Professor in Cultural Learning – University of Aarhus – Denmark

UPGEM Cultural diversity in physics in Europe

Understanding Cultural Puzzles in Gendered European Map


A report of key cultural findings can be found here
The background for the UPGEM project was the severe problems which faces the European Union over the next decades. The general decrease in populations will affect all sectors of higher education and research. The natural sciences – and especially physics – encounter increasing problems with brain-drain, especially of female physicists. Even so the share of the share of female physicists leaving a commenced career in physics varies across the European member-states. The UPGEM-project has found a cultural answer in the diversity of the organizational workplace cultures.

Background & Findings

It is a matter of utmost concern that few female scientists are attracted to research careers in natural sciences; that those who are often leave the research system prematurely; and that well-qualified female scientists seldom or never reach top-level positions or achieve distinguished careers in research and development, to the same extent as their male counterparts. This is a fact that has been well established through figures from a number of studies both at European and national level, notably the Helsinki Report, the ETAN-report, the SHE-figures and the ENWISE survey.

Even though the overall picture is a dismal one, an interesting configuration of cultural diversity emerges when the gendered European map is observed closely. Figures show that it has been comparatively easier to attract female students to the field of physics in Eastern and Southern European countries than in the North. The UPGEM project has followed up on these facts and documented that is also comparatively easier to attract female physicists to a continued career in the field of physics in Eastern and especially in Southern European countries than in the North, and that career paths for both men and women also seem to follow different national patterns.

Project results was published in in two publications Draw the Line! and Break the Pattern and in a large number of articles and papers. For a list of selected publication see here.

Research based recommendations for more gender-sensitive research workplace cultures was also presented at the UPGEM closing conference in May 2008 in Copenhagen. The action-oriented recommendations address two levels; 1) the level of ideology and 2) the level of practice. Read more about the closing conference here.

Culture Contrast Model

As a part of the UPGEM project a new model of analysis was developed. With this model the project sought to find similarities and differences in the way in narratives and experiences of the interviewed scientists.
The model focuses on the three analytical axes:

  • a gender axis (male/female),
  • a culture axis (physics as and in culture) and
  • a brain-drain axis (stayer & leaver).


Cathrine Hasse was the co-ordinator of the cultural diversity project UPGEM 2005-2008.

UPGEM developed a model for contrasting cultures