Sexism in Germany Universities Rewarded for Hiring Women Professors

Only one in six professors in Germany is a woman. But Germany's Education Ministry is trying to redress the huge gender imbalance. It is giving 79 universities extra funding to employ more female lecturers and professors.

Chancellor Angela Merkel  may be running the country, but for many other women in Germany, the glass ceiling is firmly in place -- with one of the biggest gender pay gaps in the European Union  and a glaring absence of women in top management positions. So it comes as no surprise that women also find it difficult to forge ahead in the male-dominated world of German academia.

While women make up 50 percent of the student body, they only account for 40 percent of those pursuing doctorates. Once you start going up the stairs in the ivory tower, the presence of women becomes even rarer. Only 24 percent of university lecturers are women, and a paltry 15 percent of the country's 38,000 tenured professors are female.

The German Education Ministry is hoping to make a dent in those figures by paying the salary of between one and three female professors or lecturers at universities that prove a commitment to redressing this gender imbalance. On Wednesday, Education Minister Annette Schavan, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, revealed the results of the first round of a competition for getting these extra funds.

The government has committed €150 million ($216 million) to its equal-opportunities program for universities, with the aim of eventually creating 200 additional posts for highly qualified female academics. Each post will be funded for five years -- to the tune of €150,000 a year -- with the federal government and the states splitting the costs between them. In the first of two rounds, a 15-member jury selected 79 successful universities out of a total of 113 bids, which represented around a third of all German universities.

To secure the funding, the universities had to submit plans that proved that they wanted get more women into top academic positions by changing the structures at the university in a long-term and sustainable way. Universities from 15 of the 16 German federal states secured the funding. All five applications from the state of Saxony were turned down, while both Berlin and Hesse had all of their applications approved.

Announcing the results of the selection process on Wednesday, Schavan said the program was designed to "promote more excellent female researchers to top positions." She added that it should give young women "role models and motivation for their own academic careers," while "female talent in leading positions will give research and development a new boost."

smd -- with wire reports

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