Letter from the Chair

Dear all,

As an attendee of the Women in Plasma Physics (WIPP) activities at the 2018 APS-DPP meeting, I hope you will be interested in this WIPP follow-up. We tried some new things in Portland, not all of which worked: we have taken to heart the feedback we’ve received so far and welcome additional input.

First, we would like to emphasize that the WIPP Committee is devoted to understanding and helping to address the concerns of female scientists in the plasma physics community and especially to ensuring that young women feel welcome in environments where there are often more people named Matt than there are women. And while decades of studies show that implicit bias, multiple kinds and degrees of harassment, unequal pay, and different bars of performance can all impact the workplace environments and career trajectories of female scientists (see, for example, this classic paper and studies referenced in these recent articles), some of those real concerns were minimized during the panel discussion at the 2018 evening reception and many others were left completely unaddressed.

As scientists, we know that while we are all entitled to our own opinions, we are not entitled to our own facts: next year WIPP will invite experts to communicate some of the hard data that underlie gender issues in our community and will open new avenues to hear and help with individual concerns. To these ends:

  1. For the 2019 meeting, WIPP has invited Professor Lilia Cortina, an author of the National Academies Study on Sexual and Gender Harassment, to deliver the WIPP luncheon speech and moderate the panel at our evening reception. The panel will include both male and female leaders in our field, and members of the DPP community will be invited to submit anonymous questions for the panel both at the luncheon and online before the meeting.
  2. By Friday of the 2018 meeting, the #MeToo board had 64 pins (many with multiple flowers). With reasonable assumptions, this indicates that about a third of women in DPP were willing to post a visible indication of their experience of harassment or assault. We understand that many people felt uncomfortable posting to the board. Next year, allies identified by flowers on their badges will be available for conversation during the meeting and will help staff a WIPP table in the poster hall. The table will display data from both APS-DPP and larger scientific and academic communities to foster conversation, and the allies will help direct people to resources as needed and coordinate informal mentorships for young scientists.
  3. We are developing plans for new activities including a town hall meeting on inclusion and diversity and a professional skills workshop: stay tuned for updates in the DPP bulletin.
  4. Finally, we plan for this to be the last year that WIPP will administer the DPP-sponsored child care grants and other child-related programs. The programs will continue under a non-gendered APS-DPP committee. Please let me know if you would like to participate in an email list to informally coordinate child care for upcoming APS-DPP meetings.

Again, we always welcome your input by either email to one or more of the WIPP members above or through this anonymous survey, and we invite you to share this email with others you think might be interested.

If you wish to be removed from further email messages regarding Women in Plasma Physics, please let me know.

With best wishes,

Stephanie Hansen, WIPP Chair

Saskia Mordijck, WIPP Vice-Chair

Félicie Albert, Nate Ferraro, Carolyn Kuranz, Elizabeth Merritt, Jeremiah Williams, Raspberry Simpson, Maria Gatu-Johnson, Luis Delgado-Aparicio

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