Frances Downey reports back on an international conference aimed at driving up the number of female physicists
Walking into the third International Conference for Women in Physics was always going to be an experience like no other. Usually, when attending physics conferences you are one of few women in a room full of men. Instead I was greeted by a sea of women’s faces. As Professor Maki Kawai from the University of Tokyo said, it was “a conference very different from other physics conferences – the ladies room was always crowded.”
I was one of 11 delegates to travel to Seoul, South Korea, for the conference. With over 70 countries involved, the female physicists present were from a truly diverse set of backgrounds, including women from Argentina, Botswana, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Finland, Germany, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Lithuania, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sudan, Russia, South Africa, Trinidad & Tobago, the United States, Vietnam, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
I am a second year biophysics PhD student and, although I have been a member of the Institute of Physics’ Women in Physics group since I was an undergraduate, to my shame I have never really got involved in what they did. However, I was bought up by a feminist mother and have always held the view that women should have the same opportunity as men to do whatever it is they want to do, so when I saw the chance to apply to go to this year’s conference I jumped at it.