Celebrating women in physics

Next Monday the 8th of March is International Women’s Day. In an ideal world, there would be no need for such an event – equality would be taken as read. But since the world is not there yet, let’s take the opportunity to celebrate women in physics, and indeed the full cultural diversity of our field. Perceived as a discipline dominated by men, reality has been diverging from that perception for a long time. Today at CERN, women play key roles in every aspect of the Organization’s activities.

On Women’s Day, we will be sending a clear message to all young women interested in science and engineering that this is also a field for them. In the CERN Control Centre, half of the Engineers-in-Charge who take responsibility for operating the world’s most powerful particle accelerator are women. In the experiments, in all CERN departments and in the management, women are increasingly represented. That’s because at CERN, and in particle physics the world over, talent is the only criterion that counts. Gender, race and religion have no part to play in finding the right person for the job.

For next Monday, we are encouraging our staff and users to enable as many women as possible to be on shift in the control rooms of CERN's experiments and accelerators, to staff the IT helpdesk and to guide official visits. The fact that we can do this easily may come as a surprise to those who don’t know us better, but it’s no surprise to me. Curiosity, the main prerequisite for being a researcher, is a shared characteristic of all mankind and that’s reflected in the CERN community. Men and women from all over the world come here to pursue their research, and the diversity they bring is one of our greatest assets.

In celebrating Women’s Day, we’ll be joined by our colleagues at Fermilab, and at 3:30 in the afternoon, Felicitas Pauss and I are looking forward to talking to Pier Oddone and Young-Kee Kim via videoconference between the CMS centre here at CERN and the remote operations center at Fermilab. I hope you’ll be able to join us at http://cern.ch/womensday.

by Rolf Heuer