Diversity and inclusion
International Women’s Day words of wisdom for girls and women thinking of a physics career
Whether you’re still at school thinking you’d like to be a physicist or returning to work after some time away, our followers on Twitter have some advice you may like to put in a folder marked ‘inspiration’ and dip into on days you could use some words of wisdom.
And if you’re a girl guide (the International Women’s Day charity of choice is the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) and want to dip your toe into the physics pond, you may like to check out the recent launch of Girlguiding UK’s ‘I am a physicist’ badge, designed to introduce girls and young women in the UK to the fascinating world of physics in a fun, accessible and educational way. Girlguiding UK tell us that the response to this pilot project in Nottinghamshire has been amazing.
Here’s 12 of the best, but check out our campaign to read all #PassOnMyWisdom tweets.
There are as many ways to be a physicist as there are people doing physics, and you absolutely can carve your own path. Aim for what you love and what makes you happy, and perseverance will get you there! :)
Be bold and daring. You will not have any opportunities if you don't try. Even if you fail, at least you tried. Don't let anyone tell you that you cannot do it. Imagine yourselves with a career in physics. Dare to dream about it.
Physics is about explaining how the world works - if that interests and excites you then continue to study physics and the world will be your oyster - so many employers want people who can think like a physicist. And enjoy yourself!
It’s ok to love physics and still struggle with it (really)! Persistence is key, more so than "being smart”. Being aware of imposter syndrome & unconscious biases can help. Always take care of yourself and enjoy the process!
Ask questions! It's ok to say 'I don't know x, can you tell me more about it? How do you do that? etc' Everyone has to learn somewhere.
Before I started, I met a physicist who said to me ‘whether you get a first, or a 2:2 or scrape through academically it won’t matter – physics will change the way you think forever’.
Even if you feel like you can't do it: try. See what happens. You might be surprised at what you can accomplish. After some bad grades my freshman year, I developed a "I'm just going to keep trying until I get kicked out" mentality. Guess whose grades improved?
Imposter syndrome is very real and you will experience it! The best way to combat it is by asking yourself: Who cares if I fail? Who cares if I’m not the best/as gifted as everyone else? Hard work or talent? It doesn’t matter as long as you get there. :)
Physics is fundamentally about how the world works, and it teaches you analytical and problem-solving skills that can be applied to a wide range of careers. Studying physics at a higher level is fascinating, applying it to real-world problems is really satisfying.
Persistence is key! No one starts knowing and being skilled at everything. It takes time and practice. Seek out peers and mentors who can support you along the way. You can't achieve your best doing it alone!
If you're asked to do something that scares you embrace the opportunity. You've been asked for good reason and you'll smash it!
You are the citizen of the world when you do science/physics. The best advice I received from a great mentor when I was a young undergrad student. And now I travel a lot and collaborate with many people around the world because of science.
- What does a physicist look like? Check out the recent #iamaphysicst campaign to find out.
- A Wikipedia list of women who’ve made significant contributions to the field of physics.
- The IOP has a women in physics group that you may like to join.
- If you’re returning to work after a career break, the Daphne Jackson Trust has lots of helpful information.
- We have reports investigating the gender imbalance of physics A-level that you might find interesting, resources for schools planning to work towards gender balance and information on the current gender balance projects we’re running.
- The Department for Education has extended funding for the IOP physics-teaching improvement programme, a significant element of which will establish a randomised control trial with the objective of improving gender balance in physics.