International Conference on Women in Physics

Paris, 7-9 March 2002

Small Group Discusssions TOPIC 4:


Discussion leaders:

Manjula Sharma, Australia

Larissa Svirina, Belorus

Ling-An Wu, China


Joanne Baker, UK

Anne Borg, Norway

Peggy Frederickx, Belgium


Office and lab space, nurseries, restrooms

Safety, discrimination, sexual harassment


1. Do the women at the university and research centers have the same amount of office and lab space as the men?

2. Are there nurseries available at/close to the workplace?

3. Are there the same number of restroom facilities for women and men?

4. Is it safe to work late at night and on weekends?

5. Are there disguised institutional discriminatory policies, e.g. regarding age?

6. Are there any policies regarding sexual harassment? E.g. is it allowed for male faculty to date his own student (this is common in Latin American countries)?

Problems Identified:

Marked Regional Differences:

Developing countries --- 'hardware' conditions difficult

Developed countries --- sexual harrassment problem

Common problem --- Old Boys' internal network

1. Work space

MIT Study, actual area 'fudged' by 20% for women professors with corridors included

Denmark, wife/husband share office

2. Nurseries

Egypt, Belorus, Japan, Malaysia none or poor

Only for professors

3. Mixed sex toilets

S. Africa, Denmark

MIT big lack

Mixed dormitories in Brookhaven labs, Antarctica

4. Safety

Generally ok

Lab instruction could be improved

5. Subtle forms of discrimination

Old boys' informal network, both developed and developing countries

Age -- academic age of women too young

-- early retirement in China

Evaluation - same work less pay, UK

Hidden criteria for resource allocation,

difference 60%

Insufficient recognition, credit all given to men

Perception of women leadership prejudiced

Strong - too assertive

Modest - too weak

Mobility - restricted in Egypt

6. Sexual harassment and discrimination - varying

forms and extents prevalent

Non-existent in Egypt, Islam countries

Not serious in China

Serious in developed countries despite laws

Dating own students, Latin Am. Porn posters and screensavers

Derogatory allusions to women

Sexual slanders, Latin Am

Patronising attitudes

Secretary image of women

Compulsory use of husband's name, Belgium

Male professors refuse girl students, Japan


1. State legislation not enough, must have measures to ensure implementation

Formulate "Equal policy rules" for each individual institution.

Forbid all forms of discrimination related to sex, age, children etc

2. Improve transparency at all decision making levels and eliminate 'old boys' dominance

Especially regarding hiring, salaries, proposals, resource allocation

3. Improve networking amongst women ourselves

Solve problem of isolation both horizontally and vertically:

Horizontally - with peers, meetings, exchange

Vertically - get togethers between faculty

and students

Senior faculty help junior staff

Establish website, counselling

4. Establish monitoring committees to evaluate universities and institutions

USA 5-person committee

-- Must be accredited

-- Funding, by Phys Soc? Minimize costs

-- Regional differences

5. Organize training courses for both male and female faculty

For Men, how to treat women as colleagues

-- Think of own daughter's future difficulties

For Women, how to avoid pitfalls

-- Have self-confidence, learn leadership, negotiation skills

-- Make men allies

6. Work environment must be more family-friendly

Nurseries, restrooms, dorms, nonsmoking

Alternative suggestions

3-person leadership, divides workload


Actions to be Taken on Return

Report to relevant councils

Speak about this conference through media

Talk to fellow colleagues including


Set up women's networking