The Power of Women at TUM

Diversity expresses itself through various factors. In addition to age, ideology or nationality, this includes gender identity as well. Historically, men have been the most popular candidates in the natural and engineering sciences. The Technical University of Munich wants to counteract this. Find out how they work on it.

“We break down stereotypes, strengthen self-confidence and help girls and young women to discover their own abilities.” Johanna Burgert heads the initiative ExploreTUM, which not only provides prospective students with information and advice, but also gives them a deeper insight into the subjects. An important aspect of this is the promotion of female students and graduates.

In 2019 the proportion of female students at TUM was 36 percent. That means out of 42.695 students in total, 15.468 were female. “With our offers, we want to get them excited about the subjects located in the STEM fields,” explains Burgert. STEM is a collective term for subjects taught and studied as well as professions in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. In many natural science fields, such as biology, the rate is already relatively balanced. But the situation is different for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering for example. Female students are still an exception here. With experiments and interactive introductions at schools and activities of the individual faculties, Johanna Burgert and her team want to arouse enthusiasm for technical subjects among young girls.

115 years of women at the Technical University of Munich

Women had to fight hard for their right to study. In 1905 they finally achieved their goal: they were allowed to enrol at what was then the Technische Hochschule München. In 1915 they celebrated the first female graduate: Agnes Mackens passed her diploma examination in architecture with distinction. The economist Liesel Beckmann was the first woman to receive a teaching permission in 1941 and was appointed professor five years later. At that time only six percent of the employees at the TUM were female. In 1971 the first female chancellor of the university, Angela Molitoris, was appointed.

Although the proportion of female students at the TUM grew steadily over the years, the men in the traditional engineering faculties remained among themselves. To redress this imbalance, the TUM created a new office. In 1989, Sandra Hayes, an American, took up the post of Gender Equality Officer. Together with her team, she developed numerous initiatives in the 1990s to inspire girls and young women for all faculties and to promote them. One of her measures included the founding of the “Agency for Girls in Science and Technology”. Workshops at schools and activities at the university opened the door to science and engineering for girls. “In autumn 2019, we finally realigned and revised our programs for girls and young women.

A network for women – and men, if they want to

Despite good developments there is still a lot to do. For example, the “Women of TUM” network plays an important role in the promotion of women, alongside the MINT Erlebnis and MINT Impulse of the TUM Entdeckerinnen, “Women of TUM” present role models. Simply regarding the motto: ‘No matter what you do – if you study at TUM, you have the opportunity and the platform to be visible. But also be aware that you can be a role model for everyone’, explain Isabel Werdin and Anke Graf, Alumni and Career Relations Manager. “Our aim is to build a network for women – for all women at TUM,” Werdin emphasizes. The members show that this is definitely the case. One third of them are female students, one third graduates and one third female employees of TUM.

Women from science, business or politics and society regularly give keynote speeches and pass on their experiences. “In addition to the long-standing members, there are especially many who have just arrived in their first job or are in the process of moving on to their second. They benefit from the exchange and the advice they get from us and also actively seek support,” says Werdin. Even though the focus of the ‘Women of TUM’ is on promoting women, men are always welcome. “We do not exclude. That is what diversity is all about,” explains Graf. If a handful of men sit in a room surrounded by hundreds of women, they can probably understand much better how women in their industry must feel, thinks Graf.

Living diversity at TUM

The historical development of equal opportunities at the Technical University of Munich took another important step in the 2000s. “The TUM signed the Diversity Charter as early as 2007,” says Anja Quindeau, in her staff position responsible for diversity of opportunities, career and further education at TUM. This made the university the first to join the charter. Since then, the TUM has been working more intensively on this goal at the faculty level as well. “For example, some of our faculties offer a room for families to ensure they have the possibility to care for their children between lectures,” Quindeau says. So TUM is not only working on progressive equal opportunities with support programs for girls and young women and a network of female students and graduates.

The eighth German Diversity Day takes place today, on May 26, 2020 – also at the Technical University of Munich. This year, individual faculties as well as the TUM Discoverers and the ‘Women of TUM’ will participate with various events. But mainly virtually. Find out more here.


The post The Power of Women at TUM appeared first on Technical University of Munich – School of Management.

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