Gender Equality Plan 2014-2017


The work of GFZ is characterised by the principle “The future can safeguard only those who understand the system of Earth and the interplay with humanity.” In the process, the assumption is that the understanding or the way to achieving it is better and more promising if it is taken jointly by women and men. Different approaches and viewpoints open up a broader spectrum and depth of insights.

At the same time, GFZ feels it is a pressing concern for its mission that top-flight national and international scientists be attracted and maintained. This applies equally to women and men. In order to achieve this goal, a wide variety of measures will be and must be taken in the future in order that GFZ becomes known throughout the world as a particularly attractive employer.

In addition to increasing the number of women, particularly in science and leadership positions, the promotion of equal opportunity thus pursues the aim of continuing to successfully advance GFZ and the science undertaken here.


GFZ is committed to the equality of women and men in the workplace and views itself as under a duty to visibly increase the number of women in leadership positions. In the process, the Executive Board is supported by a team of select gender equality officers (one officer and up to four deputies). The gender equality officer is supported by an assistant in administrative and organisational matters. In order to reduce the interference with her scientific work occasioned by these activities, an additional post-graduate position is being assigned to her. The gender equality officer takes part in all personnel measures, meets with the Administrative Executive Board on a quarterly basis, and is invited as guest on staffing issues in the strategy and management circle. GFZ always supports giving her a guest right in the appointments commissions in connection with the recruiting of new common appointments with the universities. Since 2006 GFZ has been listed with “genderdax”, a platform for highly qualified women, and since 2013 it has been registered with the company network “Erfolgsfaktor Familie”, which is underwritten by the German Federal Ministry of Family Affairs. In 2014 women heading a section or department at GFZ came together with the goal of improved visibility of women in leadership positions.

In the interest of increasing the number of women in the science area and achieving comprehensive realisation of gender equality, the Assembly of Members of the Helmholtz Association resolved in 2009 to orient itself on the gender equality standards formulated by the DFG (German Research Foundation) in August 2008. These provide that gender equality is to be ensured in a way that is consistent, transparent, competitive, forward-looking, and competent. As a member of the Helmholtz Association, GFZ acknowledges these DFG standards as being binding without limitation.

The current personnel numbers and their trend over the past 13 years to 30 September 2013 are depicted in the following table.

(HH = budget-financed, DM = third-party-financed; the category "young scientific talent" includes scientists whose doctorate was awarded less than five years prior to contract start and who were not older than 35 at such time.)


An additional overview of the numbers is provided in the following depictions.

At GFZ, the topic of equal opportunity is actively promoted from three different directions:

   a)   Concrete targets for the number of women in various hierarchical levels

   b)   Defined human resources development measures and programmes

   c)   Numerous instruments for the compatibility of work and family


a) Targets

Since 1996 GFZ has had a gender equality plan in place that is based on the State Gender Equality Act of the State of Brandenburg. In addition, in 2004 GFZ voluntarily committed to its financial donors to bindingly apply the standards of the Federal Gender Equality Implementation Act. In 2009 the members of the Helmholtz Association resolved to orient themselves on the gender equality standards formulated by the DFG. With the introduction of the so-called “cascade model” in 2013, GFZ has now taken a big step forward. Under this cascade model, which follows the model of the GWK (Joint Science Conference), GFZ undertakes to meet the target quotas on various hierarchical levels in the science area by 2017.

On the first leadership level of the GFZ, the Executive Board, the Scientific Executive Board is headed by a commonly appointed professor. The appointment is made by the financial donors in response to a resolution of the Board of Trustees, and is limited to five years, although multiple reappointments are possible. The directors, which are currently all men, are appointed by the Executive Board for a period of an average of three years. Therefore, they are all reappointed or replaced in the relevant period. The directors are recruited from the departments' respective section heads.

In the GFZ's administration, the comparable figures look as follows:


The number of women in the various divisions can be increased only if qualified women are actively approached when recruiting scientific employees and if female potentials (national and international) are paid attention to when defining the positions to be filled. GFZ has already started down this path and in 2013 was able to gain a female W3 professor and two female W2 professors. With the successful fundraising through the Helmholtz recruiting initiative, two international female candidates were able to be offered W3 positions at GFZ. One professor will start her work in Potsdam on 1 October 2014. GFZ firmly expects that the charisma of these new female executives on the top levels in the scientific areas will also bolster young female talent.


b) Human resources development measures and programmes

In addition to pursuing target quotas, the GFZ sees special potentials for achieving success in targeted human resources development and the precise tailoring of support programmes for women scientists. In the process, the starting point is not that women in science have any qualitative deficit. Rather, the intention is to prepare female GFZ employees even better for the special (unspoken) rules and behavioural patterns of a geosciences world that is still dominated by men. At the same time, GFZ plans to do its utmost to create a consciousness of rethinking and thus actively contribute to changing old behavioural patterns.

On the one hand, GFZ is making targeted use here of the offerings of the Helmholtz Association (mentoring programmes “In Führung Gehen”, i.e. “Taking the Lead”). On the other, it is organising its own workshops, advanced training, and lectures for this target group. The budget made available by the Executive Board for this purpose is being planned and implemented by the gender equality officer, her deputies, and the provided assistant. In the process, the gender equality team is orienting itself very closely to the needs of GFZ women. In addition, since 2007 GFZ has been providing so-called “re-entry positions” from central financial resources. They offer women (and men) returning from family-related leaves in the scientific area the ability to continue to pursue the research track for up to two years. During this period, returning women are to receive the opportunity to apply for suitable positions (internal and external) or to set up corresponding projects. A brief internal evaluation has revealed that to date, 8 out of 10 women scientists were able to be retained in science or the scientific area with this programme.

Alongside this, GFZ is now planning to establish a new programme to motivate women scientists to go abroad. In this regard, women scientists are to receive a pledge to return to their positions for the period following the stay abroad, in order to facilitate for them the foreign experience so relevant for their career path.

c) Compatibility of work and family

GFZ recognised very early on that this topic was a relevant tool for supporting women and e.g. in 2004 opened the first in-house day-care centre in Potsdam/Brandenburg following the political change. In addition, the compatibility of work and family is being ensured, e.g. through the most flexible working time models – including for executives – telecommuting, and numerous case-by-case solutions.

As the latest tool, a family service was engaged on 1 December 2014, which is intended to support employees and reduce family burdens (including, e.g. by caring for older family members) to a level that allows work to continue to be performed well. This type of family service covers various offerings, like advisory services and the brokering of personnel (babysitters, care workers, etc.) and is already being successfully used at various Helmholtz centres.


The gender equality plan was adopted on 5 December 2014 by the Executive Board (Prof. R. Hüttl, Dr St. Schwartze) and by the Staff Council (Dr H. Schelle) with the approval of the Equal Opportunity Commissioner (Dr U. Weckmann).