Women in Physics

Women and physics — it’s no prejudice that these are still difficult to associate.

Recent figures show that women continue to be underrepresented in physics, as they are in other areas of science.

The topic has been taken up in a recent article in the newspaper Die Welt:

"In a global comparison regarding equal opportunities for highly qualified female physicists at universities, Germany takes one of the bottommost places. ‘Even in countries like Portugal, Poland and Turkey, career opportunities are better than here', said the expert Monika Bessenrodt-Weberpals of the Max Planck Institute for Flow Research in Göttingen on Monday at the physicists meeting in Hanover. [...] 'In physics, less than 3 % of all professors are women, although more than three times as many would be qualified,' she said. In Turkey, every tenth physics professorship is held by a woman. […]" (translated by PRISMA)

Although the situation for scientists still does not look all that bright, there is movement in the number of students, as a recent KFP study shows:kfp_statistik_2012

According to the study, the percentage of female students was 31 % of all enrolments for 2011/12 (up from 29 % in the year before). In the teacher education programs (Bachelor and Staatsexamen) the proportion of women was 37 % (40% in the year before), and 29 % in bachelor-degree programs with physics as the main subject (up from 26 %). Overall, the percentage of female students graduating in physics (diploma/master with physics as the main subject) was 20 %. Slightly higher is the percentage of female doctoral candidates, at 21 %. But master and doctorate alone do not guarantee an academic career in physics. As in every field, also in physics women are more likely to drop out of science following a career break. This is especially true in the transition period between doctorate and habilitation, which is evident when looking at the gender distribution at different points of career progression:

 

gesis_statistik

To avoid such a divergence, a number of measures have been developed, in particular during the past few years, to promote women in science. There is little evidence so far of just how much women benefit from these measures. What is certain, however, is that mentoring programs and active networks of women at all stages of their careers have a positive effect on their professional career developments. More statistics on gender distribution at different career stages can be obtained from GESIS.