Cover Story: Careers with obstacles – Women in academia
Between Lab and Bib
"We’re losing out on a lot of brain power,” was the comment of one of the women researchers we spoke to for this issue about the lack of opportunities for women in academia. She was referring to Germany, but the problem is global: from the USA via Europe to Asia; in South America just as in Africa. Female researchers everywhere are underrepresented in leading positions and are confronted with similar problems. On the following pages we are presenting excerpts from what female Humboldtians in the most diverse countries, disciplines and career stages are reporting on their experiences. What emerges is a very personal, strongly individual picture which, although it would not count as representative if strict statistical criteria were applied, is a very revealing one.
Special promotion of women on gender grounds is something the respondents only partially support. They all emphasise that quotas and special programmes smack of the assumption that women are less qualified. For this reason, most of them adhere unconditionally to a performance principle.
Despite all the many uniting factors, there are some, such as geographical or social background and academic discipline, that make their own impact. In some countries equal opportunities measures are already bearing fruit, in others, there is still a lot of catching up to be done. It becomes quite clear that anyone wanting to promote female academics has to think very carefully about the measures that will actually be effective and not boomerang back on the women themselves.
All the women emphasise that they have to be particularly strong and persevering as well as be prepared to work harder than their male colleagues, indeed, have to work harder in order to prove their competence. And it emerges that they have a great deal of courage and self-confidence, as well as a good sense of humour. Just like the brainpower, this is potential that the man’s world of science should not lose out on.
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