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Women in Science

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Interview excerpt: Katja has seen real cultural change in her department. She thinks that the situation has improved for women and for entire families.

Portrait of Katja Gehmlich© Women in ScienceHave you been involved with the Athena Swan initiative?

Yes. I was part of a self-assessment team.

The self-assessment team?

Yes. And the good thing is that our department did not want to do box ticking exercises. They really tried to change culture and I think a lot has changed in terms of culture in the department over the last maybe two to three years. And it’s nice to see that some of this change in culture comes from the work, the Athena Swan committee does and from getting people to talk about their needs and obstacles.

What have been the most important changes do you think?

I think from an administrative point of view the actions aim to really improve the situation for women almost on a case to case basis. In my case we looked really hard into what my options are for maternity leave on my fellowship, i.e. how do I get the most out of the time and the money? The department decided to pay for my maternity leave.

Other times it is small things, that if you need parking the department will say, “We’ll pay for it,” because you can’t get parking permit based on the fact that you are pregnant and struggling.

So it can be small things, it can be big things.