http://www.engineeringnews.co.za
  SEARCH
Login
R/€ = 14.21Change: -0.07
R/$ = 11.04Change: -0.13
Au 1223.35 $/ozChange: -12.77
Pt 1351.00 $/ozChange: -11.00
 
 
Note: Search is limited to the most recent 250 articles. Set date range to access earlier articles.
Where? With... When?








Start
 
End
 
 
And must exclude these words...
Close Main Search
Close Main Login
My Profile News Alerts Newsletters Logout Close Main Profile
 
Agriculture   Automotive   Chemicals   Competition Policy   Construction   Defence   Economy   Electricity   Energy   Environment   ICT   Metals   Mining   Science and Technology   Services   Trade   Transport & Logistics   Water  
What's On Press Office Tenders Suppliers Directory Research Jobs Announcements Contact Us
 
 
 
RSS Feed
Article   Comments   Other News   Research   Magazine  
 
 
Aug 08, 2014

Women must overcome the barriers to growing their numbers in physics

Back
Systems|Europe|Brazil|Germany|United States|Federal University Of Rio Grande|Systems|Marcia Barbosa
Systems||||Systems|
systems-company|europe|brazil|germany|united-states|federal-university-of-rio-grande|systems|marcia-barbosa
More Insight
© Reuse this



Women scientists need to work together, network and identify the barriers to increasing their numbers in their respective disciplines. This is the message of International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) VP and Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil) Physics Institute director Professor Marcia Barbosa.

Worldwide, there is a problem in most, if not all, the natural and biomedical sciences, of women dropping out of their disciplines as they progress in their careers. Barbosa, naturally, focuses her attention on physics. She cited an IUPAP study revealing that, globally, in 2002, about 22.5% of physics undergraduates were women, some 18% of graduate students were women, but only about 13% of professionally active physicists were women.

This decline is, she noted, called the “leaky pipeline” in the US and the “scissors effect” (as if women were being cut out) in Europe. There are a number of reasons for this, which are found all around the world, although the exact mix differs from culture to culture and from country to country.

One problem is stereotypes of scientists – all too often seen as asocial, if not antisocial, nerdy men. And there are also stereotypes of women scientists, as plain and unattractive, perpetually single and (again) nerdy. Even for highly intelligent and well educated teenage girls, this can be a singularly unattractive image.

Another issue is the lack of women as role models in physics (and other sciences). “When I first joined my department, we didn’t have a single woman at a high level,” noted Barbosa. Fortunately, this is now rapidly changing, with more and more women achieving prominence in the discipline.

Then there are the “myths” about women: that women are not interested in the exact sciences, or that they are not good in them. The history of women in science, especially over the last 150 or so years, refutes these.

There can also be unconscious prejudice. In many countries, scientists are graded according to their contributions to their disciplines, usually measured by the number of scientific publications they produce. Brazil is one such country. A study by Barbosa revealed that Brazilian women scientists were having to publish significantly more papers than their male colleagues in order to be upgraded. (This discovery resulted in a lot of women scientists being immediately upgraded.)

However, worldwide, the really big problem is reconciling family with work. Pregnancy and childcare can wreak havoc on a woman’s scientific career. This is a multifaceted issue. For example, many countries (such as Germany) require post-doctoral studies be done in a foreign country, while, in the US (which is the size of a continent) they must be done in a different university to that in which a PhD was obtained. For a woman who is pregnant or has small children, these requirements are usually impossible to meet. Likewise, late working hours or late meetings are rarely possible for such women.

As a result, these women often drop out of science. In Europe, they tend to go for part-time jobs instead. In developing countries with large, young populations, they often become teachers in colleges which do not undertake any research. In the US, where childcare systems are generally poor, they often stop working altogether.

Yet many of these problems could be solved, or at least ameliorated, by simply changing some of the rules. Give women who are pregnant or have little children more time to finish their postgradu- ate studies, do not schedule late meetings or expect late working hours, allow postdoctoral studies much nearer home and so on. And it is to achieve such changes within the profession that women physicists should work together and change things.

Barbosa was one of the speakers at the 2014 South African Institute of Physics conference at the University of Johannesburg last month. She addressed a plenary session of the conference.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Other Science and Technology News
The University of Cape Town (UCT) has maintained its upward trend in the yearly Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings, moving up four places to 141 for the 2014/15 ranking cycle. The QS World University Rankings compare the top 800 institutions around...
Following the eruption of an “active region” near the centre of the sun on September 10, the South African National Space Agency (Sansa) has cautioned that a solar flare, accompanied by a coronal mass ejection (CME), is travelling towards earth at an estimated 1493...
Nuclear medicine is defined by the Department of Medical Physics of the School of Clinical Medicine of the University of the Witwatersrand as “a speciality that makes use of radioactive tracers that emit gamma rays to assess the physio- logical functioning of organs...
More
 
 
Latest News
Ian Donald and Sullivan O’Carroll
Nestlé South Africa announced plans on Wednesday to invest a further R2-billion over the coming five years to grow its domestic manufacturing base, which would increasingly be used as a platform to supply into fast-growing sub-Saharan African markets. The Swiss food...
In a landmark R1.5-billion deal that precedes it planned listing on the JSE, Pivotal Property Fund has acquired “strategic” land and property assets from Standard Bank Properties, which includes Sandton’s landmark Alice Lane development. “Pivotal has acquired...
Lafarge Africa, Finland's Wartsila and the World Bank's IFC have agreed to build a 220 MW gas-fired power plant in Nigeria to boost electricity supplies, they said on Wednesday. The trio said in a statement their plan was to help fast-track increased power supplies...
More
 
 
Recent Research Reports
 
 
 
 
This Week's Magazine
The board of UD Trucks Southern Africa (UDTSA) has announced the resignation of MD Jacques Carelse.   Long-time UD employee, corporate planning and marketing GM, Rory Schulz, has been appointed as acting MD while the process started to appoint a new MD. The Japanese...
There is a need to start planning another pumped storage scheme in South Africa. Much work has already been done at a site in the Limpopo province and the project was very close to being put out to tender at one stage. In 2008/9 the National Energy Regulator of South...
The Coega Development Corporation (CDC) is preparing to leverage its strategic coastal position to develop the Eastern Cape economy through proposed aquaculture development zones (ADZs), with a proposed R2-billion project aiming to contribute $278-million to the...
Completion of the ongoing construction of the 102 km Zomba–Jali–Phalombe–Chitakale road, in southern Malawi, has been extended from June  to December 15 because of persistent rains and difficulties in paying the contractor. The project is being undertaken by Kuwait's...
The Malawi government has awarded South African firm  Fischer Consortium the  contract to upgrade the Malawi Road Traffic Information System. The Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services at Malawi's Ministry of Transport and Public Works says Fischer...
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Alert Close
Embed Code Close
content
Research Reports Close
Research Reports are a product of the
Research Channel Africa. Reports can be bought individually or you can gain full access to all reports as part of a Research Channel Africa subscription.
Find Out More Buy Report
 
 
Close
Engineering News
Completely Re-Engineered
Experience it now. Click here
*website to launch in a few weeks