Women in Physics in Slovenia. Female students of P hysics at University in Ljubljana ( By courtesy of Andreja Gomboc , Primo ž Ziherl and Jasmin Anžiček). Slovenia from past to the present. History.
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Female students of Physics at University in Ljubljana
(By courtesy of Andreja Gomboc, Primož Ziherl and Jasmin Anžiček)
Slovenia from past to the present
The first Slovenian female student of Physics and Mathematics – Henriette (Jetti) von Aigentler (1854-1938), the famous Boltzmann’s wife
As a first woman, Jetti has got the permission to study physics at University in Gratz in 1873 upon the recommendation of her fiance Boltzmann.
Jetti never published any scientific papers under her own name, but she was in correspondence with the best minds in her era. Her polite worldwide connections helped a great deal to her husband’s achievements and enabled his frequent changes of university chairs. She helped the success of her son-in-law Ludwig Flamm (1885-194) and grandson Dieter Flamm in their physics research.
(By courtesy of Stanislav Juznic)
Due to various difficulties, including the acquirement of an appropriate or permanent job, which female physicists encounter in a typically male controlled physical society, it is not strange that the relative number of women finishing the basic physics studies (diploma degree) dropped from 30 % in period 1985-1990 (before the transition) to 20 % in the next decade (1991-2000). In the last few years (2001-2004) this trend even worsen: despite the indices that more technologically oriented jobs will open in future, the relative number of female physicists obtaining diploma degree dropped to only 12 %.
It is interesting to note that the analysis of the separated data shows that a large number of matriculated female students does not pass the first year of physics studies (80%, compared to 50 % for male students), but practically all of those, who do, finish their study and many of them also obtain a PhD. Possible reasons for this larger drop out of women in the first year are under current investigation.
Until 15 years ago, Slovenia was a socialist country with declared social and gender equality and with a high percentage of employed women. The equality was in many cases only declared and the promotion of women and men was frequently dependent on membership in the communist party or on relatives.
The transition period to democracy induced many changes in the society and brought new worth scale distribution. Previously highly valued work for the society, including partially enthusiastic work in science and in teaching, became less attractive with respect to profitable jobs in market economy. Popularity of studies with certain and well-paid future employment drastically increased, for example in economy, law, management, medicine, etc. These trends reflected in the structure of students entering the physics studies more than in their total number.
Establishement of informal Network of Women in Physics in Slovenia
Behind every successful man there
is a carrying able wife
After the attendance at the first International Conference on Women in Physics, Paris 2002, Slovenian female physicists associated into informal network, which at present incorporates already 49 women working in physics, from academia, research institutes, to government and industry. They share information important for their work and contribute to positive recognition of female physicists in physical society in Slovenia and in general public. The goals of this network are also prevention of the feeling of isolation or pushing away of female scientists in predominantly male society and presenting role models for young students and for women who work in totally male teams. The network is kept at informal stage due to the known psychological fact that women do not like hierarchically organized society, if it is composed only of women. Therefore all members in our network are equal and all relationships are based only on personal respect and friendship. Young students of physics are invited to join the network every year.
Women in Radiation and Nuclear Safety
Slovenia is the smallest nuclear country in a world with one nuclear power plant and less than 2,000,000 inhabitants. The women in physics in nuclear and radiation safety study at the Universities in Slovenia but often gain working experiences in other countries. The women in physics are employed in the largest research institution for physics in state, the Jožef Stefan Institute, as well as in governmental institutions and agencies.
In the year 2003 a group Alpha was established as a part of the Nuclear Society of Slovenia (http://www.drustvo-js.si/indexen.html) with the aim to help women in nuclear science as well as to perform informing of general public about issues in nuclear safety and radiation.(By courtesy of Helena Janžekovič and Nadja Železnik)
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In 2004, Republic Slovenia became a regular member of European Community and many challenges opened to our citizens, including a high mobility of students and possibility for applying for grants in other members of the Community. It is reasonable to predict that many young talented women will apply for scholarship in other states, partially due to better economical perspectives and/or due to natural wish for changes, which is genetically built-in to female population.
Participating in the Commission for the Promotion of Women in Science, Ministry for Science, we together proposed many changes in the regulations of the science in our country and many of them were widely accepted. For example, the titles of academic and research positions now have to be used in both sexes (Slovenian grammar has male, female and neutral sex), the age limits for scholarships and promotions are in many cases shifted for the period of maternity leave, the statistical data on salaries started to be collected separately for men and women, the web-site has been created with information important for women in science and presenting instruction how to identify the secret discrimination and how to fight it, etc. (http://www.mvzt.gov.si/index.php?id=342) (in Slovenian language).