WiNS Adlershof – New programme designed to jumpstart women in natural science: In conversation with programme coordinator Petra Metz

05. July 2017

WiNS Adlershof – New programme designed to jumpstart women in natural science

In conversation with programme coordinator Petra Metz

Petra Metz. Bild: © Adlershof Journal

She has been the coordinator of WiNS Adlershof (Women in Natural Sciences Adlershof) since March 2017, a new programme designed to jumpstart women in natural science. After graduating as a teacher for German and French, we ask her what inspired to do this? She loves working on the interface of different disciplines and connecting people. First, she tutored visiting scholars for several years at the Fondation Maison des Sciemce de l’Homme, a French foundation fostering research and collaboration in the social sciences and humanities. There she experienced how successful knowledge transfer works. She rubbed shoulders with the natural sciences and technology working for the association LIFE e.V. At WiNS, she now combines all those experiences.

What is the WiNS mission?

The programme supports women in science with individual career planning. We mainly appeal to PhD students and post-docs at the HU’s institutes for mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science and geography. However, we are also open to psychology departments and the local non-university institutes.

Aren’t there enough support programmes for women?

No – WiNS is a follow-up for the FiNCA project. We had a close look at the numbers of young scientists at Adlershof and we are not satisfied with the status quo. The further you go down the academic career path, the smaller the percentage of women at every juncture. If you take a look at PhD students in chemistry, the ratio of men to women is almost equal. In the post-doc phase, however, the percentage of women plummets. So, it’s really a case of a “leaky pipeline”. According to numbers from 2015, PhD students and post-docs in mathematics, physics and computer science make up only 20% and, except in mathematics, decreases even further in the post-doc phase. Our aim at WiNS is to encourage woman researchers to strive for top-level positions and to accompany them on their path. Our overall goal is to have 30% women in executive positions across the STEM fields.

What does WiNS offer specifically?

Our key areas are qualification, orientation and connection. Many young female scientists feel well-prepared academically but lack interdisciplinary exchange. Networking events are thus an integral part of our basic modules, as are workshops and coaching on soft skills, which include time management, presentation, vocal training, leadership skills, personality development and balancing family and career. Mentoring will also play a key role. Lastly, since not every scientist can become a full professor, we highlight alternative career paths, for example, at non-university research facilities.

When does the programme start?

We will launch in October of this year. The application deadline for the mentoring programme is the end of November. Our goal is to set up 15 mentoring teams per year.

When did you first come in contact with Adlershof?

That was about 5 years ago at LIFE e.V., where I worked until the beginning of this year. We used to cooperate with Adlershof-based companies and institutes for Girl’s Day and the Girl’s Technology Conference. Plus, I’m interested in architecture, so I knew about the area’s mix of aviation landmarks and the modern technology centres.

When did you last try something new and what was it?

Off the top of my head, that makes me think of my plans for the summer holidays. I will visit the US for the first time with my husband and our two kids. We’re going to New York and California. I’ve only seen Europe up until now.

What drives you?

I like to answer that question with the principle of the standing leg/free leg. My standing leg is empowering women in STEM fields and contributing to social change that way. My free leg is my activity as a juror for the Franz-Hessel-Prize, a German-French prize for literature.

So, are you a bookworm?

I read a lot and I always have an eye on forthcoming books. My favourite pastime is to browse in bookshops and talk to the owners. They usually have the best recommendations.

Interview by Sylvia Nitschke for Adlershof Journal