International Women's Day 2022

The theme of IWD in 2022 #BreaktheBias, which definitely is an important aspect if we want to make progress towards more gender equality - not only but also in academia.

We still suffer from the internalization of the widespread belief that men are more capable than women. Men get better graded, even when the only proven distinction is their name and appearance. Gender bias is also at work when letters of recommendation are written (just look for the difference in used attributes!) or even in the evaluation of teaching. Women are held to higher standards than men and must perform better to be assessed equally to men. And for sure, gender bias is one of the main reasons that lead to the infamous leaky pipeline, that has been again made visible in the Gender Monitoring Report of the SNSF:
The data from the STEM disciplines still tell a story of gender inequality showing that, like in all other disciplines, the proportion of women decreases across career stages. Yet, “what is particularly striking in STEM is that even under the Doc.Mobility scheme, only 27% of applicants are women. This figure remains relatively constant and drops to 15% only for project funding.”

We at the NCCR MSE want to break the bias, not only on a symbolic level by crossing our arms, but rather by taking action:
We presented the results of our anonymous survey on lab management, group organization, recruitment and supervision within the NCCR, and presented the most important findings during a zoom Lunch Meeting on 16 March 2022.

In this meeting we showed how the quantitative data of the survey relate to results of other international research projects, dealing with questions of gender equality in higher education.

Amongst other facts and figures, one interesting result that we looked into more closely is that about 40% of PostDocs and PhDs who took part in our survey and work at the NCCR MSE feel encouraged to continue with an academic career. Less than one third of this 40% is made up by female PostDocs and PhDs! If we want to bring about change to this prevailing situation of talent drain, we believe that we will have to go beyond gender bias to a reassessment of structures and academic working culture. Considering our processes regarding lab management, recruitment, supervision as well as support of young and esp. female talents will be important on our way to changing the working culture into a more inclusive and diverse culture, attractive to different kinds of people and contrasting perspectives.

Andrea Zimmermann
(On behalf of the Gender & Science team)