Oxford Physics Department named a ‘Champion’ of gender equality

Oxford University's Physics department has been awarded 'Champion' status under the nationwide Project Juno programme

Oxford University’s Physics department has joined 15 other British universities in gaining ‘Champion’ status under the Project Juno programme.

Project Juno is a system initiated by the Institute of Physics to recognise and reward actions to address the long-term issue of the under representation of women in physics at universities in the UK and Ireland.

Oxford has achieved the highest level awarded by the project, Champion status, along with 15 other physics departments in the UK. Oxford’s physics department has successfully progressed through the two previous levels; Juno Supporter and Juno practitioner.

Juno Champion status requires that the physics department must demonstrate the implementation of the five principles of Project Juno; appointment and selection, career promotion and progression, departmental culture, work allocation, and flexible working practices. The department must also put in place a framework to deliver equality of opportunity and reward.

Professor John Wheater, Head of the Department of Physics at the University of Oxford, expressed delight at the result. He said in a statement, ‘We are delighted to have been awarded Juno Champion status. We are determined to continue to build on the Juno principles and provide an environment of uniform opportunity for people to succeed as physicists.’

Rachel Dunne, a physics and philosophy student at Brasenose, highlighted that efforts to encourage female physicists are apparent even at first year undergraduate level. She told Cherwell, “I think that the Oxford physics department is good at retaining gender equality. It was encouraging last year that a fair few of my lecturers were women. Also, the ‘Women in Physics’ initiative is effective as it’s quite casual – you just meet up with a female mentor who also did physics here whenever you want to.”

“I think it did help my confidence to talk to another woman who had enjoyed and done well at physics here. The initiative could have come across as quite patronising, but it was pitched to us well in Michaelmas, especially as everyone doing physics was present and addressed during the introduction, not just the women.”

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Hannah Christensen, a research fellow in Physics at Corpus Christi, also emphasised the role of a “thriving women in physics group in Oxford”. She told Cherwell, “they also invite senior female academics to talk about their careers to the group over tea and cake – it is very interesting to hear these personal accounts of careers in academia, and reassuring to hear how others navigate the somewhat difficult academic career path while, for example, also having a family.”

“I have had a very good experience in the physics department at Oxford. I have always felt there are very approachable senior female academics who I can go to to ask for advice and just as importantly, many approachable senior male academics as well.”