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By Ernie Tretkoff
A report released in February by the Statistical Research Center of the American Institute of Physics (AIP) shows that women in physics progress at the same rate as their male peers. The percentage of women in faculty positions in physics and astronomy is consistent with the percentage of women who earned degrees in the past, the report says. While women are still a minority in physics, the representation of women in physics at all levels continues to increase.
"While almost half of high school physics students are girls, less than one-fourth of bachelor's degrees in physics are earned by women. After this initial 'leak' in the pipeline, women are represented at about the levels we would expect based on degree production in the past," says the report. "There appears to be no leak in the pipeline at the faculty level in either physics or astronomy."
This data should not be taken to mean that there is no discrimination against women in physics, cautions Rachel Ivie of AIP, the study's author.
"This doesn't mean there's no problem in physics," said Ivie. "Women have persevered in spite of obstacles," she said. For instance, women are more likely than men to be hired into temporary positions, and many women experience a hostile climate in their departments. "There's all kinds of discrimination, but it doesn't show up in these numbers."
The report did find that even when working in the same sector for the same number of years, women's salaries are lower than men's in physics and related fields. "Across all sectors, women with comparable years of experience working in the same sector as men make $3050 less annually. This is equal to almost 5% of the base annual starting salary for men in academe," says the report. Among the other highlights of the report:
The report can be found at www.aip.org/statistics.
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