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A Physics Carreer for Women in Portugal Ana Maria Eiró University of Lisbon Bad- Honnef, 28 March 2003 PowerPoint Presentation
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A Physics Carreer for Women in Portugal Ana Maria Eiró University of Lisbon Bad- Honnef, 28 March 2003. Some numbers Three different “eras” How are numbers changing Understanding the situation Final considerations. Natural Sciences. Engineering and Technology. State Laboratories.

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A Physics Carreer for Women in


Ana Maria Eiró

University of Lisbon

Bad- Honnef, 28 March 2003


Some numbers

Three different “eras”

How are numbers changing

Understanding the situation

Final considerations




Engineering and


State Laboratories






Some numbers

A recent study (1) shows that among European countries, Portugal has the highest percentage of women researchers in state laboratories, 58% in natural sciences and 38% in engineering and technologies, and also in higher education where those % are 48% and 29% respectively


In the public universities

there are about 27% of

women in each different


Contrary to other fields

in physics women have

similar representations

at all levels. 25% of the

physics researchers are


Physics Departments of Public Universities


The representation of women in leading physics research positions is similar to their representation at at University positions

21% vs 27%

The representation is quite smaller in leading physics research plus administrative positions

12% vs 26%


Comparingdifferent fields of Science

  • In all fields women are not well represented in leadership positions. This is particularly true in health sciences, chemistry and engineering fields.
  • In physics this trend is less stricking.

Three different “eras”

General situation

  • A- Until early 70´s:
  • 1. social class and not gender selects the access to the university.
  • 2. gender influences the field chosen:
  • girls choosearts and sciences courses
  • secondary school teacher positions
  • other less well paid professions.
  • boys choose technological courses, law and medicine
  • well paid liberal jobs.
  • B- From mid 70´s till early 90´s:
  • 1. large growth, qualitative and quantitative, of the Portuguese scientific community
  • 2. political measures give equal opportunities for men and women.
  • 3. better life conditions, economic independence and social ascension are the spring for the fast increase of working women in all fields.
  • 4. advanced studies are a recognized need but research is not yet a priority.
  • C- The last ten years:
  • 1. R&D gets important financial support from Portugal and Europe
  • 2. political measures duplicate number of PhD’s in 5 years.
  • 3. evaluation of R&D research centres starts according to international standards

Starting a Physics Career:

Up to the 70’s

The best physics students get very easily a job at the University.

After 1-2 years they easily get a grant to prepare PhD abroad.

Almost no PhD’s in Portugal.

After the PhD permanent job at the University

In the 80’s

The best physics students get very easily a job at the University.

After 4-6 years they can prepare PhD in Portugal or abroad.

After the PhD permanent job at the University

In the 90’s

The best students get easily a grant to prepare PhD.

After PhD the future is uncertain:

1. post-doc grants

2. teaching at private universities with no research structures

3. teaching at politechnics, with no physics department and no research structures

4. older universities, where research groups are organized, don´t offer positions


How are numbers changing

Women with PhDs in Exact, Natural and Educational Sciences


Understanding the Situation

What kind of jobs

1.Teaching in the secondary school

2. University career with teaching and possibly research

3. In industry, where almost no research done, engineers are prefered

4. Still very small offer in hospitals

The performance of Women. Role models

1. Women have slightly better perfomance during studies than men

In 1996/97, 60.1% of women started a University course in Sciences;

4 years latter from those who finished the course, 67.9% are women

2. It is natural for young people to learn physics from female teachers

In 1994/95, among all physics/ chemistry teachers at secundary school 77% are women


3. It is natural for girls to follow their fathers steps

Because of girls being more mature when they go to University, fathers tend to encourage them to choose their own career.

Social and economical conditions

1.With age between 20 and 44, the percentage of working women in general is:

83% if without children;

72% if with children 0-5 years old.

2. Existing organized structures to look after children

3. Enlarged family collaborates in the bringing up of children (particularly true one

generation ago when older women did not have professional careers)

4. Until the 80’s it was relatively inexpensive to pay for a full time person (always a woman) to look after children.


Some Possible explanations for the relatively high presence of women in physics in Portugal

Women do have to work, even with small children, as it is not possible for a couple to live in one salary

Science, physics in particular, is therefore an option

It is socially well accepted that mothers go to work

A girl does not have to choose between family and career; although difficult, it has been possible to do both

Flexibility in the habits and in the system, together with low competitiveness, has been used for a good cause

Longer periods for a degree; publications at a smaller rate


Only very recently there was an investment in science in the country, at a time where it was generally accepted equal opportunities for men and women

Girls took the opportunity that was offered


The present unstability beyind a Physics career and the increasing need of mobility, makes it less attractive now to women, who need a stable job, to be able to deal with professional commitment and family life.


Final Considerations

  • The compatibility of a professional career with a family is an unsolved problem in our society, eventually with no perfect solution.
  • This problem can be partially solved with :
  • flexible working hours
  • flexible working places
  • the existence of support structures for children
  • support from employers, namely in academics, being released from administrative duties and not overburdened with teaching.

[1] EUROSTAT, I. Laafia e A. Larsson, "Women in Public Research and Higher Education in Europe", Theme 9 - 7/2001

[2] Observatório de Ciência e Tecnologia, e Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia,

[3] Dina Canço e Isabel de Castro, “ Situação das Mulheres em Portugal 2001”, Comissão para a Igualdade e para os Direitos das Mulheres.

[4] L. Amâncio, L. e P. Ávila, “O género na ciência”. In J. C. Jesuíno (Coord.), “A comunidade científica portuguesa nos finais do século XX” (pp. 135-162). Oeiras: Celta (1995)

[5] EUROSTAT, M. Dunne, "Women and Men in Tertiary Education", Theme 3 - 18/2001

[6] “Física é carreira para mulheres?” C. Providência, S. Andringa, C. Quintans, A. M. Eiró, Gazeta de Física, vol25/4 (2002) 20


Comments on the slides

Slide 1

Although I cannot be present, I would like toshare with you some aspects of a Physics career for women in Portugal

Slide 2

The presentation starts with some numbers, followed by the characterization of 3 different “eras” in time; then it is shown how the numbers are changing, and finally I will give my understanding of the situation

Slide 3

Besides the % of women in research in Portugal, the plot compares that % in different countries in Europe, showing Portugal as having the highest numbers

Slide 4

The table gives the numbers of women and % in the staff of all the Universities that have physics Departments in the country. All categories sums up also tutors (that in Portugal may be part of the staff) when they exists.

The plot shows the numbers of researchers (men and women) in different fields. Interesting the numbers of health sciences, biotech and electrotech engeneering


Comments on the slides

Slide 5

In the same areas as before, the plots show a comparison between the numbers of menand women as project leaders (top), and as scientifically responsable for a group (bottom). The last one means both scientific and administrative responsability.

Slide 6

Joining the 3 previous plots together, only with the % of women, show clearly that in spite of the representativeness, the is a clear decrease in the representation for leaders

Slide 7

Three eras are characterized. This slide and the next one are self explanatory

Slide 8


Comments on the slides

Slide 9

Impressive comparison between the numbers of recent 5 years (1995-2000), compared with the 25 previous years (1970-1994). Yet physics does not grow as other sciences do. There is an increase in the preference of women for biogical sciences and related fields, e.g.biochemistry, biotechnology

Slide 10

The rate at which women finish PhD in physics at present is not increasing and does not reflect the recent money investments in sciences. This is contrary to the situation with men, who show a clear increase of the nº of PhD’s per year.

Slide 11

This slide and the next two are self explanatory

Slide 12


Comments on the slides

Slide 13

Some of these are “bad reasons” so to speak. The enlarged family support is a crucial help, that tends to disapear.

Slide 14

The system has become more internationalized and much more competitive, so it will be harder on women. Many girls now choose not to have children, or to have them later. The general mood is very much career first and family after. That was definitely not the atitude 20 years ago

Slide 15