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Photo: ETH Zurich/D-PHYS Heidi Hostettler

Equal opportunity at work

More than 80 scientists and those interested in issues related to 'gender and science' joined a two-day meeting at ETH Zurich, organized by the National Center of Competence MUST — where ETH is one the leading houses — and the Excellence Cluster RESOLV, hosted at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. Source: ETH Zurich/D-PHYS

"We have to change the institutions, not to fix the women", said Prof. Ursula Keller in her introductory presentation to the two-day Gender and Science Meeting that took place at ETH Zurich on 13 and 14 September. And she is in a position to effectivley help doing that. Keller is a professor at the Institute for Quantum Electronics in the ETH Department of Physics and serves as the Director of the National Centre of Competence NCCR MUST, an interdisciplinary research programme in 'ultrafast science' launched by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) in 2010.  

Since its launch, one important component of the MUST network has been the support, promotion and discussion of equal opportunities for female and male researchers. Whereas gender equality is one of the stated goals of the overall NCCR programme, MUST stands out as a good example of how diverse measures have been implemented, emphasised SNSF Director Angelika Kalt when speaking at the meeting.

One particularly noteworthy example of how institutional changes can make a difference is that of the ETH Women Professors Forum. This network of female faculty members makes their expertise available to encourage young women to pursue a career in science or engineering. It was originally created and established by NCCR MUST, then consolidated within ETH Zurich and later expanded to EPF Lausanne and to other institutions in Switzerland and beyond.

A part of the international effort pursued by NCCR MUST is also the regular exchange with colleagues at the German Excellence Cluster RESOLV, hosted at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. These meetings were so far typically for female participants only, but the most recent MUST/RESOLV event in Zurich was now explicitly open to everyone — an opportunity that was evidently taken, reflected in a notable fraction of men in the audience.

During the two days, the participants heard, and discussed with, speakers from Switzerland and Europe who made presentations on key issues and current initiatives to counter gender imbalance in science, including talks on recent research on equal opportunities, experiences gathered in different countries, barriers to career development, the balance of family life and scientific research, and on many other topics.

The collected presentations given at the meeting can be found on the NCCR MUST website.



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