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The Staff Council and the Advancement of Women

The Staff Council and the Advancement of Women

Women at Technische Universität Berlin are confronted with forms of work and teaching geared to the interests and needs of male students and members of staff. This results in disadvantages for women that are often not perceived by everybody involved. The only possibility to change this situation is to strengthen the advancement of women so that their interests are also more strongly voiced and taken into account.

The disadvantages faced by women are most clearly visible when viewing career development. Although 50% of all students are women, their representation decreases in higher positions and only a small percentage of professorships are occupied by women. This is why it is important to begin with the advancement of women in the very first stages of career development. This includes positions for student assistants. Although these positions in themselves are not qualifying positions for an academic career, preference is still given when hiring research and teaching assistants/associates to applicants who have previous teaching experience as tutors or who have been involved in a research project.

However, women are not only disadvantaged as a result of direct or indirect discrimination, they also face sexual harassment in the workplace. This includes seemingly accidental physical contact, suggestive comments regarding a woman's figure or sexual behavior, unsolicited remarks and comments, or jokes about their appearance. Although women currently only make up about 32.4% of student assistants (as of 08/2011), the victims of sexual harassment in the workplace are almost without exception female.

In light of this situation, the Staff Council for Student Assistants is working to achieve an increase in the number of women employed as student assistants as well as create measures to prevent or sanction sexual harassment. We are pursuing several methods to do so:

  • Monitoring the implementation of laws, such as the state laws for equal opportunity (Landesgleichstellungsgesetz - LGG); creating legally binding regulations to prevent discrimination against women.
  • Working closely with the University's women's representatives; monitoring the implementation of guidelines for the advancement of women; monitoring the creation of plans for the advancement of women in academic chairs and research groups; supporting the women's representatives in implementing these plans.

In this context, we check to see, particularly in those areas where women are underrepresented, that all female applicants (or at least as many women as men) with the necessary formal qualification for a position as a student assistant as described in the LGG are invited to interview. Generally, this is the completion of the Vordiplom or the third-degree semester for bachelor's programs. This does not include additional qualifications such as IT experience. Similarly, grades are not a decisive criterion. We have taken measures to ensure that women, foreigners, and persons with disabilities are not discriminated against in the selection process. However, the LGG now also requires that women are preferred in the selection process if they have the same or equal qualifications as male applicants and if less than 50% of the staff in a faculty are female. To remain up-to-date regarding the percentage of women among student assistants, we request monthly statistics from Human Resources (II IT). You also have the opportunity to view these at the offices of the Staff Council. We work closely with the women's representatives to pool our competencies and influence, such as when creating:

Action plans for dealing with sexual discrimination, harassment and violence in the workplace

"Sexual discrimination, harassment and violence represent a massive violation of the rights of the person affected. They create an atmosphere of intimidation and degradation which can affect not only the capacity and motivation to work but also the health of anyone affected." (Source: Guidelines for Protection Against Sexual Discrimination, Harassment, and Violence (10.2.1999))

The Guidelines for Protection Against Sexual Discrimination, Harassment and Violence were drawn up in cooperation between the Women's Representatives and the Staff Councils, the head of Human Resources and Social Counseling and adopted by the Academic Senate in 1999. The guidelines define sexual discrimination, harassment, and violence and describe their consequences as well as provide a list of measures and sanctions to be taken. At the time the guidelines were passed, the Academic Senate had still not agreed on the procedure for complaints or which persons or committees should be responsible for introducing sanctions. The decision was therefore taken to regulate these points in a set of procedural guidelines to supplement the Guidelines on Protection Against Sexual Discrimination, Harassment, and Violence. You can view and make copies of the full text of the protection and procedural guidelines in our offices. You can also view these documents online at www.tu-berlin.de/presse/div/richtlinie.htm

Help! I am the victim of sexual discrimination and/or harassment at my workplace!

If you feel you have been the victim of sexual discrimination and/or harassment at your workplace and/or are experiencing/have experienced sexualized violence, contact your women's representative and/or us. All advice is offered on a purely confidential basis or even anonymously if you prefer. We will inform you of your legal options within the framework of the protection and procedural guidelines. We are not able to offer professional psychological counseling ourselves but can provide you a list of counseling services.

Summary of procedural guidelines

Complaints are received, wherever possible, anonymously by the University's women's representatives, the various staff councils, Social Counseling, your immediate or other supervisors, or the head of the Human Resources. They will discuss the next steps with you and then seek legal advice from Legal Affairs or Human Resources on a possible specific course of action. The person who received the complaint immediately informs you about the content of this legal advice. Up to this point, advising can and should be anonymous, to ensure that the decision whether or not to make the case public - i.e. introduce formal proceedings - remains with you.

You now decide whether to initiate formal proceedings. These will not be anonymous. If you do decide to introduce formal proceedings, the management of TU Berlin (...), with the involvement of the relevant departments of the Central University Administration, will examine the need for measures (...) and implement them. Different offices at TU Berlin are responsible for taking measures, depending on the status group of the person against whom the complaint is made. For TU staff, this is the Department of Human Resources within the Central University Administration; for students, Legal Affairs; for contract teachers, the dean of the relevant faculty; for persons employed by a company contracted by TU Berlin, the vice president for administration; and for the vice president for administration and the president, the Berlin Senate Department for Science, Research, and Culture.

A statistical evaluation of anonymized complaints is necessary to monitor if the guidelines are contributing to a reduction in cases of sexual discrimination, harassment, and violence at TU Berlin. This is why it is important to always register a complaint, even if you do not wish to initiate formal proceedings.


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