Promotion of gender equality

In the board of CIPSM is at least one female member (at present: Prof. Dr. K. Jung) represented. This female member will be specifically responsible for the handling of gender issues and will act as positive role model for a successful academic carrier. The current low representation of women in the higher ranks of academia is a great concern in German science and European science in general. Studies have shown that although men and women are equally represented at the PhD-student level, women leave science in disproportionate higher numbers at the postdoc level and even more so at the group-leader level. The economic loss for every woman giving up science after a PhD is large: reaching this level of training costs an estimated 500,000 Euro of public and personal investment and losing the research potential of this highly-trained workforce is no longer affordable in the context of increasing international competition. The reasons for the drop out are complex, ranging from imposed to self-imposed discrimination; the drop out coincides with the timing of family and child bearing. It is clear that realistic goals need to be established to address this problem. As an immediate action, the CIPSM will enforce equal opportunities and actively encourage applications from women. CIPSM will also introduce three defined measures that have a more long-term perspective:

  1. provide adequate and affordable childcare facilities. Together with the heads of the Universities, we will push for an immediate increase of the existing childcare facilities (for example those provided by the MPIs and the IZB) and for the establishment of a new facility both at LMU and TUM.

  2. provide support at the PhD and postdoc level. In case of pregnancy, female PhD students and postdocs will be able to apply to the central funds for childcare support (we calculate 500 Euro salary increase). Furthermore, half-time technician positions will be funded and assigned to women with children for one year. This support is designed to avoid a drop in productivity that would reduce the chances of the female researcher to proceed to the next career step (i.e. junior independent positions).

  3. provide support at the junior group leader and tenure-track level, during the first years of the independent career. Female junior group leaders with children will be able to apply to the Cluster for funds to pay for domestic help. The funds will be provided for 3 years, with the possibility of a 2-year extension based on scientific performance. This financial support is designed to enable the female researcher to concentrate on science and progress competitively towards the next career step, i.e towards senior positions.

The development of flexible work models on the basis of individual life models maintains the chances to combine the professional tasks with family care, sabbaticals, or further studies. This development will be supported by CiPSM. Moreover, all cluster partners can rely on programs that are installed on the higher institutional levels. Dual-career programs or offers to support scientific careers of women are in existence or in development progress both at TUM and LMU.

These measures offer support for younger female scientists of the Cluster to pursue a career in research while bringing up a family, and are tailored specifically at increasing the number of qualified women in senior positions. Although seldom applied, the idea behind it is far from being new. In 1955 Dorothy Hodgkin, Nobel prize winner and mother of three children, appealed: ‘If a young married woman is to carry out serious scientific work, she must live the same kind of life that her husband, engaged in the same kind of occupation, expects to live. She must not be overburdened with household duties and cares. To speak more personally, I could never have carried out the amount of scientific research I have achieved if I had not, at the time of my marriage, been earning a sufficient salary to permit me to pay for help in our home’.

In addition CIPSM will have a women’s club for female PhD and postdoctoral students organized by the two female board members. Within the club, personal and academic issues affecting women in science will be addressed. Workshops and seminars will be organized for female scientists. Themes of these events will focus on e.g., leadership training, professional vocational development, and career development. Moreover, a mentoring program will be set up to promote networking and interdisciplinary exchange between female scientists and to provide support in career development.

TU München
Helmholz Muenchen
MPI of Neurobiology
MPI of Biochemistry