News & Analysis

Challenges Facing Women in Physics

MAR 01, 2020


This presentation was prepared for the 2020 March Meeting of the American Physical Society (APS). Women encounter many challenges in the physics field. Women remain underrepresented among degree recipients and faculty members; however, women’s representation is increasing over time. Based on data from a global survey of physicists, most women (60%-80%) report positive experiences in doctoral programs and employment in physics, but there are still gender differences. Women are significantly less likely to report positive experiences with their advisors or other students, and are significantly more likely to report discrimination or sexual harassment at work or school. Although women do similar amount of work activities as men, they are more likely to report needing more resources for their work. Women are also more likely to change their work schedule, experience slower career progression, or stay at home after becoming a parent. To learn how to better support women in their careers, we examined open-ended responses in which women with physics doctorates discussed what factors helped them succeed. Hard work, persistence, supportive mentors, good colleagues, family and friends, problem solving, and interpersonal skills were most discussed by women as important factors in their career success.

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