Gender equality

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
3. funding
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.

2. Recruitment

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.

3. Funding

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.

Measures to foster equal opportunity and family-support. Black: Measures from the University of Bonn. Orange: measures specific for ImmunoSensation

4. Family support

The University guarantees that functions, which a mother or father fulfill are being continued by temporary replacement during periods of paternal leaves. As already implemented in the BONFOR program, costs associated with childcare are covered for female scientists.

To support families, the cluster has established a portfolio of specific offers, including financial support for students assistants during periods of parental leave, top quality childcare through a collaboration with the nursery ‘Max & Mary’ and through a contract with the family service “pme” and a parent-child room at the LIMES Institute (15 sqm). The nursery ‘Max & Mary’ is an English-speaking daycare facility which provides childcare, especially for young children (up to 3 years). It is conveniently located between the University Hospital and the LIMES Institute and offers extended opening hours from 7 am to 6 pm. To complement this regular daycare, the “pme” family service covers childcare in emergency situations and during school holidays. For example, the pme family service has been used to offer on-site childcare during full day meetings (Cluster Science Days) and to provide childcare in the parent-child room at the LIMES Institute when the regular daycare was closed due to holidays or unforeseen circumstances. This childcare package is offered to male and female researchers at all career stages, including postdoctoral fellows and PhD students.

Female careers

Overview percentage of women at ImmunoSensation:

Cluster Members


PhD Students


Post-doctoral fellows


Principal Investigators




Cluster-associated scientists




ImmunoSensation participates in two charity projects: 'Mary's meals' and 'Alte Schuhe - neues Leben'. Mary's meals is an organisation with many projects and we support the backpack project, which means that the members of ImmunoSensation donate backpacks that are filled with useful (school and hygiene related) items to support children in Malawi and Liberia. For the project Alte Schuhe - neues Leben we donate shoes, which will be sold to recycling companies and the proceeds go to the 'Fördergemeinschaft Deutsche Kinderherzzentren e.V.'.


Cluster provides Holiday Care and Back-Up Days for children

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