Sexism in science is targeted

September 6, 2002

Universities and science policy-makers have been told they must crack "the two-body problem" to ensure the future of physics research. Doing so would do much to help women who want careers in science, especially physics or astronomy, according to a report out this week.

In physics, women are more likely to be married to someone within their own discipline than in most other subjects. Often, the man is older and more likely to get a permanent position first, meaning that women's careers suffer as it is difficult to find two jobs in one place: the two-body problem.

The problem was highlighted in the report Women Physicists Speak based on a conference in March held by the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics to address the worldwide shortage of women in physics. The report says that universities should work to enable joint appointments and job shares. It calls for more flexible working in the UK and says age limits should be abolished for women applying for research council fellowships.

Sandra Chapman, co-author of the report, said: "These measures would make life better for all physicists. It's about making work more family friendly."

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