A significant gender gap has persisted throughout the years at all levels of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines all over the world. Even though women have made tremendous progress towards increasing their participation in higher education, they are still under-represented in these fields.
The International Day of Women and Girls in Science celebrates the achievements of female researchers and raises awareness of the many barriers that they have been facing throughout their training and professional careers. The day focuses on the reality that science and gender equality are both vital for driving innovation and prosperity of our society.
Celebrating Cockcroft Women in Accelerator R&D
The Cockcroft Institute is proud to have diversity at the core of its activities, promoting equality and diversity across gender, ethnicity, disability, LGBT+ status and socio-economic background, recognizing the complex interactions between different factors. For this year’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science the Cockcroft Institute is proud to share the personal stories of several of our staff and students. Click on the links on the images to read their stories:
Athena Swan Charter and Project Juno
Full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls remains a global challenge. Despite the very positive influence of initiatives such as Athena Swan and the IOP’s Project Juno, the number of girls choosing to study physics or engineering at age 16 remains stubbornly low in the UK.
The predominant school-leaving qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are A levels and the percentage of physics A level entries from female students has remained at just over 20% for many years. The proportion of female university physics students is slightly higher than at A level, increasing from 21% in 2012/13 to 24% in 2017/18, although this is still one of the lowest levels in STEM.
Much of the gender disparity in science and engineering participation in the UK appears to be set at a young age. Therefore, to improve the situation at higher levels, the most pressing need has been to improve participation and enthusiasm amongst younger students.
Researcher’s across the Cockcroft Institute have engaged with school children in the North-West of England and the UK more widely for many years. They have engaged pupils in hands-on experiments and workshops to spark their fascination for the science and technology of particle accelerators. The institute is behind a number of initiatives that all target widening participation and improving access to accelerator science.
For example, we have previously hosted Marie Curie Day to celebrate the life and achievements of Marie Skłodowska-Curie and showcasing the excellent research results of a number Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellows, engaging high school for girls in Liverpool City Region.
We are delighted to announce that we will host the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics jointly with colleagues from LJMU in Liverpool next year, bringing students in touch with successful researchers in accelerator R&D and other research areas. This important meeting will include:
- presentations by distinguished female physicists on their cutting-edge research and personal career paths,
- a mini science jamboree with local Brownies and Guides based on a previous successful “SciJams”,
- panels of experts to answer questions on graduate study and career opportunities outside academia for physics graduates,
- networking opportunities and
- a range of workshops and tours of local research laboratories
Whilst significantly enhanced representation of women in accelerator science and technology has already been achieved and more women are now in senior positions, there can be no doubt that much more still needs to be done. We will continue our journey towards greater gender balance and hope that you enjoy our colleagues’ stories as part of the 2022 International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
Carsten P Welsch