Ronan Thomson in Phys.Org:
For the first time in 55 years, a woman has won the Nobel Prize in physics —Prof. Donna Strickland. This win has publicly highlighted that women are still under-represented in science, particularly in physics. As a woman in physics, this lack of diversity is something that I encounter almost daily, and also something that we can take action to change. As an undergraduate science student, I was confronted with the lack of women in science at the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada in 2001. The first day of my summer job in NRC’s now-defunct “Women in Engineering and Science” program, I was shocked looking around the lunchroom. Where were the women? The vast majority of scientists were men!
The situation was similar in my university studies —I only ever had two female professors.
That lack of diversity was something I grew accustomed to. A resident at Perimeter Institute for my Ph.D. studies, I was often the only woman in the room at scientific meetings or seminars. My office was shared with four male students, and there were some jokes that I had been assigned “the secretary’s desk” and remarks about the colour of my T-shirt. I was the only woman in the room for my Ph.D. defence at the University of Waterloo in 2007. When I became a faculty member in 2010, I was thrilled to be one of four women physics professors —more than 20 per cent of physics faculty at Carleton University. This bucked the trend among physics faculty members at many universities (and this continues, as we now have five women physics professors at Carleton). But as I started teaching, the lack of gender diversity among undergraduate physics students was striking: a class of 50 students with only three women, another with no women, in my first year of teaching. As a researcher, the lack of women as invited and keynote speakers at scientific conferences continues to be discouraging. There are certainly women giving excellent conference presentations, but they are too often overlooked when it comes to invited and keynote speakers lists. An invited or keynote speaker entry on a CV indicates respect and recognition of excellence; omission of women hinders their careers.