The ImmunoSensation Cluster of Excellence is acutely aware of the difficulties women face in making the transition from postdoctoral training into more senior roles, while simultaneously pursuing a family. The funding in excellence programs e.g. by the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes shows that the percentages of highly talented women and men during their education at universities (48,8%) and during their doctoral thesis (48.5%; source: Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes 2010) are similar.
ImmunoSensation has taken great efforts to guarantee gender equality, to increase the representation of female scientists at all levels, and to specifically support female scientists to the higher ranks of academic careers. Our measures aim to provide career support, funding, family support and promote recruitment of excellent female scientists. The measurable outcome of these efforts demonstrates that ImmunoSensation is well on its way to its gender equality goals. Currently, more than 50% of the PhD students in the cluster are female, and the percentage of female postdocs increased from 53% in 2014 to 58% in 2017. At the group leader level, the percentage of female scientists has increased from 36 % in 2014 to 42% currently.
Thus it is evident that underrepresentation of women in certain academic fields is not due to a lack of talent, and that the main target area for gender equality measures is the female career advancement from postdoc to academic independence and professorships.
Specific cluster strategy and measures to achieve gender equality
The organizational structure of the cluster ImmunoSensation is designed to provide the best possible support for female scientists and to optimally complement the gender equality activities of the University of Bonn. In order to ensure the quality of the measures taken, the University of Bonn has implemented a gender equality office headed by the equal opportunity commissioner (Sandra Hanke).
Our strategy is to advance female careers in four areas:
1. career support
2. recruitment of new scientists
4. family support.
A number of steps to support female careers have already been taken.
1. Career support
In addition to the existing mentoring program (MeTra Program of the University of Bonn), intensive career counseling will be implemented. A senior scientist of the Cluster of Excellence will be assigned as personal mentor to each young female scientist. In addition, a board of successful female scientists will provide advice on career planning and support. A monthly seminar series featuring successful female scientists will be a forum to learn from experienced colleagues.
The ImmunoSensation Cluster of Excellence is convinced that promotion of highly qualified female scientist to leading positions is one of the most promising measures to reach gender equality in science. Therefore, the cluster is dedicated to fill 50% of leading positions, i.e. chairs, professorships and young investigators and Else-Kröner clinician-scientists, with highly qualified female scientists. Our goal is to increase the percentage of female members in the Cluster of Excellence to 40% within the next five years. In the Cluster of Excellence, a committee for gender equality continuously monitors the success rate of gender equality and reports to the Senate Committee for Equality and the Equality Steering Group of the University. A recruitment committee is continuously searching for highly qualified female candidates to be recruited to the cluster at all career levels. The cluster use ad personam recruitments for outstanding and renowned female scientists. Furthermore, a Dual Career Program provides seed funding for up to 50% of the salary in order to provide partners an attractive position in Bonn.
Specific gender equality funds are available for situtations requiring family support. ImmunoSensation finances student assistants and part-time technicians to assist female scientists in situations with limited time resources due to familial obligations. Female young scientists can apply for funds in the BONFOR program, for Gerok stipends and young investigator groups. In addition to BONFOR, in the Cluster of Excellence, half of the flexible funds of ForImmun are reserved for supporting projects or additional junior research groups of female scientists.