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The Coulomb Barrier for women+ in physics

Saskia Mordijck, William & Mary
Monday, April 15, 2024 - 4:00pm
PAA A-102

Since 2005, the proportion of women+ receiving a bachelor's degree in physics has remained stagnant at 1 in 4 or lower, despite a doubling in the total number of physics degree recipients. Physics, along with computer science and engineering, exhibits the lowest women+ participation rate among all scientific disciplines. This lack of progress over the past 20 years is particularly concerning, given that most efforts have been directed towards outreach and while the total number of physics students has increased, the ratio of women+ to men has not improved. The challenges faced by women+ in physics are not new and have been extensively documented in reports by organizations like the American Physical Society and the National Academy of Sciences since the early 1970s, following the enactment of Title IX. While progress at the bachelor's level has stalled, there has been an improvement in the ratio of women+ pursuing PhDs. Notably, the percentage of women+ professors at the assistant level mirrors the percentage of women+ obtaining PhDs. However, this percentage is not equal among institutions of higher education and at more prestigious institutions/programs, the percentage of female faculty is lower. In this presentation, we will delve into the experiences of women+ navigating the physics ecosystem. We will examine the influence of identity, gendered expectations, and cultural norms. Furthermore, we will illustrate how even minor biases can significantly impact the advancement and recognition of historically marginalized communities. Finally, we will introduce evidence-based practices that can enhance the culture and outcomes at academic institutions.

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