The whole women-in-physics thing is a subject I have very mixed feelings on. YES, I am a female physicist in a male-dominated environment. But NO, I don’t think I should be congratulated for that fact alone. And I don’t think that aiming to get a 50:50 split between the sexes should be the focus of our (as scientists and communicators) effort.
Personally, I think it’s much more important to help more people become more science-savvy – to help them recognise bad science in the media, to encourage them to ask questions, to look at technology and wonder how it works…. and that needs a sea change. The first, and most obvious step is to encourage young people to study science subjects at GCSE and A-level. And this where my interest in the IoP’s most recent report begins…
One of its main is that in England, girl’s schools produce far more A-level physicists than co-ed schools. In fact, the report found that “Girls were almost two and a half times more likely to go on to do A-level physics if they came from a girls’ school rather than a co-ed school”
And even more notable: 6159 girls took A-level physics versus 23, 811 boys…. so, roughly a 1:4 ratio. But it also means that overall, about 30,000 students in England took the physics A-level in 2011. Anyone have the total number of English students taking A-levels (in 2011) to hand? All I can find is the total for England, Wales and N.I. (= 335,000) and it’d be interesting to find out the proportion of students in England who actually study physics….
Anyway, I’m off to have some dinner, I’ll pick this up again tomorrow 🙂