Every year we compile a set of statistics based on voluntary information given by APS DPP members when they register. The APS-DPP is the division with the lowest percentage offemale participation. Where every other division has percentage of female members that is in the double digits, the Division of Plasma Physics lags behind. APS as a whole has observed an increase in female membership, whereas the Division of Plasma Physics has been hovering around 8% of female participation over the last 7 years. While change is low overall, the division of plasma physics has been stagnating around 8%.
It is logical that the largest increase in p
ercentages occurs in the early career stages, with more women joining. We have only been able to start breaking down the percentages per career stage since 2016. As expected in the undergraduate category there are many more women percentage wise than in the senior category. The largest bulk of DPP members are regular members and due to the time it takes from undergraduates to become graduate students and then eventually early career (which is 6 years according to APS), with just 2 years of sample points it is impossible to say if we have a leaky pipe-line. If in a few years, we don’t see an uptick in the graduate student percentages to levels observed currently at the undergraduate level, than this might be an indication of a leaky pipeline. Currently the amount of early career and graduate student members is within the same range, which might indicate that most women continue on after obtaining their PhDs. The graphic however also illustrates that increasing the percentage of regular members is going to be slow and lengthy process, even without a leaky pipeline or a large influx of young and talented women.
At the annual APS-DPP meeting we also try and keep track of whether women are well represented and given similar opportunities as men at the conference to present their research. To be given the opportunity to present an invited talk is a recognition of the high quality scientific work an individual has been performing. There have been enough examples (and there continue to be) of conference with only male speakers, or only male plenary speakers. While we do not interfere with the process of selecting the speakers for each APS DPP meeting, we keep track of the amount of female invited speakers and compare these numbers to the statistics related to membership. While these numbers show that women have not been given an unfair advantaged or been disadvantaged on average, some subgroups within the DPP sometimes have no or only 1 female speaker,
with other groups compensating and thus achieving ‘average’ representation. It is no surprise that some sub groups have thus also been doing better in general with retaining and attracting women, than others.
One of the highest achievements that can be given by the APS DPP to its members is to have them become fellows. Fellows are individuals that are mostly being recognized for their multiple and vast research contributions to the field of plasma physics. There are naturally fewer female fellows than male, but we also find that the chance of regular member to be a fellow are lower for women than for men.
Several studies have shown that women tend to carry a heavier pay load when it comes to community service. This is no different for women in the DPP. The first example is related to the percentage of female chairs at the annual APS DPP meeting. The main reason behind this statistic is that at one DPP meeting there was not a female chair, which statistically speaking should have been an anomaly. As such, women in plasma physics has started keeping a better count and remains the program committee chair each year to have a ‘fair’ balance. This has resulted in a strong increase in women chairing sessions at the annual APS DPP meeting, so much so, that women are now over represented based on statistics. These statistics do not distinguish the type of session the woman is chairing and thus the size of the audience. There is a difference between chairing a session full of invited talks, versus a session of contributed talks.
Even more stark are the female percentages when it comes to community service for the APS DPP and APS in general. While women are on average only 8% of the membership and regular members are only at 5%, the executive committee has in the last 7 years never dropped below 10% and has been above 30% for the last 4 years. There has been a similar strong increase in females appointed to various APS-DPP appointed committees, such that without included the Women In Plasma Physics Committee, we have currently more than 25% female representation. This is the result of the fact that most of these appointed committees only have roughly 5 members and that if each of those has a female member, that results in the overall over representation of women statistically. It also poses a high burden on women, to have a heavier service load than their male colleagues, something which is not something promotion and prize committees value highly.
All the data shown is or obtained from the APS DPP division membership, where members can volunteer their gender, or by having several members of the women in plasma physics committee gathering data based on the program information of the APS DPP annual meeting and various APS DPP committees.