UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy


UCL leading the way for gender equality in physics

10 February 2015


The Department of Physics & Astronomy has been recognised as a national leader in gender equality. The Institute of Physics (IOP) has named the department as a Juno Champion, joining a handful of other physics departments around the country which have made exceptional efforts to embed gender equality in physics.

Prof Jon Butterworth, head of Physics & Astronomy at UCL, said: “Diversity and gender balance are priorities for UCL and for this Department, and there is obviously much work to be done in physics, as a subject, to improve them. We're very proud to be recognized as champions of positive change in this continuing process.”

The Juno initiative, which has been in operation since 2007, aims to redress the long-standing issue of underrepresentation of women in physics at UK and Irish universities. While women make up around 20% of physics undergraduates nationally (25% at UCL), the number drops to only 9% further along academia at the level of university professor (18% at UCL). This suggests that female physicists are much less likely than their male counterparts to progress to the most senior positions.

The Juno principles improve working culture for all departmental staff, creating, for example, flexible working arrangements, provision for childcare and a more transparent organisational structure. 

The IOP praised a number of efforts within the department, including:

  • The increased proportion of female staff as the department has expanded;
  • The department’s changed undergraduate admissions procedure, which have moved away from traditional adversarial interviews;
  • Good practice in workload management and core hours, which make the department more family friendly;
  • Arrangements which make it easy for staff to return from maternity and paternity leave;
  • Surveys of staff to identify areas that need action.

UCL joins 11 other Juno Champion departments in universities across the UK and Ireland. These institutions have been pivotal in developing best practice that is shared across the physics community, identifying and tackling the barriers to female career progression. A further 34 departments are engaged in the the Juno scheme.

Frances Saunders, President of the Institute of Physics, said: “The Institute encourages all physics departments to work towards achieving Juno awards; providing challenging and constructive feedback that recognises their progress against the Juno principles. Adopting the Juno framework and actively pursuing the agenda it sets out, creates a working environment that is inclusive and supports the development and progression of all staff.”

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