•  Brain City Ambassador Antje Bahnik

    Antje Bahnik, Technische Universität Berlin

As the Central women’s and equal opportunities officer at the Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin) and spokesperson for the State conference of women’s and equal opportunities officers at Berlin universities (LakoF Berlin), Brain City ambassador Antje Bahnik is committed to equal opportunities for women at the university.

Antje Bahnik has an important task: She supports the university in implementing the statutory gender equality mandate. In specific terms, this means for the Central women’s and equal opportunities officer at the TU Berlin: eliminating existing disadvantages for women in academic careers and developing structures in such a way that all university members have the same opportunities. For example, she creates concepts and measures to increase the proportion of women at the university further. “Especially at a university with a technical subject profile, we still have a long way to go,” explains the Brain City ambassador. “My task also includes advising university members. Be it in questions of career planning, in cases of conflict or in cases of sexualised discrimination, harassment and violence. In addition, I am represented in many committees at the university and pay attention to the effects of measures and decisions on equality.”

Antje Bahnik is particularly interested in developing possible solutions together. “Let’s take the problem of the underrepresentation of women at the TU Berlin: Finding out which hurdles exist and how to overcome them is an exciting process. Then a negotiation takes place, and you move from an initial idea to a specific measure that takes into account the framework conditions at the university.” Direct contact with female scientists is also very important to her. “For me, the interpersonal exchange creates a balance compared to working on structural tasks, where effects can often only be seen years later. There are often pleasant moments here. Like when a scientist thanks me with a bouquet of flowers for advising her because she was successful with her grant application.”

Antje Bahnik became interested in gender equality issues while studying political science and geography at the University of Greifswald. “At the time, however, these topics were not dealt with at the university. Until I did two semesters abroad in Sweden, where gender aspects in research were of course also discussed in all events. That showed me that gender issues are highly relevant in political science and geography.” Back in Germany, she began to specialise in this subject area. After completing her studies in Göttingen, for three years she coordinated the Lower Saxony State conference of women’s representatives at universities. Then, as a native of “outer Berlin”, she was drawn back to her homeland. She initially became a consultant for the Central women’s representative at the TU Berlin. “Since then I have been active in promoting equality at the university. In 2017 I was then elected the Central women’s and equal opportunities officer at the TU Berlin - and since the beginning of 2022 I have also been spokeswoman for the State conference of women’s representatives in Berlin.”

Berlin is a pioneer in equality for women, even if we still have to continue fighting in many areas.

Some of the projects that Antje Bahnik is currently involved in are cross-university. Such as the joint project DiGiTal (German only), which is already being funded in the second funding round by the Berlin equal opportunities program. 13 Berlin universities are involved in the program. “The aim of the project is to support female scientists in digitisation research,” says the Brain City ambassador. The amendment to the Berlin Higher Education Act passed by the Berlin Senate in April 2022 offers new opportunities for her work. “For example, there are now permanent postdoctoral positions! Of course, this is also associated with challenges for equality: Right from the start, we have to make sure that there is no new underrepresentation and that the proportion of women in these attractive positions is at least the same as that of female doctoral candidates!” According to Antje Bahnik, two years of the pandemic have also revealed weaknesses in terms of protecting women from harassment and violence in the digital context. “We must now work to address these vulnerabilities so that digital events are safe for all members of the university.”

In general, according to Antje Bahnik, there is a broad understanding of the importance of gender equality in Berlin. “The topic is at the top of the agenda for many stakeholders at the university and in politics. That offers a lot of potential for progress.” At the same time, it is also a permanent challenge in the capital to get everyone involved on board and to work together on issues and measures. “In Berlin, we are mastering this for gender equality at universities through dialogue with representatives from the Senate Departments for Science and Equality, the State Conference of Rectors and Presidents of Berlin Universities (LKRP) – as well as other higher education policy stakeholders from the field.” After all, the Brain City ambassador said, Berlin is a pioneer in equality for women, “even if we still have to continue fighting in many areas.”

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