Equal Opportunities Plan 2018 - 2021


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.

Additional Information Diagrams

Figure 1a: Development of the percentage of women in research since 2000 (HH = budget funded, DM = third-party funded)

Figure 5a: Temporary vs. permanent employment in non-scientific sectors

Complete Figures

Cascade Model

Target quotas on 31.12.2020 and actual quotas on 31.12. for the years 2012 to 2017 (determined from the figures on the cut-off date of 31.10. of each year) for research personnel (excluding administrative, technical and other personnel)

Target quotas of the 2020 cascade model (Extract from the TOP 6 of the Trustees Report, Spring 2017)


The establishment of the […] Helmholtz Cascade Model (Period 31.12.2012 to 31.12.2017) is based on a resolution by the GWK dating back to 2011 and a corresponding resolution by the Senate of the Helmholtz Association dated 01.06.2012. It addresses the phenomenon also known as the “leaky pipeline”. While approximately the same number of men as women start their degree course, the percentage consistently falls in subsequent academic careers.

The GFZ first presented its figures for this cascade model at the 41st meeting of the Board of Trustees in the spring of 2013. In doing so, it defined target quotas for all hierarchy levels, which were to be challenging, on the one hand, but also realistically achievable. The current target quotas were adopted by the Board of Trustees at the 44th meeting on 14.11.2014. Subsequently the Cascade Model working group, consisting of representatives of the Helmholtz Head Office and the Centres, developed standardised criteria on 05.05.2015 for defining management levels and collating and presenting the target quotas. The modified presentation of the cascade models is valid since the Pact Report in 2016.

The Helmholtz Association was then asked by the GWK in the autumn of 2016 to present new target quotas for the cascade up to 2020. The Centres submitted their initial proposals for the 2020 cascade in January 2017 for the 2016 Pact Report, although the figures had not yet been adopted by the supervisory bodies. The German Research Centre for Geosciences has reported the tables which are enclosed in the Annex and will be described in more detail below. It also takes into account the requirement to specifically describe the actions required to achieve the target quotas it has set itself. The 2020 Cascade Model reports the target quotas in a different way than it has done so up to now. To date, they were only included in the tabular section of the Pact Report – and there only as a shortened version.

The new Cascade Model for 2020 is based on the German Research Foundation’s proposal, which had recommended a “Corridor Model”. Apart from the actual target quotas, this also graphically presents in diagrams the ranges if vacant positions are fully (100%) or not at all (0%) filled by women. The calculation of these so-called target corridors takes into account the fact that staff turnover is mathematically always connected to a departure of women.

At first glance easy-to-grasp, this presentation of the target corridors is limited in some configurations, for instance if there are few vacant positions due to a projected decline in personnel and low staff turnover and also if a low number of female members of staff is affected. This can be seen very clearly in the diagram presenting the growth of the W2/3 women’s quota {...].

The total quotas from the GFZ submitted to the Helmholtz Association in January were determined based on the planned development of work and the expected staff turnover.

It was agreed as a specific measure to support the achievement of targets that in future every application by a male or female Head of Section for the removal of the time limit from a contract of employment must be submitted to the Executive Board with an explanation about how the percentage of women in the section can be increased. The issue of equality will also be expressly discussed between the individual Heads of Section and the Executive Board in the Strategy and Budget discussions held annually in the autumn. 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 reduction of budget-financed personnel up to 2021 to guarantee a balanced budget. Against this background, there will be no increase in personnel numbers, rather in some cases no new appointments will be made for expiring positions. This means that there will be no growth in the number of positions, nor will positions be re-filled in the event of staff turnover.

The GFZ has defined a forecast for ongoing staff development and realistic target quotas for 2020 based on an agreement with the male/female Heads of Section based on the target quotas for 2017. The achievement of this by the end of 2017 appears realistic from today’s point of view at almost all management levels and remuneration groups presented in the cascade model and thus can be assumed, also taking into account the financial ramifications outlined above. The GFZ has proceeded on a position-by-position basis.



Further explanations about the individual management levels and remuneration groups:

Second management level:

The second management level includes the Heads of Department, that is to say male and female Directors. The forecast for 2020 assumes that there will be [...] no direct replacement of the Head of Department 7 [...]. There will therefore only be six Directors by the end of 2020. Two of them are women [...]

Note: As there are no vacant positions, the target corridor at management level will not be presented.

Third management level:

In relation to the third management level, that is to say the Heads of Section, it should be noted that female Heads of Section who are promoted to Directors, specifically affecting [two women], are no longer counted at this management level. It is currently assumed that a further woman will be appointed as Head of Section by 2020 [...], meaning that one of the two vacant positions will be filled by a woman. According to the logic of the cascade model – the occupation quota with women being based on the preceding hierarchy level – aims for a 50% quota with new appointments.


The GFZ has made use of the Helmholtz’s Recruitment Initiative tool in recent years to specifically attract excellent female researchers from abroad. […] An additional female researcher […] also won through in the competition. However, her recruitment failed due to personal reasons. This enabled two of six W3 appointments to be filled by women with Recruitment Initiative funding. In addition, other women were specifically appointed to management positions and associated W3 or W2 appointments. The quota of women in these departments could be increased from 0% to now 20% (W3) and from 11% to 30% (W2) since 2012. The target quotas for 2020, 28% for W3 and 36% for W2, once again reveal an increase and also a slight alignment of both quotas. These target quotas are also ambitious because significantly fewer appointments are expected in the near future, as in recent years there has been an initial generational change in the GFZ’s research management personnel.

There will therefore only be 18 W3 positions in the W3 department after the age-related departure [of two Heads of Section]. The W3 positions of [two other Heads of Section] will be filled by 2020. A woman is to be appointed for one of these vacant positions so that there will be an additional, and thus a total of five W3 female professors at the GFZ by the end of 2020 [...]. As at the third management level, the new appointment quota of women will therefore be 50%.

The W2 sector has shown that the figure of 15 appointments originally set for the end of 2017 was too high. In actual fact, only 11 jointly appointed male/female professors will be working at the GFZ by the end of 2016. This figure will not change by 2020. However, [one Head of Section], his successor [...] also appointed to a W2 position, will retire due to age. A W2 appointment is sought for [a female researcher]. The new appointment quota is 100%. A total of four women would therefore be working at the GFZ in the W2 category by 2020 [...].


The GFZ is not planning any activities at W1 professorship level on account of the generally rather unattractive basic conditions within this remuneration group.

EG 15:

The GFZ had to correct the forecast on which the 2017 target quota was originally stipulated in the EG 15 category. The reason for this is the departure of men as well as two women. There are currently only 27 positions in EG 15 instead of the projected 32 positions. A further fall to 25 is expected by 2020. With only two vacant positions, it is already a challenge for the GFZ to meet the current quota.

EG 14:

It should be noted with EG 14 that many women are predicted to leave, for example at the level of young female group managers. It is therefore also extremely difficult in this category to maintain even the current level.

The fall at level EG 14 results from 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 EG 13. The majority of the employees listed in the actual EG 14 figures are transferred appointments (BAT > TVöD); EG 13 is the correct classification for new appointments to the same position. The GFZ therefore assumes that there will be no vacant positions at EG 14 level by 2020 and that any changes to personnel levels will merely be due to departing female members of staff. The EG 14 target quota cannot therefore be directly controlled and, at 21%, is close to the level of the 2017 target quota.


The Equal Opportunities Plan has been approved on the 11.09.2018 between the Board of Directors (Prof. R. Hüttl, Dr. St. Schwartze) and the Staff Council (Dr. H. Schelle) with agreement from the Equal Opportunities Officer (Dr. U. Weckmann).