Last Wednesday, Professor Nicole Radde presented her annual report as Gender Equality Officer to the joint public session of the Senate and University Council. This was in actual fact a “triple report”, since the scheduled dates in spring 2019 for the last public report for the period between January 2017 and March 2018 were initially postponed several times for various reasons and ultimately canceled entirely due to the corona pandemic.
More female professors, stagnation in mid-level positions and the coronavirus as a handicap for female students and researchers with children
At the beginning of the Gender Equality Report, Nicole Radde referred to the extra burdens faced by female members of the university in particular of having to care for family members as a result of the corona pandemic. Drawing on examples from a female student, a female member of the academic staff and a manager, she impressively describes the impacts of the pandemic in light of the closure of schools and childcare facilities. She says that this extra burden on those with the responsibility of looking after other people also needs to be taken into account and made visible in performance evaluations. Prof. Radde adds that particular effort should be made over the next few years to ensure that the disadvantages caused to those affected by the pandemic (worse grades due to having less time and peace and quiet for studying, longer qualification periods, delays in projects due to laboratories being closed and materials not being available, fewer publications or less third-party funding, etc...) do not have a negative impact on equal opportunities in appointment procedures for job vacancies. She made an urgent appeal to the university management to develop and implement measures which would help avoid losing female early career researchers in particular from the academic system.
Changes in the share of women at the University of Stuttgart over time
After giving an overview of the structural changes carried out since the creation of the Vice Rectorate for Early Career Researchers and Diversity together with the impact they have had on efforts to achieve gender equality at the University of Stuttgart, Prof. Radde then turned her attention to how the share of women at the different qualification levels of an academic career has changed over the last two decades.
This shows that the University has had limited success in terms of increasing the proportion of female students, although even female high school students are showing a lot of interest in student orientation projects such as the TryScience project run by the Gender Equality Office. Prof. Radde says it is important to make the most popular study programs in the University’s core subjects in particular more attractive to young women in order to turn the slow but steady increase in the share of female students to 34.2% over the last ten years into a more significant increase.
Less progress has been made in the mid-level faculty (26.2% women) in recent years however, which is mostly down to the fact that the positions are filled on a decentralized basis and often without following set appointment procedures. Since the DFG is now also making “clear written policies and procedures for personnel selection and development as well as for early career support and equal opportunity” a requirement for funding in its “Guidelines for Ensuring Good Scientific Practice”, it is time to rectify this situation. If the principle of actively recruiting female applicants which has been made mandatory for appointment procedures since the introduction of the LHG amendment was also applied to the mid-level faculty, the prospects for change would look good, as can be seen by the comparison with other TU9 universities.
Furthermore, the strategy for successfully attracting female professors also needs to be applied to early career researchers for the purpose of increasing the number of women in the mid-level faculty. Structured processes in particular have had a positive effect on ensuring transparency with regard to the qualifications of applicants and minimizing the impact of unconscious bias. These are said to have worked progressively better in appointment procedures over the past few years and led to significantly more female researchers being appointed. However, it is also worth noting that female researchers turned down their job offers at the University of Stuttgart much more often than male researchers. There are a variety of reasons behind this, however in Prof. Radde’s opinion there are still improvements to be made, namely conducting negotiations in a gender-sensitive way. Nevertheless, the share of female professors has jumped sharply by more than four percentage points in the last three years to 18.6%.
In the last part of her report, Prof. Nicole Radde highlighted the wide range of measures which the Gender Equality Office has used over the past year to attract more female students to the University of Stuttgart, strengthen female students and make them enthusiastic about a scientific career. She also highlighted the need to make (early career) researchers more visible, break down structural barriers for members of the university with families and to increase awareness of equal opportunities and diversity issues across the university.
Summary after two terms in office
To round off the presentation, Nicole Radde gave a summary of her two terms of office as Gender Equality Officer. She said that it was a highly political office with plenty of opportunities to make an impact and shape policy, and gives a comprehensive insight into committees and how decisions are made. Her experience as a professor has been hugely beneficial to her career, as has the management experience she has gained and the contribution she has made towards developing the University. However, anybody hoping to be successful in the position definitely needs to have a vision as well as ideas, drive and perseverance, since equal opportunities between men and women still can’t be taken for granted. However, Prof. Radde claimed that there are good support structures in place at the University of Stuttgart, and with a bit of networking and exchange based on the “Stuttgarter Weg” (Stuttgart Way), women can achieve great things.
Signing off as Gender Equality Officer, Nicole Radde thanked her many supporters from across the University, and wished her successor, who is due to be appointed at the last Senate session of the summer semester, plenty of luck. Rector Prof. Wolfram Ressel and Prof. Bernhard Keimer, Chairman of the University Council, thanked Professor Radde for all her commitment – as did many of those taking part in the public session of the Senate and University Council via chat.
- The Gender Equality Report as a PDF
You can now download the written report of the Gender Equality Officer. The report is non-accessible. If you cannot read the information, please contact the Gender Equality Office.