Physics in the U.S. is a predominately white male discipline. It’s easy to attribute this to simple time lag: not so long ago many women and people of color were actively excluded from academia. However, when one looks at the actual data, one can’t help but notice that time may not heal all.
Here are some statistics on women and underrepresented minorities in physics. The proportion of women earning bachelors degrees, for instance, has remained near 20% for the last 20 years, after a steady increase since 1965. Underrepresented minorities earn about 20% of bachelors degrees, but account for 10% of physics degrees. Intersectionality and persistence in the field come into play as well. For instance, the numbers become especially small when considering black women who become physicists.
The takeaway is that the physics community needs to put in work to include more people from the outset, and make sure those who do stay have as good an experience as anyone else.
One of the primary predictors of remaining in physics (even with undue hardship) is the development of a physics identity. I currently have a thesis student analyzing the intersection of racial and physics identity and will report here when the work is finished.
In my work on inclusion, I have become involved with several organizations and efforts.
- I was a member of CSWP (2014-2016) and am still involved with a couple of projects with the committee. In addition to everyday committee business, I organized our March Meeting invited session in 2017, have helped write new best practices guides (to be live in 2018), and have served on (and chaired) the Maria Goeppert Mayer Award committee. Additionally, I have participated in several CUWiPs.
- I am a member of LGBT Physicists, and have written some articles for the blog, and have helped to organize and facilitate the LGBT roundtable at the March Meeting. One of the best guides to LGBT inclusion has been written by this organization: http://lgbtphysicists.org/files/BestPracticesGuide.pdf, and I believe much of the advice there is transferrable to creating a generally inclusive atmosphere in a wide variety of workplaces.
- I also am a workshop leader for APS Communications and Negotiations Seminars. These seminars are aimed at giving students and postdocs advice about strategic career planning, networking, and negotiation. The seminars are not exclusive to women, though women are especially encouraged to attend, as they focus on issues women commonly encounter.