Women+ in Plasma Physics


All the data shown is or obtained from the APS DPP division membership, where members can volunteer their gender, or by having several members of the women in plasma physics committee gathering data based on the program information of the APS DPP annual meeting and various APS DPP committees.

Historic gender data assumed male/female binary, and committee data gathering also must rely on gender assumptions or personal knowledge about DPP members. Thus, our statistics reporting is currently limited to assuming a male/female gender division for most of our reports. We acknowledge that this does not reflect the complete gender spectrum of DPP members, especially our non-binary and transgender colleagues.

However, now the APS is tracking non-binary members, we have begun to include that in our membership statistics.


The APS-DPP is the division with the lowest percentage of female participation.

Every year we compile a set of statistics based on voluntary information given by APS DPP members when they register. 

The official DPP membership in 2023 was 2,619. At that time, 319 members (12.2%) identified as women. Since 2020, the DPP women percentage has increased in double digits for the first time ever. This continues to lag the APS-wide percentage in 2022 of 17.1%.

If we fit the percentage of women APS-wide and in DPP for the last 10 years, we find that APS as a whole is increasing by 0.63% per year, with DPP increasing by 0.55% per year. Assuming some uncertainty, this means that the percentage of women in DPP is increasing approximately as fast as in APS. This however means that DPP will not catch up to the APS-wide representation unless we take some other measures. If extrapolate further, we find that at our current growth rate, we won’t catch up to APS 2023 representation for approximately 10 years. Further, it will take ~23 years to make it to 25% representation (the percentage of undergraduate degree going to women), and ~70 years to make it to the 50% population parity, twice the length of a standard 35 year career.

It is logical that the largest increase in percentages occurs in the early career stages, with more women joining. We have only been able to start breaking down the percentages per career stage since 2016. As expected in the undergraduate category there are many more women percentage-wise than in the senior category. The largest bulk of DPP members are regular members and due to the time it takes from undergraduates to become graduate students and then eventually early career (which is 6 years according to APS). With 5 years of sample points we can now say with certainty that we have a leaky pipe-line, as seen in the graphics below. The data also illustrates that increasing the percentage of regular members is going to be slow and lengthy process.

The trend in this distribution from 2016–2023 is shown in Figure 1b. It is of note that at the undergraduate level we are matching the nationwide percentage of women in physics degrees[1] of 25% in 2023. The second positive note is that at the graduate level, there has been steady rise in the percentage of women graduate students in the DPP, though 2023 shows the first dip in 8 years. No such steady trends are observed in the early career category, and this category has historically shown the largest leak of talent. However, we have seen increasing early-career numbers for the last 4 years with a larger spike in 2023. The regular category is rising slowly, as the actual number of women being added each year is very small



Scientific Recognition



Awards are prominent way of recognizing scientific achievement. We track women's representation in awards at multiple career stages. Overall women are represented closer to DPP population percentage at the beginning of their careers, with the gap widening significantly to under-represent women at later career stages.

No women received any DPP prizes this year, except the Weimer which is reserved for women. 

Women continue to be heavily under-recognized for their scientific contributions. The APS awards several prizes. While in recent years, women are being recognized in the most prestigious awards for the first time in decennia, even in newer awards, women have a lower chance of being given an award. The discrepancy is worst in those awards, where teams are being recognized. (In 2022, we didn’t attribute any gender to the Dawson award, as it is given to a team).

Research has shown that women receive less recognition for group work[1]. Clearly something needs to change in how the nominations and selection of the awards is done so that we stop under evaluating the scientific contributions by women in our field. Second, the same is true for individual contributions[2]. We still have not reached the point where having women rewarded at a higher rate than their current demographic on a yearly basis would result in an imbalance with respect to recognition

Invited Talks

At the annual APS-DPP meeting we also try and keep track of whether women are well represented and given similar opportunities as men at the conference to present their research. To be given the opportunity to present an invited talk is a recognition of the high quality scientific work an individual has been performing. There have been enough examples (and there continue to be) of conference with only male speakers, or only male plenary speakers. While we do not interfere with the process of selecting the speakers for each APS DPP meeting, we keep track of the amount of female invited speakers and compare these numbers to the statistics related to membership. While these numbers show that women have not been given an unfair advantaged or been disadvantaged on average, some subgroups within the DPP sometimes have no or only 1 female speaker, with other groups compensating and thus achieving ‘average’ representation. It is no surprise that some subgroups have thus also been doing better in general with retaining and attracting women, than others.

In 2023, at least 17 (16.5%) of the 103 invited speakers are women, assuming just the regular and post-deadline invited talks. This is higher than the overall APS representation of 12%. However, typically invited speakers are active younger scientists and there at the graduate level we have 18% women and at the early career level we have 16.6% women (approximately the invited talk percentage). 

The percentage of women invited speakers decreases when we include the award, tutorial, and review talks, and none have any women speakers. The percentage drops to 15% for 113 total talks. Overall, this represents a small decrease from last year, making this the second year in a row we have seen a drop. More work should be done to solicit nominations from underrepresented minorities.




One of the highest achievements that can be given by the APS DPP to its members is to have them become fellows. Fellows are individuals that are mostly being recognized for their multiple and vast research contributions to the field of plasma physics. There are naturally fewer female fellows than male, but we also find that the chance of regular member to be a fellow are lower for women than for men.

Using the 2022 numbers (2023 still hasn’t been posted) of the 472 people who have been elected DPP fellows and are current members, 33 are women (6.99% of the total DPP membership)[1]. If we calculate the percentage of fellows per gender we find that women are less likely to be fellows compared to men, see figure 6. This gap continues to persist with a very small rate of closure, as seen in the difference to parity line for women. A linear fit to the (dis)parity line for women shows a 0.74% increase towards parity per year. At the current rate, that means 10 years to close the parity gap, relative to just %women in DPP.  

This means women need to make fellow at a higher percentage than their current demographic representation to make up for historically under-recognizing women achievements in plasma physics. To reach parity in a year, if we assume the same composition of the APS gender wise next year (11.4%) and that the number of fellows who are members of the DPP remains, we would need to lose 31 men and gain 24 women fellows.

[1] Source: APS (10/15/2021)
Figure: Percentage of DPP men fellows/men members in the APS DPP (blue) and percentage of DPP women fellows/women members (pink). Up to 2016, we didn’t have the actual number of APS men members and fellows, so the assumption was made that anyone who didn’t identify as a woman is a man (this inflates both the men members as well as the men fellows as this typically includes a percentage of individuals who do not share their gender with the DPP). Parity values relative to membership are shown (yellow line) including the difference to parity for men (blue line) and women (green).



Several studies have shown that women tend to carry a heavier pay load when it comes to community service. This is no different for women in the DPP. The first example is related to the percentage of female chairs at the annual APS DPP meeting. The main reason behind this statistic is that at one DPP meeting there was not a female chair, which statistically speaking should have been an anomaly. As such, women in plasma physics has started keeping a better count and remains the program committee chair each year to have a ‘fair’ balance. This has resulted in a strong increase in women chairing sessions at the annual APS DPP meeting, so much so, that women are now over represented based on statistics. These statistics do not distinguish the type of session the woman is chairing and thus the size of the audience. There is a difference between chairing a session full of invited talks, versus a session of contributed talks.

Even more stark are the female percentages when it comes to community service for the APS DPP and APS in general. While women are on average only 12% of the membership and regular members are only at 8%, the executive committee has in the last 11 years never dropped below 10% and has been above 30% for the last 7 years. 

There has been a similar strong increase in females appointed to various APS-DPP appointed committees, such that without included the Women In Plasma Physics Committee, we have have had more than 25% female representation for the last 5 years. This is the result of the fact that most of these appointed committees only have roughly 5 members and that if each of those has a female member, that results in the overall over-representation of women statistically. It also poses a high burden on women, to have a heavier service load than their male colleagues, something which is not something promotion and prize committees value highly.