Summary of the Meeting of the Network of German-speaking women
Potsdam 23.9.2009

The meeting, organised by Sonja Schuh, Petra Boehm, and Inga Kamp, was attended by about 30 women (PhD students, postdocs, staff) and Nobert Christlieb. Sonja Schuh and Inga Kamp had three main issues on their agenda to be discussed with the participants:

Apart from that, there was also the opportunity to listen and discuss additional points raised by the participants, which included topics such as

The overall consensus was that a splinter meeting on "Diversity" would be very well received. The idea would be to invite external speakers (e.g. from the CEWS, the DPG/AKC, the DFG, possibly the IAU Working Group on Women in Astronomy, and/or research groups on gender or diversity) to introduce the topic. This could be followed by a panel discussion and some more time for general discussions. The possibility to introduce the topic of the Splinter meeting to a wider audience through a talk on Diversity issues during one of the plenary sessions should be suggested to and discussed with the organisers in parallel to the proposal for the Splinter itself. Due to both organisational issues, as well as remaining concerns that were raised, we opt for planning such a splinter in Heidelberg in two years from now rather than for next year.

There was very wide support for the idea of collecting statistical data - and people volunteering to help with the task. Ideas for the data sourced to be tapped into range from the AG yearly reports, requests to those [RDS] astronomical institutes and/or physics department administrative staff where the data need to be amended, all the way to full questionnaires for an AAS-like survey. We generally felt that the first two should be doable within a small project within about a year, so that the data would be available at the next AG meeting. There was also clear consensus to try and involve sociology or business faculties in doing this as they might be able to contribute their experience. The project would then be initiated and overseen by a small organising group within the AFN and carried out in close collaboration with the experts. In the afthermath of the meeting, it was also noted that these efforts are fully aligned with those by the IAU Working Group on Women in Astronomy (in particular !) and that we should intensify communication with the experts assembled in this WG. Follow-up projects might at a later time be able to initiate larger efforts involving questionnaires and deeper studies into particularly interesting subtopics such as the "leaky pipeline".

Additionally, there seemed to be the wish to organize special women training workshops, such as "how to write a proposal", "how to apply and negotiate successfully" etc.. We discussed the option to organize this on the Monday afternoon preceding the AG meeting in Bonn. Also, with a handful of people at hands who regularly give such talks at their home institutes, we might actually be able to do this at very low expense. Based on the feedback and attendance, we could plan for a larger more professional event in two years from now.

Two more points were discussed in some more detail:

  1. the existence of minorities in Germany such as the Turkish community, who seem to be underrespresented in academia and hence also astronomy,
  2. the enormous difficulties of finding child daycare in Germany, especially at the institutes/universities. Efforts in that direction were once again reported to often prove difficult and taking way too long, while felt to be especially crucial at the postdoc level.

We note that while the AFN, through this report, can communicate these opinions to a larger community for further discussion, it is completely beyond our abilities to work towards change in these areas.

The AFN would like to warmly thank Petra Boehm for her perfect organisation of this meeting, as well as Rainer Arlt for his support. We are also very grateful to the Astrophysikalisches Institut Potsdam for a generous grant, and to the Astronomische Gesellschaft for its organisational support.