On a recent public lecture visit to NUI Galway, Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell, world-renowned astrophysicist and strong supporter of gender equality in science, congratulated the University’s School of Physics on receiving the Juno Practitioner Award of the Institute of Physics.
Professor Bell Burnell, who was the first female President of the Institute of Physics, met with members of the Juno committee at the lecture and expressed her delight that NUI Galway was the first university in Ireland to achieve Practitioner status. Professor Bell Burnell is best known for her discovery in 1967 of pulsars, rapidly rotating neutron stars, and has won numerous awards for her strong role in promoting science.
The Juno Programme aspires to redress the long-standing issue of the under-representation of women at the highest levels of physics academia in the UK and Ireland, and recognises and rewards departments that can demonstrate a proactive approach in this area.
While women make up 20% of physics undergraduates across Ireland and the UK, this number drops to 7% further along academia at the level of university professor, suggesting that female physicists are less likely than their male counterparts to progress into the most senior positions in physics. The Juno principles improve working culture for all staff, creating, for example, flexible working arrangements, provision for childcare and a more transparent organisational structure. The potential for improvement has driven high levels of engagement amongst Irish and UK physics departments.
Dr Miriam Byrne, Chair of the NUI Galway Juno Committee, said: “It is a significant achievement for NUI Galway to obtain recognition for our work on promoting gender equality in Physics, and to be the first university in Ireland to do so. The lack of female role models in senior positions in the physical sciences is an issue that must be addressed, as it may discourage our female undergraduates from considering scientific careers. For this reason, the Juno committee is delighted to support the initiative taken by the NUI Galway Astronomy Society in inviting such a leading role model as Jocelyn Bell Burnell to Galway”.
Further information on the Institute of Physics’ Juno programme can be found at http://www.iop.org/policy/diversity/initiatives/juno/.