Women in science: getting ahead with networking and role models

Dr. Elke Dworatzek, scientist at the Institute of Gender in Medicine and the Center for Cardiovascular Research (CCR) at Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, and Dr. Daniela Panakova, research group leader at MDC, are committed in the female scientist network Ladies’ Science Club. A women’s day interview.

Together with BIH you organized the 4. Networking event of the Ladies’ Science Club, which took place on 3 March 2016. One of the topics were the obstacles that make it difficult for young female scientists to get ahead. Which are the most important obstacles?

Daniela Panakova: There are too few tenure track positions in Germany, and especially at universities it is difficult to build up, for example, a junior group in order to pursue research independently and to get ahead.

Elke Dworatzek: Above that, the concept of „work life balance“ is more difficult to handle for female scientists: By the time they have finished their doctor’s degree and have to push on to make their career, they are also at a certain age where they have to decide whether they want to have children.

Daniela Panakova: Families, in which both parents want to pursue a career, simply need more support. In that respect, MDC is trying very hard to support their employees. For example we can use a Kindergarten on the campus already for kids as little as 4 months old.

Which strategies can be helpful for female scientists in order to achieve success?

Daniela Panakova: There’s not this one path for a successful career. It is very important to know your own goals, to act with confidence – and not to be afraid of making mistakes. You can always learn from mistakes, especially when you do not isolate yourself, but network and have a peer group you stay in contact with. And don’t be afraid to ask for help – that is something women often are not good at.  Role models are important, too, for example successful female scientists at your own institution.

Elke Dworatzek: At the workshop which was part of our event we also learnt how to use our body language. It is an important instrument, particularly in negotiations. Women can use their body language and voice very deliberately to be not the weaker part in power plays and to  obtain their goals. Coachings like these are very useful for female scientists; last week’s workshop feedback was also very positive. I think it is great that BIH is committed to promote female scientist’s careers with events like these.