Image: ÖAW/Elia Zilberberg

The interactive online platform atominnen.at, established by Francesca Ferlaino together with colleagues at IQOQI Innsbruck, wants to strengthen the role of women in science and research. The new support network was presented yesterday at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna in the run-up to World Quantum Day and in the presence of Women's Affairs Minister Susanne Raab.

The proportion of women in academia will remain soberingly low in 2024. While women are still in the majority among undergraduates, this small lead is beginning to diminish towards Master's degrees. At doctoral level, the figures have already reversed. The proportion of women among postdocs and professors continues to fall. In physics, the proportion of women is already low and stands under 30% of students in Austria. Francesca Ferlaino from the Innsbruck Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) therefore saw the creation of a network with women and for women as absolutely essential in order to support the new generation of female physicists and encourage them to embark on this challenging but rewarding career path. The “Atom*innen” project creates a space by women scientists for women scientists to transform the feeling of isolation that many perceive into a sense of community.

“Equality between women and men benefits everyone in Austria,” says Women's Affairs Minister Susanne Raab.” The network founded by Francesca Ferlaino is a groundbreaking project that not only increases the visibility of women in the natural sciences, but also creates a supportive and empowering community and will ensure that even more women will contribute their ideas and personalities to research in quantum physics,” says Raab.

Heinz Faßmann, President of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, congratulates Ferlaino on the project: “Francesca Ferlaino is an excellent quantum physicist who is a role model for young, up-and-coming female scientists and always offers a supportive environment. With the new network, she is creating a forum in which female colleagues from all over the world can network and support each other. The ÖAW supports this project to the best of its ability!

“We were encouraged and supported by colleagues to implement our ideas in this project,” says Francesca Ferlaino. “This was also made possible by the constant support from the Austrian Academy of Sciences. I am very grateful for this collaborative spirit.”

Inform, network and show role models

The Atom*innen project is based on four pillars: a comprehensive collection of data and statistical analysis provides information on the situation of women in physics and aims to make the problems more visible. In this way, targeted action can be taken where support is most urgently needed. The network will also create a dedicated space in which female physicists can exchange experiences and support each other. A comprehensive collection of information with practical tips and advice is intended to support women on their career path in the natural sciences. In addition, there is a virtual gallery of female role models to dispel the cliché that women have to give up other goals in life in order to be successful in science, and to get girls interested in physics.

This is being implemented by a dedicated team led by Francesca Ferlanio, Gender Officer Angélique Sanchez, Head of Administration Birgit Weihs-Dopfer and Assistant Silvia Bonazza at IQOQI Innsbruck and the University of Innsbruck. An international advisory board of scientists, yet to be appointed, will accompany the project.