Why is it that so few women aspire to a professorship in your own discipline, physics, or in another scientific discipline?

        
Leaky pipelines – the trend of women ’s participation dropping off from increasing career and leadership positions – can be found not only in physics, but to some degree in the most disciplines. In chemistry, for example, there are more emale than male undergraduates. But at the professor level, you won’t ind significantly more women than in physics. From that one can conclude that the low proportion of women professors is not solely a question of student percentages . By making comparisons, we can identify the causes for these losses of skilled women over time. They include both structural barriers and inadequate corporate governance; male-oriented career patterns should to be modified to allow for women’s needs. The issue is ntensified by pervasive, largely subconscious stereotypes; terms like “leader” or “physics professorship” are still all too frequently spontaneously associated with men; the influence of these preconceptions can be reduced by awareness - raising . It is certainly not correct to conclude that women don’t have the will. There are many motivated, excellent women who have given up their career. As I mentioned earlier, only a small percentage of women survive the system. The statistics from the various Departments of ETH Zurich provide rather striking examples of this phenomenon.
But the origins of this issue lie elsewhere: the more mathematical/abstract the discipline, the more women are deterred. The image and the culture are not exactly inviting for women. Physics is subconsciously associated with genius and brilliance – which tend to be spontaneously ascribed to men, even though they are essentially gender-neutral. I am still rather convinced that even if more women studied physics, the effect would be the same as in chemistry, a career as a woman professor would still be a rarity. Female physics undergraduates are generally so skilled and gifted that, in principle, a larger proportion could make it to the top.
Another obstacle is the notion that a career and a family are incompatible. In Swiss society, most women work part-time during the family years, or not at all. As mentioned, reduced working hours are difficult to combine with the demands which are now placed on an excellent female researcher with career aspirations.
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