May 26, 2021

Diversity in the faculties: “It is not enough just to think I’m tolerant.”

As of this year, all faculties and central institutions of the University of Stuttgart have diversity commissions. Sabrina Jenne from the Diversity Commission of Faculty 8 talks about her motivations, tasks, and goals.

“Diversity looks different at each faculty and in each department of the University of Stuttgart,” Sabrina Jenne observes. “I did my Bachelor’s degree at the Faculty of Humanities, my Master’s at the Faculty of Computer Science, Electrical Engineering and Information Technology, and now I work in the Secretary’s Office of the 3rd Institute of Physics at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics. I was able to observe very well how different diversity can look in the individual faculties.” And, according to her, there are also different levels of awareness in this regard. Because of this experience, the linguist is involved in the Diversity Commission of Faculty 8 Mathematics and Physics, and promotes diversity, equal opportunities, and gender equality in the department.

As of this year, there are diversity commissions and, optionally, also diversity officers at each faculty, at the Stuttgart Centers, and in the Clusters of Excellence. In April, the Vice Rectorate for Early Career Researchers and Diversity invited all diversity officers and commission members to a first joint information event. On this occasion, the members exchanged their experiences and built a network. The aim of the newly established commissions is to identify diversity issues in the faculties and, depending on individual needs, address them with appropriate measures. Further meetings of all diversity officers and commission members are planned for this purpose.

Diversity is an enrichment and enables us to successfully work together in teams and benefit from each other.

Prof. Jörg Wrachtrup, Spokesperson of the Diversity Commission of Faculty 8

The first and, so far, the largest diversity commission is that of Faculty 8. Prof. Jörg Wrachtrup, who is the speaker of the commission, and eight other faculty members want to jointly develop ideas and measures on how diversity can become ever more visible in the Department of Mathematics and Physics. “Diversity is an enrichment and enables us to successfully work together in teams and benefit from each other. We see diversity as an essential part of our department and of our working together,” Prof. Wrachtrup says. The Diversity Commission itself is diverse Besides four professors, the Faculty Manager, and two students, the team also includes a member of the administrative staff as well as a representative of the doctoral researchers.

Ideas and measures of the Diversity Commission

In a first step, the Diversity Commission of Faculty 8 wants to make an honest assessment and find out who is actually studying at the faculty. “Only the categories of women, men, and international students are included in the figures. There is no data on, for example, age, social background, and gender. Of course, these data are very sensitive and, therefore, difficult to collect,” says Jenne. In the next step, Jenne and her colleagues can imagine having faculty members of different backgrounds, ages, and genders report on their respective careers and the challenges they had to face, thereby making others aware of the issue.

Sabrina Jenne

Only when as many viewpoints as possible are represented can we develop enriching ideas and cover needs

Sabrina Jenne, member of the Diversity Commission of Faculty 8

To Jenne it is important to clarify that “diversity is more than just gender”. There are numerous other dimensions such as age, social background, nationality, and health. And she is convinced that any group benefits from the diversity of its members, regardless of whether it is a seminar group as part of university studies, a research group, or the Diversity Commission. “All people want to be seen and feel noticed. Only when as many viewpoints as possible are represented can we develop enriching ideas and cover needs, so that no one will be left behind.

It is important, she says, that we use the diversity of a group to our advantage. According to her, listening to those who are directly affected by a decision usually leads to more success than making decisions in a condescending manner. “In my opinion it’s not enough just to think that I’m tolerant. It’s also about actively showing that everybody is welcome.”

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