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  • By: Francis Sedgemore
  • Graphene Flagship
  • Publishing date: 08 July 2015
  • By: Francis Sedgemore
  • Graphene Flagship
  • Publishing date: 08 July 2015

Graphene Week sees launch of Women in Graphene

Graphene Week 2015 saw the launch of Women in Graphene, a support network for women in graphene and related 2d materials research. As in other areas of science and engineering, women make up significant proportion of the 2d materials workforce, but they face a number of gender-specific barriers to career progression.

A fringe meeting on the Wednesday afternoon of Graphene Week was held to start a conversation among women and men in graphene research about issues peculiar to women in the 2d materials community. Organised by Graphene Flagship administrator Katarina Boustedt, with presentations from flagship executive members Annick Loiseau and Mar Garcia-Hernández, the launch of Women in Graphene was given largely to an informal discussion among those present. Women and men together reported their experiences, and floated possible solutions to problems faced by women in graphene research.

“The Graphene Flagship, extending as it does over 10 years, and incorporating many European countries, is an ideal observatory for studying the progress of women in the field,” says Garcia-Hernández. “It should not be difficult to provide figures grouped by gender on the scientific contribution of women to the flagship, including in events such as Graphene Week.”

Loiseau spoke of her 35 years in scientific research. There are many women working in physics, she said, but they are mostly at junior level. There is a vanishingly small number of women at professorial level, and women hesitate to apply for more senior positions owing to a fear of being questioned about such matters as childcare. This must be tackled from the start of the hiring process, said Loiseau, and it includes the makeup of selection committees.

Given that the launch of Women in Graphene took place during Graphene Week, conference chair Cinzia Casiraghi provided an overview of the delegate distribution. Of the registered attendees at Graphene Week this year, 23% were women and 77% men. There were very few women among the invited speakers.

“Solutions must be found to correct this imbalance in future events organised by the flagship,” says Loiseau. “Going by experience, there should always be women members on advisory boards and organisation committees, and the selection of women speakers should be considered from the outset, as one criterion among others.”

Ideas floated at the Women in Graphene launch include pastoral support and mentoring. This would be along the lines of programmes already offered by more established groups such as the Athena SWAN  network. Another proposal is a structured careers advice service for women, with particular attention given to maternity leave and career breaks. Paternity leave should also be considered, with male scientists encouraged to use their childcare entitlements.

The consensus among those present at the Women in Graphene launch is that women in the 2d materials community should communicate with each other in areas of common concern. This could be facilitated through social gatherings at conferences, and online discussion forums.

Photo: copyright © 2015 Anders Frick/Chalmers University of Technology.

Author bio

Francis Sedgemore