A daughter of Polish immigrants, studying the natural sciences in the 1950s, a mother of four, an exceptional career despite many obstacles particularly at the beginning of her career – “Mildred Dresselhaus represents exactly what we want to point out,” Prof. Heinrich Graener, who is the Dean of the MIN Faculty at Universität Hamburg, said at the Equal Opportunity Prize Ceremony 2018. The prize was presented to the organizing team of the “Mildred Dresselhaus Guest Professorship Program” at the cluster of excellence CUI in the presence of Vice President Prof. Jetta Frost, Equal Opportunity Commissioner Dr. Angelika Paschke-Krazin, and additional guests in the University guesthouse. It is worth 10,000 euros.
“I am very happy that the people who are taking great care that the program has become successful are in the foreground today,” Graener stressed and continued why it is important that such programs exist and that they are effective. Not even 20 percent of the MIN faculty’s full professorships are occupied by women. “We have to facilitate the path for young women,” Graener said. He then referred to a special CUI magazine covering portraits and questionnaires of the Mildred Dresselhaus prize recipients and depicted some of the work histories described therein: junior awardee 2015 Dr. Liesbeth Janssen, for example, had read an article about a certain topic which she found so interesting that she contacted the researcher and asked whether she could do a postdoc – even though the topic was completely unrelated to her PhD work. “The scientific community needs women and the program needs you,” Graener concluded.
Effecting higher organizational levels
Prof. Jetta Frost put the Mildred Dresselhaus Program in the wider context of the excellence initiative and the University’s strategy: “Equal opportunity measures and the promotion of young scientists go hand in hand with effects on even higher organizational levels.” The excellence initiative makes highest demands on the clusters and the university as an institution. Nothing can be gained by playing solo, still individual measures have to be recognized. The university is actually working on a database of equal opportunity measures and a guiding map – taking into account the concept of a sustainable university. “However, this is only possible with actual projects,” Frost said.
“We want to impress, we want to give support and we want to show that there is more than one path,” CUI Managing Director Claudia Busch said. She thanked the university, the MIN Faculty, the Equal Opportunity Unit, and her team for the good cooperation. She commemorated the cluster’s starting phase, when a program for supporting female scientists was discussed, when Mildred Dresselhaus visited and later agreed to give her name to the program, when the implementation and finances had to be clarified, and when the first awardee came to Hamburg. “The whole team has engaged itself wholeheartedly for the program over the years. We are very happy that it has developed so well, but also that our engagement is now honored with a special prize,” Busch concluded.
The prize is presented to individual members, groups of members, or organizational units of the University who have served as role models in dealing constructively with diversity and who have made lasting contributions to strengthening heterogeneity and equality at the University.