Posted by William Bartoli-Edwards, Paralegal
Is physics sexist?
Gender diversity is a systemic problem and needs solutions which address the problems at its root. Otherwise, debates will become cyclical – as we can see from claims that responses to female inequality are discriminating towards men.
Alessandro Strumia, from the University of Pisa, expressed that physics is becoming sexist against men for a number of reasons, including gender quotas and scholarships for women, at Cern’s gender equality workshop. Rarely, does such a comment not cause damage to a career and consequential negative impact on the institution.
Gender quotas and scholarships which intentionally allocate resources to a specific group of individuals are, by their very nature, discriminatory. However, the majority of society deems them acceptable in light of the inequality women have so far been subject to. The flaw, however, is that they do not create equal numbers of female and male applicants.
At the end of the GCSE phase of education, top-tier science students are roughly gender equal. However, at the end of A-Level, only 22% of students are female. As a consequence, the profession severely lacks women in senior positions. Recruiting in line with quotas can, if disproportionate, diminish merit-based achievements and spark opposing feelings of inequality, as we saw at Cern. The potential hypocrisy in responding to discrimination, with discrimination, is clear. However, institutions have determined that time is not a sufficiently effective cure for gender inequality in the balance of money and power.
Without the presence of a balance in the numbers of male and female applicants at every stage of the profession, authentic equality won’t be achieved. Tensions will endure and institutions, being central to recruitment, will bear the brunt of them. Perhaps quotas are the only way to move things forward?
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