28. August 2020

In conversation with Sanela Schlößer

The event manager and networker at IGAFA is involved in the women's network LaNA

Sanela Schlößer © WISTA Management GmbH

Sanela Schlößer playing the cello in her neighbour's garden © WISTA Management GmbH

Bumbar, which is Croatian for ‘bumblebee’, is Sanela Schlößer’s maiden name. She has Croatian roots because her parents came to Germany as guest workers in the 1970s. She was born and raised in Kassel. The non-German part of her bilingual upbringing is mainly used for cursing, she says. Her original goal was to work for the Foreign Office, which is why she studied Eastern European Studies, sociology, and Eastern and Southeast-European history at Free University Berlin. However, her knack for organisation led her to work for an event management agency, where she organised academic conferences, and later to Thieme Verlag in Stuttgart.

In 2018, Sanela Schlößer started working at IGAFA, the Joint Initiative of Non-University Affiliated Research Institutes in Adlershof e.V., where she manages the Ladies Network Adlershof (LaNA) among other projects. This women’s network was founded in 2009 and, as Schlößer tells us in the following interview, ramped up its activity this year. With a maiden name like bumble bee, she was destined to be a busy person. Schlösser is also involved as an organiser in Falling Walls Lab Adlershof, which will take place for the third time in October.

 

Adlershof Journal: What does LaNA stand for?

Sanela Schlößer: LaNA stands for Ladies Network Adlershof, where woman share experiences, cooperate, and inspire each other. It is immensely valuable to know who is doing what, where, identify possible overlaps, and to see how woman’s empowerment and equality work on one’s own doorstep, and network. LaNA brings together scientists, women in executive positions, founders, and equal opportunities officers.

How does LaNA work?

We host a range of events, including Ladies Lunch, where successful women from the policy, science, and business community talk about how they got ahead, what and who helped them, and which hurdles they had to jump. Early this year, LaNA also hosted the ‘Women in Science’ symposium together with the British Embassy Berlin, which was a continuation of our comprehensive exchange on women’s promotion and equality issues in science. Additionally, our activities include hosting a women’s day breakfast, a regular meet-up for women and equal opportunities officers, workshops, and, soon, mentoring and coaching events.

The coronavirus pandemic has amplified social inequality and set back many women’s careers. How can LaNA work against this?

Networks are all about exchange. Naturally, we miss the water cooler conversations and coffee breaks. For this reason, LaNA has increased its digital activities. We set up a Twitter account, digitised the regular meet-ups, and initiated a series of interviews called ‘LaNA presents’. The series was kicked off by Franziska Emmerling, the chemist in charge of the structure analysis division at the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing. I see it as an important task to create role models, embolden and support women, whether the means to do so are analogue or digital.

The Technology Park Adlershof boasts several women’s networks. Is this diversity necessary?

Yes, by all means. These networks build on and complement each other. In addition to LaNA, there is Women in Natural Sciences, or WiNS Adlershof for short, which is aimed at female PhD students in the natural sciences. Club Lise targets school children with an immigrant background and a penchant for the natural sciences. ‘Lady’s Stammtisch’ is a network for female entrepreneurs. Each of has its own specific purpose, be it the low number of female students in natural sciences university sources, the even lower number of female professors at university institutes, or the underrepresentation of women at the executive level in the companies on this site. There is still a lot of work to be done.

Who is your role model?

My mother, who came to Germany alone, with just one suitcase, without a high-school diploma, no money and no knowledge of the German language. 1,800 kilometres away from home. She found her way against all odds, because she was tough and a great socialiser.

When did you last try something new?

Last autumn, I started learning to play the cello. I was married into a family of musicians and am starting to shake off the musical nightmare of my school days — forced participation in a course to learn to play the recorder.

How do you spend your spare time?

Being a mother is number one. My son is three and my daughter is eight-years-old. That leaves little time for myself. I really enjoy reading, often several books at once. I just finished ‘Herzlich willkommenčić – Heimatgeschichten vom Balkanizer’ by Danko Rabrenović and couldn’t stop laughing.

What is your wish for the future?

I want to take the Trans-Siberian Railway. I’m also incredibly eager to visit Central Asia, because they have female preachers there who I’ve been fascinated by since university.

 

Interview by Sylvia Nitschke for Adlershof Journal

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