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Breaking the Glass Ceiling

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					Breaking the Glass Ceiling
Cathrine Hasse, Danish School of Education

The glass ceiling is a descriptive metaphor which point to the fact that women are not advancing in
their careers and do not advance instead of using their full potential as scientists. The descriptive
metaphor allude to some problems within physics as culture and physics as embedded in national
cultures, but these have never been explained in detail. The overall picture is a dismal one; yet an
interesting configuration of cultural diversity appears on a gendered map of physicists. It is
comparatively easier to attract female students in eastern and southern European countries than in
the north, and career paths seem to follow different patterns. In the UPGEM-project (Understanding
Puzzles in the Gendered European Map) we have studied what makes male and female physicists
leave a career track. We are able to explain the marked difference in the proportion of women in
physics in the different European countries as differences in nationally formed conditions for
physics in as wells as physics as culture. Though we have found no simple correlation, during our
research we have found that certain patterns of connections (cultural models) within physics is
supported by certain connections in national cultures. Together this pattern of connections makes it
possible to identify three different perceptions of the ideal physicists’ cultures, which we have
labeled the Hercules-, the Caretaker-, and the Worker Bee-culture. All of these cultures influence
women’s possibilities for careers in physics, but in different ways. Of the three scientific cultures,
the Hercules culture is the one in which we find the most aggressive relation between male and
female scientists. In order to break the glass ceiling we suggest these cultures must be identified and
changed on a local basis at university work places.

				
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