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Equal Opportunities Plan 2018 - 2021, extended until 2023


All our work at the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam – German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) – is shaped by the guiding principle: “The future can only be safeguarded by someone who understands the Earth’s system and its interaction with humans.”

By this, we assume that our understanding and the course we follow to achieve this is better and more likely to succeed if men and women pursue this objective together. Different approaches and perspectives uncover a greater breadth and depth of knowledge.

At the same time, there is an urgent need for us to acquire and retain the very best minds in national and international research to carry out the work we have planned at the GFZ. This applies equally to men and women. To achieve this goal, we will and must continue to put in place the most diverse measures in future to make the GFZ known all over the world as an extremely attractive employer.

This Equal Opportunities Plan is intended to serve as a powerful tool for our managers to achieve the ambitious targets set by the GFZ when attracting and appointing the very best men and women. After all, equal opportunities in every section and for all employee groups can only be achieved by long-term measures that form an integral part of our Centre’s policy.


The excellent work of all employees of the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam – German Research Centre for Geosciences – forms the stable foundation on which the outstanding international reputation of the Centre is based. Each and every manager is aware of the added value provided by heterogeneous teams at all working levels. This applies to operational departments, as well as to research-based working groups and senior management level. It is therefore important that promoting women quite naturally becomes an integral part of the way we work and act. Our managers in administration and research are actively engaged in guaranteeing equal opportunities and promoting women and men based on their professional and personal potential. The GFZ’s Equal Opportunities Plan is a contribution to implementing Section 5(4) of the State Equal Opportunities Act (LGG).

Analysis of the Current Situation


The GFZ is committed to the equality of men and women in work and considers that it has an obligation to visibly increase the percentage of women in management roles. The Executive Board is assisted in this by a team of selected Equal Opportunities Officers (one Officer and up to 4 female representatives). The Equal Opportunities Officer is supported in her administrative and organisational work by an assistant. She is also allocated an additional doctoral student to ensure that her research work is less affected by these activities. The Equal Opportunities Officer is involved in all human resources issues, holds quarterly discussions with the Administrative Executive Director and is invited onto the Board of Directors as a guest on human resources matters. The GFZ always supports granting the Equal Opportunities Officer the right to sit on appointment committees for the recruitment of new joint appointments with the universities. The GFZ has been listed with “genderdax”, a platform for highly qualified women, since 2006 and has been registered with the corporate network “Success Factor Family” (Erfolgsfaktor Familie) operated by the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs since 2013. In 2014, GFZ colleagues who manage a section or department, joined forces with the aim of enhancing the visibility of women in management positions.

The General Assembly of the Helmholtz Association resolved in 2009 to adhere to the DFG German Research Foundation’s Equal Opportunities Standards formulated in August 2008 to increase the percentage of women in research and comprehensively achieve equality. These standards ensure equality consistently and transparently, competitively, future-centrically and professionally. As a member of the Helmholtz Association, the GFZ fully recognises and is bound by these DFG (German Research Foundation) standards.

The GFZ employed a total of 984 people as of 31.12.2017  1(396 women and 588 men). 43 employees (9 women and 34 men) held management positions on the same date. 443 employees (147 women and 296 men) work in research and 498 employees (240 women and 258 men) work in non-research areas, including engineering, laboratories, secretariat, infrastructure and administration.

There were also scholarship holders and other guests (a total of approx. 230 people) working at the GFZ who are not included in these figures.

The percentage of women in research is therefore 33% and 48% in non-research areas. A more detailed analysis of the employee structure in research reveals that the respective percentage of women in (i) management roles is 23%, (ii) is 29% in scientific research and (iii) is 45% amongst doctoral students. The percentage of women in permanent positions in research including management positions is 15%.

A detailed analysis of non-research positions reveals that the balanced gender ratio masks an unbalance in traditional female and male domains, such as in the secretariat, workshops or laboratories.

Assistants/aides represent a particular category, classified here within scientific administration, as they are people who primarily deal with research administration and management with only minimal involvement in actual research per se. As this category includes a comparatively high percentage of women of 60%, this group is excluded from the research figures to avoid any distortion of the figures.


1 In the Equal Opportunities Plan, the term "number of employees" refers to people and not to full-time equivalents.


Figure1: Percentage of women in the individual sections at the end of 2017, shown as the number of employees and also as a percentage (HH = budget funded; DM = third-party funded)

2021 Objective

The objective is to increase the percentage of women in the under-represented sections and particularly to promote the share of women at senior management levels in research based on the cascade model2 . Particular effort is needed both in appointing women to permanent positions and management positions in research, and to a lesser extent in the non-research sector.

Measures need to be put in place to offer women secured positions and retain qualified female researchers at the Centre in the long term in order to increase the percentage of women in permanent research positions to 18%.

Although the percentage of women at management levels 1-3 has risen significantly in recent years, the focus is now on a gradual increase to 30%.

Special attention is being given to the percentage of women amongst researchers, which also includes the 4th management level – working group managers. The transition from doctoral student via the post-doc phase to researcher is still affected by what is known as the “leaky pipeline”. To this end, we are setting ourselves the target of a women quota of 30% by the end of 2021. To achieve this objective, the GFZ will annually record the actual quotas (men/women) in occupied positions in research. Target quotas have also been defined for the entire Centre, the achievement of which is also being discussed between the Executive Board and the Heads of Sections in the annual Strategy and Budget Discussions (STRABU). Any application for removal of the time limit on an employment contract needs to expressly adopt a position on the issue of the quota. A participatory process for removal of the time limit on an employment contract is in place at the GFZ in which equality also plays a key role. The Equal Opportunities Officer, selected at the GFZ on the basis of the State Equal Opportunities Act, is involved in all human resources measures and is also invited to sit on committees at which higher-level human resources issues are discussed.

However, the GFZ has imposed a 5%/year staff cost saving target for the years leading up to 2021 to guarantee sufficient investment and so, against this background, there will be increased staff numbers. If, at the same time, a number of women leave, as is the case with the young group managers, it will be difficult even to maintain the status quo. The GFZ is not planning any activities at W1 professorship level on account of the generally rather unattractive basic conditions. A general decrease in the number of EG14 level positions is based solely on the fact that the current collective salary agreement (unlike its predecessor, the BAT Federal Collective Agreement for Public Employees) does not provide for automatic advancement from EG13. In most cases these are transferred female members of staff and, should they leave, their position is generally filled by a level EG13 employee.

It is a concern for the non-research sector that the percentage of women and men can be equalised in professions in which there is no gender parity.

Part-time employment and flexible working models to reconcile work and family life, including the opportunity of mobile work, are fundamentally possible in all research and non-research work. Part-time employment is currently utilised by 23% of female research employees and 9% of male research employees. This possibility of offering greater latitude in terms of family support, to men as well, is communicated and supported by the Centre Management, Human Resources department and management.

Women are also specifically asked to apply for vacant training positions, possibly in conjunction with vocational colleges and the relevant departments within the Labour Agency, Chambers of Industry and Commerce and Chamber of Trade. A particular focus for future measures also lies in the potential for future specialists and managers within the younger age groups.

A concept for promoting young skilled people, both in research as well as in engineering, administration and infrastructure, is to be developed as part of future staff development.

Further measures are also planned in connection with the following aspects and are listed in more detail in table form at the end of this chapter:

  • Promotion of women as a management task
  • Personnel recruitment/Staffing
  • Career development/Qualification
  • Reconciliation of work and family
  • Public Relations measures/Communication and media
  • Internal/external
  • Other

The measures are designed to be integrated into daily work to help to establish a culture of equality at the GFZ.


2 Details on the cascade model can be found in the Appendix.

Overall Employee Structure

The 984 employees as of 31.12.2017 are distributed as follows:

Figure 2 Employee structure (number of employees) distributed into age groups. The age distribution in the two middle age groups has a largely balanced structure. The group of young employees (largely trainees) shows that there is potential here that is not yet being fully utilised. The difference in the group of older employees can be justified by the historical inequality between women and men in geoscientific research.

Employees at Management Level in Science

Figure 3 Distribution of female scientists (number of managers) in management positions at three defined management levels (see definition in the Appendix).

Employee Structure in Science in Absolute Figures (excluding management levels and science administration)

Figure4: The high percentage (number of employees) of permanently employed men results from historical contexts. Up until the 1980s, geosciences were largely dominated by men. Demoscopic change is happening only very slowly and requires our support.

For the sake of completeness, the corresponding figure for non-research is included in the Appendix.

Employee Structure in Non-Scientific Sector (including science administration; excluding trainees, interns and student assistants)

Figure 5: Women are disproportionately represented solely in the lower income categories. Bars show the number of employees.

Part-time Employment in Science Sector (excluding management levels and science administration)

Figure 6: Mainly doctoral students are employed part-time in research. An analysis of female researchers and young female researchers reveals that approx. 28% of female employees and 11% of male employees are employed part-time. Bars show the number of employees.

Part-time employment in Non-Science Sector (including science administration; excluding trainees, interns and research/ student assistants)

Figure 7: Predominantly women work part-time in the non-research field. Male members of staff are more frequently employed in laboratories and workshops where part-time models are less common. Bars show the number of employees.


Promotion of Women as a Management Task

Personnel Recruitment/ Staffing

Career Development/ Qualification

Actions to Reconcile Work and Family

Public Relations Actions


External/ Audits



AKFIFZ - Women’s Working Group in Research Centres: Union of all women and Equal Opportunities Officers in all Helmholtz Centres.

Working Group Managers - The management level in research, often referred to as the 4th management level, refers to the group of female Working Group Leaders at the German Research Centre for Geosciences.

DFG - German Research Foundation

Board of Directors - The Board of Directors is an advisory body within the Executive Board and generally meets twice every month. The Board of Directors is made up of the Chair, Directors and the Minutes Officer as well as invited guests.

Management levels in science -

  1. Level: Scientific Executive Director
  2. Level: Department Directors
  3. Level: Heads of Section

Management Position - Apart from the management level in science, this also includes the Administrative Executive Director and the Heads of Department in Executive Board sections and in Administration.

EOO - Equal Opportunities Officer

GWK - Joint Research Conference

Young Scientists - The category of young  scientists includes scientific employees, whose doctorate started no longer than 5 years before and who are not older than 35 on the stipulated date.

STRABU - Strategy and Budget discussions, which are held once a year with each section and the Executive Board of the German Research Centre for Geosciences.

V1 - V1 is the Human Resources department.

Science Administration - Employees, categorised as EG 13 and higher, who predominantly work in a supportive role in science and who require a university degree to carry out their work. At the GFZ, this includes female department assistants, members of staff within the Scientific Executive Board section, Public Relations employees and project assistants in sections.

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