Gender equity in higher education: why and how? A case study of gender issues in a science faculty
Journal article, 2006
At a time when more and more natural science subjects are attracting an increasing number of women (chemistry for example) physics remains a male stronghold. It is not easy to understand this phenomenon or the anomaly that over-representation of males in physics faculties is more likely to occur in countries known for their attempts at equalizing opportunities for women, Sweden, for example, has a parliament in which 40% of its members are women and yet the average percentage of women lecturers in physics faculties is about half of that. In Sweden today women professors of physics (both appointed and promoted) typically represent 10% or less of the total professorial staff. In this paper we report on a qualitative case study of gender equity in a large physics faculty in a Swedish university. In order to locate our study in a more general social and political context we look at Swedish legislation that seeks to equalize opportunities for women in higher education. The rest of the study focuses on a brief review of research in the area of gender issues in higher education and an analysis of interviews with three women in physics: one a professor, one a lecturer and the third a PhD student. The analysis discusses why the current disproportion exists, if it is a good or bad thing for physics and physicists and how one might rectify any perceived problems in terms or gender relations and gender equity.