sfb860Goettingen UniversityMax-Plank-Institute

Promotion of gender equality

The Georg-August-University‘s gender equality activities have been evaluated by external experts and awarded with the “TOTAL E-QUALITY Award” in 2011 for the second time. The  implementation of the research-oriented standards on gender equality lead for the third time to the top grade “Stadium 4”. Therefore the measures of the CRC 860 are based on the University’s programs and offers, which are adapted with respect to the CRC 860 demand, and the CRC closely cooperates with University’s Equal Opportunities Office and its Family Service.

Before reporting about the CRC 860 gender equality measures during the first funding period and explaining the CRC 860 gender concept for the next funding period, it should firstly be drawn the attention to the actual gender situation in the participating faculties of the CRC 860.

Starting in 2010 the Georg-August-University Göttingen has established a gender controlling system, which allows extraction of information on the percentage of positions occupied by women within the qualification levels of the respective faculties in 2012. In the faculties of Biology and Medicine the ratio in female and male PhD students is almost balanced, whereas in Physics and Mathematics female PhD students are underrepresented.
This fraction of female scientists decreases only slightly at the level of the Postdocs, with respect to each faculty. In contrast female scientists are underrepresented at the level of professor.

The balance between female and male PhD students within the CRC 860 is nearly realized (40% = 12 female PhD students), whereas it is almost reached at the postdoc level (46% = 15 female postdocs), which is a result of a conscious employment of women within the CRC 860 by active recruiting.

At the level of junior project leaders and professors women are underrepresented. According to the feedback of female scientists the significant but not the sole reason for this status quo is still the difficulty of linking a balanced family life and a scientific career. Even if several female scientists are motivated to realize a career towards a leadership position in science the current situation can only be changed through a long-term strategy, given to the fact that most of positions held by male scientists are long term occupied. Nevertheless, during the first funding period the female share within the level “professor” has been increased from 15% to 24% in the faculty of biology in 2010.
The gender equality policy at the University of Göttingen is based on three columns:

  • Career promotion for women
  • Sensibilization of employees for the gender equality theme
  • Compatibility of family and scientific career

With respect to Career promotion for women the CRC 860 offered various seminars such as “Rhetoric for Women”, “Application Training for Female Natural Scientists” and “Measures of Problem Solving in Leadership function” during the current funding period. The seminar offer was individually customized and organized for the needs of CRC 860 members in cooperation with the CRC 803. During the next funding period this offer will be continued and extended by additional seminars such as “Dual Career Planning for Relationships of two Scientists” – which has become an increasingly common constellation.

To motivate more women to a scientific career the Georg-August-University Göttingen has established the Dorothea Schlözer-Program in 2009. The program gives female PhDs and Postdocs the possibility to obtain stipends and financial funds for their own research projects and to make their own steps towards a scientific career. Besides the financing a qualification program (for postdocs) and a mentoring program (for PhD and Postdocs) is included. The women are supported by experienced mentors who consult them not only in research affairs, but also in social competence and leadership subjects. The mentoring is additionally accompanied by different courses such as “self marketing”, “presentation skills”, “networking” etc. The CRC 860 supported these events and took over a part of the costs. These existing offers have recently been expanded by a short-term international mentorship to improve the visibility within the international community and to strengthen the international networking activities of female scientists. The mentorship is supposed to last six months and should preferably take place in a foreign country. The CRC 860 intends to offer this program for its female CRC members in cooperation with the University of Göttingen.

Currently significantly less female than male Postdocs remain in academia. The CRC 860 has the responsibility not only to increase the share of women in leadership positions in science but also in the private sector of economy. Therefore the CRC 860 intends to present alternative possibilities for leadership positions in research outside of academia, which could be supported by a mentorship.

The sensibilization for gender equality was realized by seminars such as “Leadership Excellence” and the forum “There is always Room for Improvement” during the current funding period. These events were arranged in cooperation with the CRC 803 and CRC 755 and presented the different aspects of diversity. The events were well attended and led to intensive discussions.

These measures will be continued and extended during the next funding period. Lectures with gender equality as the topic given by an expert during the annual retreats are planned. Not only the current leaders but also the next generation of leaders need to be further sensibilized for their leadership tasks with respect to gender equality and the compatibility of career and family. Therefore a seminar “Leadership of employees with familiar engagement” aims to make the participants familiar with new leading methods, life models, work models and attitude changes.

The part Compatibility of family and career is of most importance for the members of the CRC 860. Therefore it is a special request of the CRC 860 to integrate this element in its gender concept in order to simplify the compatibility of family and career for scientists. The aim is to use the already existing offers of the Georg-August-University and extend them for the CRC 860 members.

The University’s FamilyService is well accepted by the scientists. This institution supports scientists and University facilities to find adequate personnel for flexible childcare. In particular in cases like the child’s or caretaker’s unforeseeable sickness, closure time of day care or events outside normal care hours such as conferences or official journeys, employees tend to use the offers. The CRC 860 provides additional support if the scientists have already exhausted the normal standing offer of four episodes per scientist and year supplied by the University. The scientists are also given the possibility to take their child or children along in the cases of special reasons such as handicaps of the child, during the lactation period etc. The CRC 860 covers the expenses for the child such as accommodation in the hotel, travel tickets and salary for personnel during the journey. For the next funding period the intension is to extend this funding to support scientists in long-lasting lab experiments which last beyond the normal care hours.

Parents are mostly afraid to neglect their children because of long working hours which are often a requirement for a scientific career. To minimize this parents’ concern the CRC 860 offers to engage additional student research assistants in order to decrease the workload of the scientists in regard to routine works or simple experiments. Another possibility is to increase the working time of an already employed technical assistant. During the last funding period the CRC 860 supported young parents in their roles as scientists and (becoming) parents:

  • the CRC 860 fostered a female postdoc, who has to take care of two children and needs more experimental time as the available working time.
  • several pregnant scientists were supported by student research assistants because legal rules do not allow to work with mutagenic, cancerogenic, radioactive and toxic compounds in the lab.
  • during the current funding period one home office working place has been set up. This is another possibility for the scientists to increase their flexibility.

Moreover, for the purpose of creating more convenient working times for families the lecture time of CRC 860 colloquia were rescheduled from the late afternoon (17:00) to about noon (12:00 or 13:00).

In order to give an “early on” insight into the compatibility of family and career, the concept of a more structured and economical framework for scientists who are going to become parents is intended to be established. The aim is to combine the already available measures of the university with individually adapted possibilities. A continuous revision is supposed to grant both aims family and career in a good balance.



Prof. Dr. Ralf Ficner mail
Tel.: +49 (0)551-39-14072
Fax: +49 (0)551-39-14082

SFB860 Administration
Contact email: mail
Susanne van Beckum mail
Tel.: +49 (0)551-39-10972
Fax: +49 (0)551-39-14082
SFB860 Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

Abtl. Molekulare Strukturbiologie
Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 11
37077 Göttingen