Sunday, February 19, 2012
Exhibit Hall A-B1 (VCC West Building)
Over the past three decades, there has been an increase in the number of women in all educational and academic levels in the physical and applied sciences in Canada. In physics, the proportion of women at each educational or career stage had been increasing steadily over the past three decades, but recently the increase has slowed and is stalling. Yet we are still far from the situation in which women are represented at the same level as men in physics in Canada. In Canada, women currently outnumber men in full-time university enrollment, as well as in medical schools and law schools. 48% of the Canadian work force is female, yet women make up only 21% of working professionals in science, engineering and technology. Canada-wide in Physics the situation is such that only 20% of our BSc graduates are women, and 19% of our PhD graduates are women. Statistics on participation of women in high school physics, university physics, Physics BSc, MSc and PhD degrees and in the labour market is gathered and synthesized. Sources include the Canada Census and federal and provincial reports and statistics on education and labour. It is evident that the "leaky pipeline" for women in Physics leaks most at a young age, before BSc graduation, starting in high school. High school physics statistics in BC indicate that while most of the grade 11 and 12 science and math disciplines have approximately equal numbers of young men and women enrolled, this is not the case for high school physics where, province-wide, only 30% of Physics 12 students are women. Young men and young women without a strong foundation in high school math and science end up less prepared and far less likely to enter careers in science, technology or engineering. These are lucrative and satisfying careers in which the labour market is growing, and our skilled labour shortfall in science/engineering may be filled by recruiting and retaining employees from under-represented groups, such as women. A number of studies have indicated that issues such as work-life balance, working climate, childcare, maternity leave play a role in addressing and righting gender equities in the workplace. These are very important issues which must be addressed, but in physics another major barricade is that young girls simply do not enter college and university physics programs at the same rate as young men. In order to address this problem, we should also concentrate some of our efforts on developing and participating in outreach in science, especially physics, in our high schools and elementary schools, in an effort to increase the number of women with adequate preparation entering college/university studies in physics. The situation in many areas of engineering is very similar to that in physics.