“Now I am more confident to pursue the next steps in my career,” says Dr. Carmen Diez Pardos, physicist at the DESY CMS group, at the kick-off event for “dynaMENT – Mentoring for Women in Natural Sciences”.
With dynaMENT, the mentoring programme that is organised jointly by the Hamburg Centre for Ultrafast Imaging (CUI), Deutsches Elektronen-Synchotron (DESY), Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD), Faculty of Mathematics, Informatics and Natural Sciences (MIN) at Universität Hamburg, PIER Helmholtz Graduate School, the Collaborative Research Centre 676 “Particles, Strings, and the Early Universe” and the Collaborative Research Centre 925 “Light Induced Dynamics and Control of Correlated Quantum Systems” to support female scientists in their early career enters its second phase.
“I am happy to speak at your kick-off event – but I am very unhappy that it is still necessary to have this kind of programme,” admits Prof. Dr. Heinrich Graener, dean of the MIN faculty. But the graphs he brought made very clear that the number of women in natural sciences positions still declines with every step of the career ladder.
According to Prof. Dr. Daniela Pfannkuche, executive director of the Institute of Theoretical Physics at Universität Hamburg, despite the fact there are gender barriers in natural sciences careers, not just young women should attend mentoring programmes. “Everyone needs a mentor from time to time, and seeking advice is a sign of strength.” The idea of mentoring, she reminded her audience, dates back to the ancient Greeks: Mentor was a friend of Odysseus. The legendary king asked Mentor to look after his son Telemachus when he left for the Trojan War. However, it was the – female – goddess Athena who, disguised as Mentor, challenged Telemachus to set out and find his father.
A good guide for the career path
“In Phd research, one is going where there is no trail, exploring new territory. One needs a good guide to get you through. Mentors give you the courage to take this voyage into terra incognito to empower you to believe in yourself, to give you a ‘Can-Do’ belief in yourself,” declares MPSD director and CUI spokesperson Prof. Dr. Dwayne Miller in his encouraging speech. “When you leave this programme, you can do it – no matter what comes.”
To provide female doctoral and postdoctoral researchers with what they need on their journey, dynaMENT offers confidential one-to-one mentoring sessions, workshops and networking events. Most of the participants highly appreciate the consultations with their mentors. Dr. Diez Pardos who partnered up with Prof. Dr. Arwen Pearson, biophysicist at CUI, during the first round of the programme recalls: “It was great to have someone you can speak to freely about things that worry you at work or about your career planning,” she pointed out. “I learned a lot about myself.” For Prof. Pearson, it is most important to encourage young female researchers to be confident and grab opportunities when they arise. “Women must learn to trust themselves, because talking themselves out of applying for things is a key point in the leaky pipeline.” As a mentor, she builds upon her own experiences: “I was lucky enough to have, and still have, great mentoring. So this is my way to pay things forward – and it is very rewarding to see someone grow.”
dynaMENT has just started its second round of mentoring. 15 participants will gather at a first introductory workshop this month, which will be followed by courses in leadership, conflict management, presentation, communication, recruitment as well as networking opportunities. Applications for the third round can be submitted early next year.