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"Women in STEAM" started successfully

The initiative "Women in STEAM" by the researchers of the Einstein Center Digital Future (ECDF) has been successfully launched. About 50 guests attended the kick-off event to discuss topics such as equal opportunities in digitalization. Prof. Dr. Gesche Joost gave an insight into her career, Prof. Dr. Aysel Yollu-Tok presented her work on the report of the 3rd Equal Opportunities Report of the Federal Government and Prof. Dr. Corinna Bath looked at the history of STE(A)M initiatives.

The aims of the Women in STEAM initiative are to highlight women's achievements and to promote interdisciplinary research in the field of digitalization. At the same time, young female scientists should be shown career opportunities. "We would like to further advance the public discourse and are committed to more equal opportunities, diversity and digital empowerment," said Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Mayweg. Together with Prof. Dr. Berit Greinke and Prof. Dr. Helena Mihaljević, who led through the event that evening, she launched the initiative at the end of 2018. "At that time we were only four professors at the ECDF. Of the current 38 professorships, nine are occupied by women. There is still room for improvement," said Mayweg. Berit Greinke emphasised: "We are convinced that we can and must create a platform for exchange at the ECDF. We would like to invite renowned women scientists, artists, engineers and practitioners to participate".

Prof. Dr. Gesche Joost was enthusiastic about the initiative. She is a member of the ECDF board and professor for design research at the University of the Arts Berlin. "The diversity at the ECDF is very important to us," she said. During her presentation she looked back on her student days when she taught herself how to program with HTML. "It was 1996 and I was sitting with a girlfriend at the computer in the living room and we were programming websites," she remembered. After working in Chicago and Tübingen (PhD in rhetoric), she was the only female postdoc among 35 men to do research at T-Labs in Berlin. Here she established her first research group in the field of electronic textiles. "That was a very inspiring environment," said Gesche Joost. But she was also confronted with reservations during this time. "We need to take more account of gender and diversity in technology development", she said. Gesche Joost also explicitly encouraged women scientists to become involved in committees of science, business, associations, NGOs or churches. "We should be more present on executive and supervisory boards in order to formulate diverse perspectives and represent our interests".

Prof. Dr. Aysel Yollu-Tok is Professor of Economics at the Berlin School of Economics and Law and Chair of the Commission of Experts for the Third Equality Report of the Federal Government. For her, the initiative of the ECDF scientists is of particular importance, as the Third Equality Report deals with the question of which course of action is necessary in order to shape developments in the digital economy in such a way that women and men have equal chances of achieving their goals. The Commission was deliberately interdisciplinary in its approach. "We need this competence in order to be able to answer the question comprehensively", said Aysel Yollu-Tok.

Prof. Dr. Corinna Bath looked back on the beginnings of STE(A)M initiatives. The Professor of Gender, Technology and Mobility at the TU Braunschweig reported on initial activities in 1977 and the founding of the association "Women in Science and Technology" in 1988: "These initiatives have a long tradition – we should always remember that". She said that the interdisciplinary cooperation of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) with the arts and the humanities was of particular importance in addressing the issue of equal opportunities.

The participants discussed formats, collaborations and projects following the keynote speeches. At the lecture by Prof. Dr. des. Michelle Christensen and Prof. Dr. des. Florian Conradi, the guests were able to note down wishes, ideas and suggestions and to exchange their experiences.

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