News about Equality at CRC 1342

The EOC shares the concerns and criticism regarding the BMBF's draft reform of the Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz (WissZeitVG - German Act on Temporary Scientific Contracts)

The Equal Opportunity Committee (EOC) of the SFB 1342 shares the concerns and criticism regarding the BMBF's draft reform of the Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz (WissZeitVG - German Act on Temporary Scientific Contracts) which have been expressed in various ways by academic mid-level staff and employee representatives. As a body within a large third-party-funded association, the EOC has a statutory responsibility to address issues of equality and anti-discrimination. With this statement, we aim to highlight the problems and challenges associated with both the current and the proposed new version of the WissZeitVG, particularly in relation to equality and anti-discrimination within third-party funded research networks.

  • Lack of equal treatment of early careers in the case of care obligations

In principle, it is commendable that the planned reform aims to address the lost qualification periods of third-party funded employees due to parental leave or care activities. However, the reform proposal falls short by only providing an extension for the first three years of the postdoc period. Overall, these proposals are far from sufficient to remedy the existing shortcomings. It is necessary to apply the care-compensating rules to all third-party funded employees. Furthermore, it is particularly problematic that the reduction of working hours due to childcare responsibilities (i.e., Elterngeld Plus Program) is not taken into account when calculating the qualification period. For example, a person who reduces their working hours to 50% for one year due to care obligations is still credited with a full year towards their maximum qualification period, rather than half a year, which would be fair in comparison to individuals without care obligations. Opting for the Elterngeld Plus Program thus becomes a significant disadvantage.

  • Intersectional Disadvantages of International Scholars and Scientists

The WissZeitVG is highly complex. The lack of transparency, varying interpretations at different university locations, and the absence of information in English are among the challenges that international early career scientists face. For instance, navigating through bureaucratic systems consumes a substantial amount of time and energy, hindering substantial research activities. Alongside everyday discrimination, intersectional disadvantages of various kinds arise in both private and work spheres. Given that Germany has a strong interest in attracting scientists worldwide, the WissZeitVG should acknowledge and address the intersectional challenges faced by international scientists in Germany. The described challenges are also a serious disadvantage in the global competition for the best minds.

  • Obstructed future perspectives within the research network

Post-docs who are appointed as Principal Investigators (PIs) in a subsequent phase of an SFB project, based on their excellent competency in the prior phase, usually require funding from federal states. However, according to the planned revision of the WissZeitVG, such positions are not possible anymore, despite the significant benefits their expertise brings to the research association. The example of the SFB 1342 highlights that it is predominantly women who, as post-docs, assume the responsibility for a sub-project as (co-)PIs.

  • Discrimination against individuals who have worked in scientific positions in Germany

The non-transparent and often inconsistent interpretation of which periods are recognized as qualification periods leads to unequal treatment of qualification periods completed in Germany compared to those completed abroad, as the latter are generally not credited. This places individuals who have solely pursued their academic career in Germany at a disadvantage compared to those with professional experience abroad. This discrepancy particularly affects individuals with care obligations, who may have limited mobility compared to those without care responsibilities.

Equal Opportunities Committee:


A group of researchers from the CRC 1342 and BIGSSS attended a two-day workshop given by Dr Saskia Schottelius on “The Art of Self-Presenting for Female Scientists”.

The workshop covered several aspects related to self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-presentation.

A group of researchers from the CRC 1342 and BIGSSS attended a two-day workshop given by Dr Saskia Schottelius on “The Art of Self-Presenting for Female Scientists”. The workshop covered several aspects related to self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-presentation; focussing particularly on the additional challenges that women encounter in academic institutions that have historically been dominated by men. Through theoretical inputs, practical exercises, and peer-to-peer coaching, the participants were able to reflect on their own strengths and goals, while benefiting from the mutual encouragement provided by the group. The many themes covered will require continuous practice, and the participating researchers agreed that the workshop had benefited them for their academic paths going forward.

Dr. Anna Wolkenhauer
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institute for Intercultural and International Studies
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57099

Kristin Noack (left) and Johanna Fischer
Kristin Noack (left) and Johanna Fischer
Johanna Fischer and Kristin Noack report on their experiences with a presentation workshop adressing women in science specifically.

At the end of September, Saskia Schottelius offered her 2-day workshop "The Art of Self-Presenting for Female Scientists" at CRC 1342. Why did you decide to participate?

Kristin Noack: I was interested in the workshop because presentations are not my favorite situations. And I especially liked the fact that the course was specifically aimed at women who feel the same way.

Johanna Fischer: Presentations are an important part of our scientific work. I feel very comfortable in small groups, but sometimes I'm nervous in larger rooms where I don't know the exact audience. In this respect, I had the feeling that I could learn a lot in the workshop, or that I could certainly turn off things that had crept in.

What did the trainer do with you during the two days?

Fischer: At the beginning we concentrated on language and made sure to speak positively. For example, we did an exercise where we had to write down adjectives for each letter of the alphabet that could be applied positively to strong women. We reflected on this later in order to become aware of our strengths. Then we did many exercises for speaking. We had to present different things to our counterpart - e.g. about how to start consciously, or time management. Other topics were body language and voice exercises, especially how to find your voice.

Was that already specially designed for women?

Fischer: Not during the vocal exercises. But we also dealt with the Imposter Syndrome. According to surveys, female scientists and female leaders feel much more often and more strongly taht they are impostors, they do not assess their skills positively and tend to pay attention to deficits. Although nobody can be 100 percent perfect, women often perceive it in such a way that they still have to be perfect for their job. Men often think, "I can only do it 60 percent, but that's okay. That's what we've been talking about, including dominant speaking behaviour in groups.

Noack: On the second day almost every one of us gave a presentation. The audience had to pay attention to certain things and give feedback. And the feedback, it was agreed beforehand, should focus on the positive aspects, but still be serious and sincere. In a scientific context, you often focus on the negative things, and that of course promotes certain insecurities. In this respect, it was encouraging to get some positive things reflected about our way of presentation. On the second day we also did meditation exercises and some Tai Chi and Qigong.

Which of the contents were most beneficial to you? Which ones will you try to implement?

Fischer: The so-called Pre-Introduction was very helpful when it came to the structure of a presentation. In the beginning of a presentation the audience often doesn't listen at all, which is why a short introduction to the topic, e.g. with something rather general or an anecdote, can be helpful. I will try to include this in my next presentation.

Noack: We were a very mixed group: a few women from the SFB, but also some from marum and BIGSSS with different scientific foci. I found it very empowering to be in such a group. We were so very different scientists, but there are topics that concern us all. And being a good scientist can mean different things. What I am trying to do is to pay more attention to what is going well, because you are often too hard on yourself. The workshop gave me some ideas.

Did you also talk about differences between men and women?

Fischer: We talked about speaking behaviour. Many men think they have something to say in discussions and have to speak up, even if they are not experts on the subject themselves. But we also said that as women we do not necessarily want to copy that.

Noack: Most of the time it was not about reproducing stereotypes either, but about reflecting on ourselves and our behaviour. And to try out and practice certain things for ourselves. During the workshop the focus was on us as female scientists.