Transforming the World
Mentoring, Gender, and Diversity at MATH+
The gender equality agenda is one of the top priorities at MATH+. In order to keep a constant focus on this agenda, following the model set by Berlin Mathematical School (BMS) since 2006, the MATH+ Mentoring, Gender, and Diversity Committee meets each semester. Working with the Gender Equality Officers of the three mathematics institutes, this Committee coordinates the MATH+ equality goals and achievements with the equal opportunity plans of the institutes (“Frauenförderpläne”). The committee is headed by the Special Coordinator for Equal Opportunity and Diversity, assisted by the MATH+ Gender and Diversity Manager, a dedicated office position at the MATH+ Central Office, who will bring her energy and expertise to MATH+.
MATH+ will actively pursues the mission to be an environment that can “make a difference” as a place and a community that fosters careers, embraces diversity, and initiates and supports strong (and possibly unusual) moves towards equal opportunity. There is detailed gender monitoring across all parts of MATH+, from hiring processes to the distribution of travel funds, as part of the quality control measures.
Attracting Top Female Mathematicians
In order to address the lack of role models discussed above, MATH+ has hired Andrea Walther (HU Berlin) and Gabriele Steidl (TU Berlin) for two of the new MATH+ Professorships. A third position at FU is still awaiting the final assignment.
Out of the six MATH+ Junior Research groups, four positions have been filled and we are proud that two are filled with women, Nicole Mücke at TU Berlin and Sarah Wolf at FU Berlin.
Hiring committees for positions in MATH+ start with a presentation on “unconscious biases” in selection procedures, also in order to meet the challenges set by the DFG’s Research-Oriented Standards on Gender Equality.
Strengthening the effect of female role models
Having female professors as role models is an important factor in the career decisions of young scientists. Conferences and workshops funded by MATH+ need to meet gender equality criteria that increase the visibility of established female researchers (as speakers), but also give junior researchers access to these role models. At the same time, MATH+ is also continuing the very popular Kovalevskaya Lunches, where renowned female mathematicians have shared their experiences in a private setting since 2007, talking openly about career paths, networks, choices, difficult decisions, and opportunities.
Each year, MATH+ awards two Hanna Neumann Fellowships to female postdoctoral researchers in recognition of outstanding work.
In an interview the first two Hanna Neumann Fellows, Marta Panizzut und Nicole Mücke talked about their career paths, role models, how to combine family and career in sciences, and the passion for mathematics.
Gender awareness of faculty members
In the past the BMS Admissions Committee has benefited from presentations on “unconscious bias.” In addition, MATH+ will regularly hold Gender Awareness Workshops for junior and senior researchers to increase awareness about gender stereotypes and promote a culture of equality in the academic institutions. A combination of training and exercises is designed to provide staff with the necessary knowledge, techniques and tools to integrate gender issues (along with attention to cultural differences and other diversity issues) into their work and, in particular, into their didactic experiences and competences.
Institutional Research: MATH+ as a Research Object
MATH+ initiated and funds a sociological research project that studies MATH+ as an arena both for career decisions and for academic selection; it serves as an additional level of analysis on how MATH+ is doing in career development. The goal of the project is twofold: new research insights for the “leaky pipeline” in mathematics academia as well as provision of information on diversity issues of career support activities of the MATH+ cluster.
We hope that the size of MATH+ will allow a substantial sociological panel study at the micro- and meso-scales, which can identify mechanisms and propose counter-measures that will make a difference. The study will run for long enough to not only make snap-shots or work retroactively, but will also be in the position to observe and document developments throughout careers. Moreover, the integration of the project into the cluster makes it possible to not only conduct a panel survey on the junior research fellows (including PhD students), but also provides the unique opportunity of “matching” in-depth interviews with PIs, also if necessary in panel design.
Key questions will include: What are the crucial factors that determine whether young (in particular female) scientists stay in academia or leave? What are the crucial mechanisms that lead to the “leaky pipeline” phenomenon? How active and valid is the “role expectation” based on the assumption that “if women do everything right, they will succeed” (in a mostly male environment)? What non-obvious and implicit biases are hidden in the communication patterns of mathematics research? What mechanisms and interdependences turn out to be crucial for career decisions?
The first part of the survey is concluded and first evaluations are currently running.
BMS specific Mentoring, Gender and Diversity Activities
• Mentoring program for Phase II students
• Hilda Geiringer scholarship
• Buddy program for new students (more information in the Guidebook for new BMS students)
• Intercultural training for new BMS students (more information at the BMS Orientation website)
• Soft-skills seminars (a few for women only)
• Counseling for female students, student parents, and international students