A team of three Czech scientists, Drs. Raji Heyrovská, Milada Glogarová, and Jarmila Kodymová (team leader), from the Czech Academy of Sciences returned recently from the 2nd IUPAP International conference on Women in Physics held in Rio Othon Palace Hotel, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There were about 145 participants from 42 countries around the world.Delegates came from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America. More than 90% of the attendees at this conference were women. See http://www.cbpf.br/~women-physics/ for the full program, poster abstracts and conference photos.
The Conference was co-sponsored by the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) and governmental and private organizations of many countries. The Czech team was able to participate, thanks to the sponsorship by the Academy of Sciences of the Czech republic and the Institute of Physics, AS. It was one of the many events worldwide celebrating the World Year of Physics, WYP 2005; for more information see http://www.wyp2005.org.
Physics plays a key role in understanding the world we live in. The problem-solving skills of physicists are essential in science, many industries and to society at large. Because there are so few women in physics internationally today, no country benefits fully from the ideas and efforts women physicists could offer. Worldwide, fewer than 15% of physicists are women.
The conference featured updates on the situation of women in physics in all the countries in the form of posters (which will appear in the conference webpage), plenary talks and group discussions. A Special Issue of the American Institute of Physics (AIP) will be issued bringing the Proceedings of the WIP 2005 International conference. Further, an additional poster session was organized, in which the attendees presented results of their scientific research. Considering the various obstacles which women face more than men, the scientific achievement showed a high standard. The energy level, enthusiasm, and passion were uniformly high for physics, for contributing to their countries, and for increasing the numbers and advancement of women in physics. The participants also took part in several parallel group discussions on the following topics:
- Attracting Girls into Physics
- Launching a Successful Physics Career
- Getting Women into the Physics Leadership Structure Nationally and Internationally
- Improving the Institutional Climate for Women in Physics
- Learning from Regional Differences
- Balancing Family and Career
In each of these topics, discussions concerned mainly the barriers and social problems of women-physicists and the strategies to overcome them. The sessions concluded with a number of practical suggestions to improve the situation of women in physics at the individual and global level. The reports from the group discussions will also appear in the Special Issue of AIP Proceedings volume.
It was clear that the scarcity of women in physics, especially in leadership positions, is a problem in many countries, which thereby cannot benefit fully from women's ideas and approaches. However, women alone cannot solve this problem.
Since the 1st International Conference on Women in Physics, held in Paris in 2002, more attention has been paid to including women in physics. Some progress has been made in many countries, but the Czech Republic has yet to catch up with this (see the poster presented by the Czech team, which will appear in the above webpage of the conference).
All attendees at the Rio conference agreed to take action in their countries to disseminate the results from the conference. They agreed to network with each other and to work actively to promote the recruitment, retention and advancement of women of all races and nationalities in physics.
J. Heyrovský Institute of Physical Chemistry ASCR,
Institute of Physics of the ASCR