The Robert Bosch Stiftung

Frauen in der Wissenschaft 1
Photo: Bernd Roselieb 
For years, universities and research institutes have been trying to increase the number of women in leadership positions. As a result, in 2005 the Robert Bosch Stiftung began actively supporting women in scientific fields.

Women in Science

Women are not only absent from the boardrooms of major companies. Universities and research institutes have also complained for years about the lack of women in leadership positions. As a result, in 2005 the Robert Bosch Stiftung began actively supporting women in academic fields. The Foundation supports highly qualified female researchers on the path to leadership positions, and established a one-of-a-kind database which allows first-class female scientists and academics to be identified for positions in leadership and on important boards and committees. With these activities, the Robert Bosch Stiftung is playing a key role in strengthening the position of women in science. The Foundation’s work in this area is highly regarded in academic circles – not just in Germany, but throughout Europe.

The concrete recommendations by the commission of experts on "family and demographic change," which was formed by the Robert Bosch Stiftung in 2004 under the direction of Professor Kurt Biedenkopf, form the basis for the Foundation’s support. In light of a shrinking society, the commission recommended active support for families which also addresses audiences such as highly qualified women for the labor market. Furthermore, one of the Foundation’s overarching goals is to strengthen Germany and Europe’s position as a location for research. In this context, a general goal is attracting the best and brightest minds to the academic world. This goal has not been met sufficiently, however, especially when it comes to women. In the competition for professorships, women are often left behind. Women remain underrepresented in top-level positions at universities and research institutes today, accounting for only 15 percent of such positions in 2012. Furthermore, women are often underrepresented on influential academic boards and committees. And yet there is no shortage of highly qualified women – a fact demonstrated by the increasing number of excellent female university graduates and post-doctorates. Women often do not have the networks and the required support, however, to come out on top in the competition for leadership positions.

On the "Fast Track" to success

Each year the Fast Track program offers advanced training seminars to 20 select young female academics to prepare them for future leadership roles. During these seminars, held over the course of several days, they practice self-presentation, personnel management, negotiating and asserting themselves, as well as how to deal with the media in a professional manner. Personal coaching and meetings with renowned figures from science, business, and media round out the program’s activities. As a result of the program, the participants develop a network of contacts that can be of significant value for their further career. Since its launch, over 140 female scientists have participated in the Fast Track program. And word of the program’s success has gotten around – the number of applicants has increased year after year.



Web portal makes highly qualified female academics visible

In 2010, the website AcademiaNet was launched to complement the Fast Track program. With this website, the Foundation helps make highly qualified female academics visible, particularly when it comes to filling leadership positions and influential academic boards and committees. The database offers free access to the profiles of currently more than 1,500 outstanding female academics in all fields from Germany and Europe. The service makes it easier for decision-makers to find fitting, qualified women to fill positions or boards. As a result, the excuse "we would have liked to choose a women, but we could not find any qualified female candidates" no longer holds water. In November 2010, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel personally launched the AcademiaNet website by pressing the start button.

The unique selection process ensures that the female academics whose profiles are featured on the site are all highly qualified. This is because candidates cannot create a profile themselves, but instead must be named by one of Europe’s top scientific organizations. At the present time, 37 well-known partner organizations have joined the project. They then name suitable candidates for AcademiaNet on the basis of strict, jointly-defined selection criteria. The project’s partner organizations include the German Research Foundation, the Max Planck Society, the European Research Council (ERC), and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, among others.

AcademiaNet has also garnered significant positive attention in the media. The renowned Spektrum Verlag publishing company is on board as the partner for website maintenance and the site’s editorial content. In addition, AcademiaNet cooperates with Nature magazine for the English-language version of the site.

What first began as purely a website is now increasingly being continued offline, with AcademiaNet events being held which allow participants to network, increase the program’s profile, and draw recognition.



Projects in the field of science

Women in science is a focus area of the Foundation
in the field of science.