Tuesday 17 January 2017

APPC-AIP conference – What did the Women in Physics group get up to?

The women in physics group doesn’t currently have our own meeting, so the biennial AIP congress is the main time we have to get together and discuss the state of women in physics in Australia. This year however we had extra opportunity, as the congress was held jointly with the Asian Pacific Physics Conference, giving us a fantastic opportunity to connect and network with our colleagues from the Asia Pacific region. The WIP group held a number of activities during the conference, which all occurred on the 6th December. This action-packed day was kicked off by the WIP breakfast event with Prof Nalini Joshi as our guest speaker, followed by a Plenary by Prof Youngah Park and then in the afternoon we hosted two conference sessions with invited contributions by Prof Evvy Kartini and Prof Kate Joliffe. 

Breakfast event 

This great event was sponsored by EQuS, and we were very fortunate to have Prof Nalini Joshi as our guest speaker. Prof Joshi has been an instigator of the Science in Australia Gender Equality (SAGE) pilot that has been tremendously successful with 40 institutions currently signed up and seeking a bronze award in the approach to equity. She spoke on the motivations and need for such a pilot and outlined how all in the room could get involved and assist their institutions in making SAGE a success. The breakfast event also allowed us to thank a number of members for their support of the WIP group over the years, and to form a new committee for 2017/18. 

Plenary by Youngah Park 

After breakfast was done, we moved to the large theatre to hear Prof Youngah Park’s plenary lecture on ‘W-Leadership, Key driver of Innovative Engines’. Prof Park is currently President of Korea Institute of S&T Evaluation and Planning and has a very interesting, and almost unique perspective, as not only is she a senior scientist but she has also served as a member of the National Assembly of Republic of Korea from 2008 to 2012. So her duel perspective on the role and strengths of women in the physics workforces was particular insightful. In particular she outlined the large opportunities that gender innovation can give to a country at large, through sustaining economic growth and opening new markets.


As part of the conference we held two sessions, the first focusing on the state of Women in Physics in the Asian region and the second looking to how we can move forward from where we are. In our first session we heard from invited speaker Prof Evvy Kartini, from Indonesia’s National Nuclear agency about Women in Physics within Indonesia, her personal perspective on this as well as lots of very positive stories about how things are improving. For the remainder of the session we heard contributions from Japan, Korea and China and it was fascinating to see how the state of things are so different in each country. Though, the sad fact remains that in all countries a number of barriers have been identified to women participating fully in the physics world. 

In the session looking about how we move forward, we heard from Prof Kate Joliffe about the strategic mentoring program that has been instituted at Sydney university's chemistry department. After finding a dearth of women at band E (professional level) and determining that there was a lack of people putting in for promotion to this level – the department put in place a mentoring scheme . Now successful, they are implementing the scheme to lower levels, a very interesting case example of positive action. Also in the session Jo Turner reported on statistics she had gathered both from the conference diversity survey and also presented the picture of equity in AIP awards. Both revealed quite a lot about the community, with a very definite case for action – we’ll write a separate post about this.

Thanks to Sarah Maddison for the photos of the WIP events.

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