• Portrait of Dr. Sünne Andresen, HTW Berlin

    Dr. Sünne Andresen, HTW-Berlin University of Applied Sciences

Her work focuses on university-related equality and anti-discrimination work: As the women’s representative at the HTW Berlin University of Applied Sciences, Dr. Sünne Andresen, brings well-founded scientific expertise to her work in addition to a great deal of commitment. Before her time at HTW Berlin, the Brain City Ambassador researched and published topics regarding gender relations, work and organisational change.

“I am particularly interested in the structural causes of inequality, as I am firmly convinced that individual behaviour is always shaped by society,” explains Dr. Sünne Andresen. “Let’s consider the question of the underrepresentation of women in management positions which still exists at Berlin universities: The aim of almost all universities in Berlin is to increase the proportion of women in professorships significantly.” The Brain City Ambassador cites engineering as an example, where still only few women are appointed to professorships. “Although they would be so important for many social developments, just think about digitisation for example, and we already know that different perspectives lead to better solutions.”

Sünne Andresen emphasises that in order to change this situation sustainably, it is important to start with schoolchildren. “At the same time, we have to change structural barriers such as gender-stereotyped job profiles that persist despite social progress. One consequence of such stereotypes is that we still receive significantly fewer applications from women than from men for engineering courses. And of course that also affects how many female candidates are available for professorships later on.” Sünne Andresen finds it remarkable that in countries like Turkey or Morocco the associative link between technology and masculinity is apparently not as strong as in Germany. “This can also be seen in the younger female academics at HTW Berlin, who are encouragingly international.” At the same time, this poses a further challenge to her gender equality work: “It is becoming more and more important to consider different forms of discrimination in their interaction – we are talking about an intersectional perspective here – because at universities, in addition to gender, for example, the question of social origin or migration history is a relevant category for the question of the individual advancement. We have to think about these connections.” 

Berlin has a diversity of research and scientific institutions that is unique in Germany – and therefore of people with whom innovative projects and ideas can be implemented.

Sünne Andresen became interested in the topic of gender and science while studying sociology and history at the University of Hamburg. “Right at the beginning I founded a women’s group together with fellow students who were active in the movement because we wanted to deal with ‘women’s liberation issues’ – which today is known as 'gender research' – in our studies. At the end of the 1970s, there was nothing at all on this.” After working as a research assistant in a third-party funded project at the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB) and as a lecturer at the Freie Universität Berlin, she obtained a doctoral position as a research assistant at the then Otto Suhr Institute of Political Science (OSI) at the Freie Universität Berlin with a focus on the “Economics of Gender”. “That was a very important step, because at the same time several colleagues with a gender denomination had been hired as research assistants and we quickly networked in a group of lecturers in order to represent university political interests jointly, but also to plan research activities.” For Sünne Andresen, working as a consultant for the then women’s representative at the Freie Universität Berlin meant her entry in the university-related development of women and gender equality policy. In 2011 she finally moved to the HTW Berlin as a women’s representative. “At my university, the topic of anti-discrimination and, in particular, protection against sexualised discrimination and violence is a focus at the moment. To this end, we are developing a protection concept that is intended to ensure more procedural security and transparency. I have just dealt with the issue of fair pay for employees and the reduction of gender pay inequality. Another current topic at the HTW Berlin is the flexibilization of working hours and place of work.”

A big advantage for the women’s representative at the universities of Brain City Berlin is: They work full-time. “In that way we can actually make a difference. The Berlin Higher Education Act (German only) and the State Equal Opportunities Act German only) establish good framework conditions for equal opportunities work. This is by no means the case in all Federal States.” According to Sünne Andresen, the phrase “Berlin, women’s city” is therefore absolutely applicable. “Berlin is a lively and open city in which women have the same rights and are represented and visible as politicians or in other responsible positions.” 

A solid basis for networks, such as the “Berlin Dialogue Strategy” (German only), which advocates a gender-equitable and non-discriminatory Berlin university landscape. “Success in equal opportunities work can only be achieved if many people keep working together,” summarises Sünne Andresen. “The strength of Berlin is its diversity. This also applies to science and universities. I am firmly convinced that scientific solutions and findings become better the more diverse the people who work on them are.” Her dream: that at some point Berlin’s universities will reflect the colourfulness of urban society. (vdo)

Read more about Gender Policy and Research at Berlin Universities

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