmental structures and systems which support and encourage the career progression of all staff and enable men and women to progress and continue in their careers.

Women in university science departments

JUNO Code of Practice: Principles

  • A departmental organisation, structure, management arrangements and culture that are open, inclusive and transparent and encourage the participation of all staff.

  • Flexible approaches and provisions that encompass, the working day, the working year and a working life in SET and enable individuals, at all career and life stages, to maximise their contribution to SET, their department and institution.

Two levels of engagement
Two levels of engagement

  • Supporter:

    Physics department endorsing the 5 principles set out in the Code of Practice

  • Champion:

    Physics departments confirmed as meeting the 5 principles set out in the Code of Practice

  • Launched: June 14th 2007

Women in university science departments


  • STEM Professional Institutions: Diversity and Equality Resources

  • Core members: IOP, RSC, RAEng & RCUK (sec)

  • Four strands:

    • HE and research institutes

    • Business: private and public sector

    • Professional bodies: internal organisation

    • Public engagement

Women in university science departments

SPIDER: HE and Research Institutes

  • Athena Partnership: IOP, RSC and UKRC

  • Promoting resources and activities

    • Benchmarking and checklists

    • Using good practice guides ( e.g. RCUK Research staff concordat)

    • Department site visits

    • ASSET Survey

    • JUNO

    • SWAN awards

    • Enabling other professional societies to get involved

Women in university science departments


Where are we now?


Business case


Be inclusive

Celebrate success

Get recognition

How does that compare with others?


Action plan

What are we going to do?

What could we do to improve?

Knowledge base

Virtuous cycle