In general, the physics research community fosters the assumption of being gender neutral. However, despite this, the under-representation of women in physics research is a long-standing and persistent issue. With this in mind, an international Consortium of Research Performing and Research Funding Organisations have engaged in the H2020 GENERA project which aims at continuing, monitoring and improving their Gender Equality Plans customised for the physics research community. The project started in September 2015 and is now half-way through its project life time.
One of the very visible activities of GENERA is the organisation of national Gender in Physics days. At these days, national physics managers, HR managers and gender equality officers meet with senior and early career physicists to review the status quo and formulate recommendations for improving the gender balance with high priority. Three national Gender in Physics days have already taken place: in the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. The international organisations CERN, ESO and NordForsk organised an international Gender in Physics day at CERN.
Of course, each of the meetings reflected, in their format and approach, the different cultures of the national or international physics communities. Common were the conclusions that firm and accountable commitment of management, transparent and accountable selection procedures and training against unconscious gender bias at all levels in the community are paramount for achieving a better gender balance in physics research.
In particular for early career physicists, the meetings turned out to be very informative. Many of them had not realised how much effort research organisations make to improve the number of women in physics research. For some of the participants, it was for the first time they became aware of the glass ceiling that is present in the physics community. Many, fortunately, remain optimistic about their career opportunities. The GENERA project aims to design the best gender equality plans customised for physics for these young physicists with a mechanism to sustainably monitor their implementation and performance. It is no longer enough to ask young researchers to muster patience while waiting for (too) slow improvement of gender equality in the physics community.
Before the end of 2017, Gender in Physics days are scheduled in Austria, France, Italy, Poland, Romania and Spain. In 2018, GENERA will organise a European Gender in Physics day.
GENERA webpage: http://genera-project.com