10 February 2017

UN International Day: Science needs women!

February 11th is the UN’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science – Humboldt Foundation campaigns for equal opportunities

Less than a third of the world’s women are engaged in science. With its International Day of Women and Girls in Science, the United Nations wants to increase awareness of the importance of promoting women researchers at all career stages. “The world needs science and science needs women,” says UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova. “Humanity cannot afford to ignore half of its creative genius.”

The Humboldt Foundation welcomes applications from and nominations of women

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation actively campaigns for equal opportunities in science and explicitly welcomes applications from and nominations of highly-qualified female researchers to its programmes. “We want to recruit the most promising talents worldwide – irrespective of gender. We already have a large number of female researchers in our network whose achievements exemplify the excellent academic work done by women,” emphasises Ulrike Albrecht, Head of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s Strategy and External Relations Department. 

From left to right: Francine Ntoumi (Photo: David Matthiessen), Judith Pfeiffer (Photo: Humboldt Foundation/Wolfgang Hemmann), Nowsheen Goonoo (Photo: Humboldt Foundation/Martin Steffen), Tiffany Knight (Photo: Humboldt Foundation/Wolfgang Hemmann)

Excellent female researchers in the Humboldt Network

In 2016, for example, three outstanding women researchers were awarded the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Professorships, each valued at five million euro: the ecologist Tiffany Knight, the Jewish Studies scholar Katrin Kogman-Appel and the Islamic Studies scholar Judith Pfeiffer. In 2015 and 2016, the proportion of women who received Alexander von Humboldt Professorships thus reached 58 per cent. In the Humboldt Foundation’s other programmes, as well, excellent women researchers are honoured with awards and young female researchers are promoted with fellowships.

Female hosts for international research teams 

“But we, too, observe that women are underrepresented, especially at the higher levels of the science system,” says Ulrike Albrecht. The total proportion of women in the Humboldt Foundation’s sponsorship and award programmes is about 30 per cent, which is average for the German research landscape as a whole. “We are observing current trends in this area very carefully in order to keep optimising our sponsorship portfolio and continue increasing the number of women we promote,” Albrecht comments. Moreover, the Humboldt Foundation encourages female researchers in Germany to become hosts and internationalise their research teams.

Twenty-eight per cent of researchers in Germany are female

The United Nations are celebrating this year’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science with, amongst others, an exhibition, workshops and conferences in Paris and New York. In order to report in more detail on the percentage of women in science, the UN has also created an interactive web platform, “Women in Science”, which provides information on the percentage of women in science in different countries and disciplines as well as at various career stages. In Germany, 45 per cent of Bachelor’s students are female, but only 28 per cent of researchers. This figure puts Germany in mid field in the world as a whole.

Photos (from above left to below right):
David Matthiessen, Martin Steffen, Wolfgang Hemmann, Wolfgang Hemmann

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Georg Scholl
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