Strong women – empowering women

June 5, 2024

Chancellor Anna Steiger and Equal Opportunities Officer Silvia Meyer discuss the role and advancement of women at the University of Stuttgart in an interview following the Women's Plenary Assembly.
[Picture: University of Stuttgart / Ludmilla Parsyak]

The Women's Plenary Assembly at the University of Stuttgart, held under the motto "Empowering Women," was a resounding success. On May 16, 2024, over 100 participants from the fields of science, technology, and administration attended the Women's Plenary Assembly at the University of Stuttgart. The event featured a welcome address by Chancellor Anna Steiger, moderation by the Deputy Equal Opportunities Officer Julia König, and a presentation by keynote speaker Erika Magyarosi.

Julia König, Anna Steiger and Erika Magyarosi at the Women's Plenary Assembly at the University of Stuttgart.
Julia König, Anna Steiger and Erika Magyarosi at the women's plenary session at the University of Stuttgart.

“We are delighted that we were able to address so many women,” emphasizes organizer Silvia Meyer. "My primary goal for the Women's Plenary Assembly, aside from delivering inspiring presentations, is to facilitate the formation of networks among women at the university." The lively gathering, characterized by a positive atmosphere and widespread praise for the organizers and volunteers, clearly demonstrated that the event successfully achieved this objective.

Silvia Meyer, Equal Opportunities Officer (left), and Chancellor Anna Steiger
Silvia Meyer, Equal Opportunities Officer (left), and Chancellor Anna Steiger

Interview: Strong women - empowering women

In this interview Anna Steiger, Chancellor at the University of Stuttgart, and Equal Opportunities Officer, Silvia Meyer, will be talking about strong women at the University of Stuttgart and projects that empower women.

Ms. Steiger, you have been Chancellor of the University of Stuttgart since the end of 2023. How have you experienced the women here so far?

Anna Steiger: I have received a very friendly and supportive welcome here. I have had the opportunity to meet impressive women in all professional groups and at all levels - women who are extremely well educated, highly qualified and very committed, who express their opinions in committees and at meetings with great vigor and conviction. They present themselves as remarkably competent, objective, self-confident, and with a generous dose of humor.

The Chancellor of the University in conversation. Her interviewer has his back to the camera.
Anna Steiger, Chancellor of the University of Stuttgart, in conversation at the Women's Plenary Assembly.

Ms. Meyer, as the Equal Opportunities Officer at the University of Stuttgart, how do you advocate for women at the university?

Silvia Meyer: As the Equal Opportunities Officer, I serve as the primary contact for all administrative and technical employees at the University of Stuttgart. This is a very extensive field of work that requires a high degree of diplomacy. I support the university management in implementing the Equal Opportunities Act. For instance, when it comes to supporting women, I focus on promoting their advancement in areas where they are underrepresented. And I advise on how to reconcile family, care duties and work.

Why and how does the University of Stuttgart actively position itself as a preferred employer for women, and what areas could benefit from improvement?

Anna Steiger: The university's central administration boasts a team of highly competent women - team leaders, department heads, heads of department. We provide women with excellent career opportunities and three out of eight department heads are women.

It is important to recognize that transitioning from academia to administration can also be a valuable career path. We need people from research in administrative roles. This is the only way we can ensure that administrative structures are compatible with science.

In engineering disciplines especially, there is much we can do to cultivate girls' interest in studying these fields and to shape the university environment so that women feel welcome in science, have the same opportunities as their male colleagues, and are motivated to pursue successful careers.

It is important to me that science and central administration work together as equals. There is still room for improvement in terms of cooperation. It is important to emphasize that we rely on each other; all activities should be equally valued and respected.

A meeting room full of women. They pat themselves on the back with their hands.
The University of Stuttgart offers women good career opportunities.

What initiatives and projects are currently being implemented at the University of Stuttgart to empower women?

Silvia Meyer: An essential aspect of my role involves overseeing the personnel selection process. With approximately 300 job postings annually, the emphasis is on roles involving personnel management and technical professions. I make sure that equal opportunities are taken into account during these interviews and that we ideally hire a woman, especially in areas where women are underrepresented. I am also involved when it comes to formulating a job advertisement in such a way that all interested parties feel addressed.

Another important issue when it comes to balancing work and private life is caring for family members. With almost 6000 employees at the university, this is, as is usually the case, often the responsibility of women. We currently have a care coordinator, and alongside our networking meetings, we also offer presentations on this topic.

The online platform Evermood, which I launched, has been very well received and many colleagues were involved in its introduction. Whether it's sexual harassment, mental health issues, or family concerns, you can report them here - either anonymously or openly. We provide support in case of conflicts and crises, offer guidance, and connect you with the appropriate resources and contacts to meet your specific needs. This platform is available to all university employees - and also for students.

What additional improvements or expansions would you like to see implemented?

Silvia Meyer: There are still numerous issues to address, such as programs for women wishing to return to work, qualifications for women, flexible working hour models, and equal pay. Effective collaboration with relevant departments is an essential part of successfully implementing all these initiatives. If I could wish for anything, it would be to share the workload between several people and tackle these numerous issues together.

Flexible working hours are a major topic. We already offer our employees excellent support in this area with our current service agreement “Remote working”. However, we still have some catching up to do in other areas, particularly with regard to pay scale groupings, especially in the secretary's office. There have been significant changes in work tasks in recent years, and it is important to examine this area more closely.

Ms. Steiger, where and how would you like to strengthen women at the University of Stuttgart in the future?

Anna Steiger: I always find it a bit difficult when you have to empower women. I understand that it is sometimes necessary, I myself once had to overcome a few hurdles and difficulties when returning to work after maternity leave. But it is actually about shaping the organization, i.e. the university, in such a way that women - and not just women, simply all employees - can achieve their full potential. It would therefore make sense to schedule meetings in such a way that care duties do not suffer as a result.

I have been working on gender equality for over 20 years and have come to the conclusion that what is good for women is also good for men and makes an organization better overall. Employee participation and fairness for all genders should be possible at our university. People are often afraid that they will lose something if others get more access, but no one is being deprived of anything - everyone wins.

The University as employer – Attractive and reliable


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