There is a balance to be had between getting the best person and positive discrimination- putting women or under-represented races etc – into places where they act as role models for future applicants. there is great debate on all this, and I don’t know the answer – if there are two equally qualified candidates should I take the female physicist? Not sure.
That’s a complicated one. Girls who have maths/physics training are more likely to be hired for jobs that require good numeracy and analytical skills.
But would they be more likely to be hired than boys with the same training? I’d like to think that they would have an equal chance, but there is still plenty of bias against women in the workplace – unfortunately.
I have great admiration for girls and young women who go into these areas because they are still, in a sense, pioneers – seeking to break down stupid barriers and preconceptions. I have 2 daughters and hope that they will be as free to make a career for themselves as my son.
It is rare for women to study physics (and rare for men to study psychology BTW). Employers shouldn’t favour one sex over the other – that would be discriminatory. However, most employers recognize that there is a problem with women being under-represented and do what they can to encourage women to apply for jobs, interview them fairly and when they win posts accommodate their particular circumstances (which sometimes differ from men’s e.g., due to pregnancy and maternity). So in general they are looking to recruit more women, all that is needed is for more women to apply.
I have two daughters and I am massively in favour of i) getting women into science and ii) ensuring that science employers make conditions as favourable for women as for men.
At York we are entering a scheme called Athena Swan (in Psychology we already have a Silver Award from them) in which we look at all our practices and change them where necessary to make sure this happens – I am on the committee (along with lots of women of course!). We actually have the opposite problem (at the early stages anyway) in that about 85% of our students are women.
It is true that we still don’t have an equal split between males and females in our physics students but things are getting a lot better. When I studied physics only around 5% of my year were girls, now it’s something like 30%. However I don’t think girls would be favoured by potential employers although there is the argument that positive discrimination is a good thing as if you employ women or under-represented groups they act as role models for future applicants.
This is very controversial and I certainly don’t know the answer!