What works for women in undergraduate physics?

TitleWhat works for women in undergraduate physics?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsWhitten, B.L., Foster, S.R., Duncombe ML
JournalPhysics Today
Volume56
Pagination46-51
Date PublishedSeptember 2003
KeywordsClassroom climate, Diversity Institute Literature Review, Faculty, Inclusively, Mentoring, Physics, Retention, Undergraduate, University climate, Women
SummaryThe authors used a study examining the environment of the physics department of nine diverse universities to determine the best ways to make women comfortable in physics departments. They have discovered that by diversifying the faculty and staff, creating family-friendly policies, and providing outreach and mentoring, schools can attract and keep more female physics majors.
Extended SummaryThe authors' study of nine different universities and their physics department policies helped to develop a plan for creating a welcoming and warm environment for all students and faculty. There are many small ways to effectively make departments more female-friendly. Diverse faculty, mentoring programs, and family-friendly policies can help to make women comfortable within a department, especially if they have been there for over a year. However, it is also especially important to make women comfortable from the beginning. These outreach concepts need to be extended to freshman students, so that women feel accepted and integrated from the beginning. This will help ensure an increase in the retention of women students.
RecommendationsWays of creating a welcoming working environment for all students:-Provide a student lounge-Offer a tutorial service-Use student lab assistants-Schedule departmental seminars-Create a Society of Physics Students chapter or other physics clubWays to foster a female-friendly department:-Monitor the student culture-Foster a cooperative spirit-Mention female and minority scientists-Emphasize applications to environmental and social issues-Encourage student-faculty research-Ensure that students feel safe working in the department alone or at nightEssential family-friendly policies:-Encourage both the hiring of faculty partners and networking with other institutions.-Design family leave policies for different kinds of families at different stages in life.-Offer partially subsidized childcare on-site.-Welcome faculty children.