- In 1982, when Barbara Anthony-Twarog joined KU's physics
and astronomy department, she was a pioneer - the only female
professor in the department.
But times have changed. Of the department's 28 current faculty
members, five are women. While this may not sound like a lot,
it is unusual by national standards.
KU is one of only 17 universities nationwide with at least four
female physics faculty members, according to a study published
by the American Institute of Physics. The mean number of women
faculty in Ph.D. physics departments across the nation is 1.7.
Ray Ammar, professor and the physics and astronomy chair at KU,
says he is pleased that the department is among such elite company
as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University
and Columbia University. KU is the only Big 12 school on the
list, and many of the schools listed have much larger physics
departments than KU.
Still, Ammar says, there hasn't been a concerted effort to hire
"We don't start the hiring process by saying we are going
to hire a woman," Ammar says. "Our intention is always
to hire the bestperson available."
But KU and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences have created
a spousal accommodation policy that makes it easier for couples
to choose KU.
"Our ability to hire excellent faculty sometimes depends
on finding suitable positions for both members of a couple,"
Ammar says. "And the College office has been very supportive
in that regard."
Anthony-Twarog says other factors also help, including the fact
that the College's dean - Sally Frost Mason - is also a female
Donna Tucker, associate professor of physics and astronomy, has
been at KU since 1993. She says KU's physics and astronomy department
has a very healthy attitude toward hiring women. That, in turn,
makes it easier to hire more women, she says.
"When you have a department that already has women, then
more women are likely to come, rather than take a job somewhere
where they would be the only female professor," Tucker says.