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Department of Physics

The Cavendish Laboratory

Cavendish Inspiring Women (CiW) mission is to raise visibility of many leading women academics, entrepreneurs, business women and women in industry who come from physics backgrounds. These women play an important role in inspiring the new generation of women in physics.

Founded by Sarah Morgan and Hannah Stern in 2014, the Cavendish Inspiring Women (CiW) is an initiative that aims to raise the visibility of successful women, including cis/trans women as well as femme-identifying, genderqueer and non-binary people, in physics. It encourages more women to take up physics, especially at the advanced research stages by bringing in female role models to the fore through multiple activities.

Starting out as lunchtime seminars in the department, with Professor Sarah Bohndiek, Professor Mary Fowler and Dame Barbara Stocking as some of the early speakers, the initiative today is in its 8th year. Over the years, the activities have expanded and they now include hosting panel discussions about women in science, podcast series, tea time discussions in the Maxwell centre, running a mentoring scheme for graduates and post- doctorates and providing support with supervisions for the undergraduates.

These continuous initiatives have led to the emergence of many new women leaders in Physics, who have now become role models for the new generation of future physicist.

Dr. Hannah Stern who works at the Cavendish Laboratory within the Quantum Optics group, reflects upon her time spent as the Co-President of CiW and how it has evolved over the years, “ The beginning of the society was driven by a simple idea to host more female speakers in the department. I am amazed at how, over the years, the society has evolved, expanded and grown in popularity under a succession of great Presidents. The success of the society over the past 8 years shows how women in the Cavendish value having a community where they can meet with others, expand their network and feel supported. In the early days of CiW,  I particularly enjoyed approaching eminent female scientists to give seminars to CiW, and seeing the buzz students and postdocs got from being able to speak with and get to know these women. Inspiring the future generation starts with raising the visibility of role models.”

Dr. Sarah Morgan, an Accelerate Science Research Fellow at the Cambridge Department of Computer Science and Technology, reflects her time as the Co-President of CiW, “Being a co-President of CiW was a great way to meet other women across the department. A big part of the CiW inception was to bring together women, who otherwise could become quite isolated in their research groups. I particularly enjoyed putting together the outreach booklet we published for school students called 'What is so exciting about Physics?' - we distributed over 6000 paper copies as well as online pdf version, with many downloads. And it is fantastic to see now how the group has grown and developed since Hannah and I stepped down!”

Hope Brestcher, a post doc at the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter, attributes her confidence of choosing her future roles to CiW and shares, “CiW gave me a community which was important both to discuss and learn how people navigated different situations, as well as providing a community where I felt more comfortable and relaxed than in some other spaces within the department. I think without this I would have struggled much more during my PhD. Furthermore, CiW gave me a platform to raise concerns, to actually change systems and make the environment more conducive. This opportunity to gain leadership experiences through my work at CiW made me more confident which helped me to take on other future roles.”

Ankita Anirban, now a Senior Editor at the Nature Reviews Physics, recollects expanding her horizons through CiW,  “CiW connected me to a network of women at the Cavendish outside my research group, which broadened my horizons. Organizing events for CiW has been valuable in giving me experience with hosting talks and contacting speakers, which have been very useful in my career.”

Read more about Cavendish Inspiring Women current activities and initiatives here