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Summaries of plenaries at the 7th IUPAP Conference on Women in Physics

Plenary 1: Gender Gap in the Global Survey: Igle Gledhill, Rachel Ivie and Susan White

Plenary 1: Gender in publication practices in maths and physics, Helena Mihaljević

Plenary 1: Australia inequity, Lisa Harvey-Smith

Plenary 2: Women in physics in Sudan, challenges and opportunities, Nashwa Eassa

Plenary 2: Molecular motors and switches at surfaces, Petra Rudolf

Plenary 3: Men as allies

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Where are the world’s women in physics?

Highlights from the 7th IUPAP Conference on Women in Physics

14 July 2021

  • Women are less likely to have access to essential career resources
  • Women are massively under-represented in physics journals
  • Only 18 per cent of Australian STEM professors are women.

“On the first day of the 7th IUPAP Conference on Women in Physics we heard about the scale of the challenge to redress gender inequity in physics. As the conference progresses we hope to learn more about how we can work together to improve the situation for women in physics,” said Professor Sarah Maddison, conference co-chair.

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50+ countries, 300 physicists meet to address global shortage of women in physics

11 July 2021

We need all our best brains to solve global challenges.

And we need to empower women who want an intellectual life to explore big ideas. But,

  • over 99 per cent of physics students at Burkina Faso’s largest university are male
  • no women have graduated in physical sciences at The University of El Salvador between 2017 and 2020
  • in Chile, the percentage of women working full time in universities and research centres has stayed around 14 per cent for years
  • Cuba is doing better, where 20 per cent of physicists are women. But that’s less than a third of the overall percentage of women in the highly qualified workforce (68 per cent)
  • around 24 per cent of Germany’s physics PhDs are awarded to women. And they’re training thousands of physicists from other countries with 43% of women pursuing a PhD in physics being international
  • 95% of Irish students study science up to age 16 years, only four per cent of girls follow through with physics in their final years
  • the Netherlands is approaching 30% women in undergraduate physics enrolments, with steady increases
  • the United Kingdom has seen slight increases in women students from 21% in 2012/13 to 24% in 2017/18
  • Iranian women are leading the way in physics, making up around 55% of PhD candidates. And all physics teachers in female high schools are now women, further encouraging girls to pursue education in physics.

And in Australia? Women account for only 25% of Australian year 12 physics students. As they progress through university and research most fall away. A recent study in Nature noted that it will take until 2060 to achieve 33 per cent gender equity in astronomy research in Australia.

The International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) has recognised a need to foster the participation of women in physics. This is IUPAP’s seventh International Conference on Women in Physics.

From 11-16 July they’re bringing together 300+ physicists from over 50 countries for a virtual conference, co-chaired by Dr Cathy Foley, Chief Scientist of Australia, and Professor Sarah Maddison, Swinburne University.

“Over the next week we will discuss what’s working, what’s not working, and what can affluent nations do to support women into physical science careers in developing nations,” says Cathy.

“The impact of COVID on research has set back gender equity,” says Cathy. “But it’s also introduced new ways of working online that could benefit women. This conference is one example.”

Over the next week we will be bringing you stories from the conference, with women physicists from Australia, international and developing nations available for interview.

For more information and interviews visit www.scienceinpublic.com.au/iupap-women and contact:
Laura Boland, laura@scienceinpublic.com.au, 0408 166 426
Niall Byrne, niall@scienceinpublic.com.au, 0417 131 977

IUPAP speaker call out

We’re assisting with media liaison for the 7th IUPAP International Conference on Women in Physics next week.  We understand that you will be speaking at a session of the conference.

We’re working with the organising committee to bring the ideas and issues discussed at the conference to a wide public audience via media and social media. To do this, we will issue stories to the media throughout the conference, and to selected media in advance on embargo.

We are writing to see if you are willing and available during the conference to speak with media about your talk, work and/or relevant issues regarding women in physics.

If you are not available or interested, we would also appreciate you letting us know. Or if you would like to nominate a peer or colleague at the conference to speak about your work or session, please let us know their details and we’ll get in touch.

If you are keen, then we have a few short questions for you:

These are introductory questions to gauge your potential stories and opportunities for media coverage. So, if any question is irrelevant to you, please ignore it.

1.      Will your talk have ideas or information that’s potentially newsworthy?

  • If so, can you provide a copy of your talk (or key points), and/or a plain English explanation of the broader significance of your findings.

2.      Do you have any opinions that you would like to share?

For example:

  • You may have opinions about your research/discovery, or opinions and stories around equality, diversity and inclusion for women in physics in your country. If you can provide brief comments of 40 to 80 words then we can share those with journalists and on social media.
  • Would you be interested in writing an opinion editorial? This is a newspaper opinion story, usually around 600 to 800 words on your work and/or issues relating to the conference. We can edit contributions.

3.      Are you on social media?

If so, what handles/names do you and your organisation use?

We’ll be tweeting from @IUPAPwomen and we may also have time to share information you post on other platforms.

4.      If we do release information about your work would you like us to share it with any of your contacts?

·         For example your media team, journalists you’ve spoken with in the past, supporters of your work.

5.      Do you have any relevant photos that we can share with media and social media?

We’re writing to everyone speaking at the conference and we’ll choose the best mix of stories. If we include your work/story we’ll let you know. 

About Science in Public

Science in Public is a science communication and public relations business based in Melbourne. We have a core team of 7 staff and associates around Australia.

You can read more about us and our work at www.scienceinpublic.com.au.

And you can view examples of past conference media alerts and releases at the following links:

Contact us at sarah.bradley@scienceinpublic.com.au if you have any questions.

ACCLIMATISE: A festival exploring how we (and the planet) can adapt to a changing climate

Media release from the Victorian National Science Week Co-ordinating Committee and Inspiring Victoria

How do we fire-proof our forests? How do we save endangered species?  What can you do to help?

ACCLIMATISE is a festival jam-packed with live and online events investigating insights into sustainability and adaption to climate change.

Australian temperatures and sea levels are rising. Droughts and bushfires are becoming more common. Around one million native species are on the brink of extinction.

Join us to explore the challenges of Earth’s complex climate and the search for creative solutions by bringing multidisciplinary fields of science together.

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Mystery proteins reveal how embryos and cancers grow

Can embryology shed light on cancer growth?

Dr Melanie Eckersley-Maslin.
Credit: Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

Proteins which control the growth of cells in embryos could teach us how to stop the uncontrolled growth of cells that is the hallmark of cancer, thanks to work by molecular biologist Dr Melanie Eckersley-Maslin.

Vital to normal development in early life, these molecules may later play a role in the early stages of cancer or help it spread. If so, we could target them therapeutically and block or slow progression of the disease.

In recognition of her leadership in the field, Melanie has received one of two annual $55,000 Metcalf Prizes from the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia.

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Genes may hold key to leukaemia survival

Brisbane scientist awarded for research into new blood cancer treatments

Professor Steven Lane. Credit: QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

Clinical haematologist Associate Professor Steven Lane wants to lift the survival rates of his leukaemia patients. He thinks the key could lie in the genetic fingerprints of the blood cancer stem cells that proliferate the disease.

Steven is studying how these cells become resistant to treatment through genetic changes. He will use the knowledge to develop more effective and tailored therapies, both to prevent and treat potentially fatal relapses.

In recognition of his leadership in stem cell research, he has received one of two annual $55,000 Metcalf Prizes from the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia.

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A new way to fight drug-resistant bacteria

Professor Si Ming Man, John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University, Canberra

Si Ming Man is tackling central questions of immunology: how do disease-fighting proteins produced by the immune system recognise pathogens, and how can these natural defence mechanisms be harnessed to fight infectious diseases?

The answers could lead to alternatives to over-used and increasingly ineffective antibiotics, providing new ways to combat multidrug-resistant microbes.

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Could Frizzled proteins lead to new cancer drugs?

Dr Alisa Glukhova, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne

Alisa Glukhova is investigating a fundamental cell communication system that guides the growth of embryos but, when it goes wrong, can contribute to cancer and other diseases.

By determining the structure and shape of the Frizzled protein, she hopes to create a path to new kinds of cancer drugs.

The cells in our body need to be told when to grow, what to become, when to multiply – even when to die.

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Filmmaker becomes co-author on paper published in top international journal, ‘Science’

Written and issued by Genepool

In an unusual turn of events, Melbourne based filmmaker Sonya Pemberton has become a co-author on a paper that has just been published in the top international journal Science.

The paper, ‘Global citizen deliberation on genome editing’ is calling for the creation of a global “citizens’ assembly”, made up of ordinary people who are tasked with considering the ethical and social impacts of this emerging science, in humans, animals and plants. The idea was born out of a film-research trip Sonya undertook almost two years ago.

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