Press Release No. 29 | July 1, 2020

Equal Opportunity in Research: Still Significant Need for Action

DFG General Assembly adopts recommendations on recruitment procedures to attract female researchers and reduce their workload for committee work

DFG General Assembly adopts recommendations on recruitment procedures to attract female researchers and reduce their workload for committee work

The continuing unequal gender distribution at the various career levels of the research hierarchy, as well as on central committees and commissions, clearly demonstrates that there is still a need for specific support for women to reduce the multiple demands on their time associated with both career and family. Initial investigations suggest that this general problem has been made worse by the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. At the DFG annual meeting, the General Assembly of the DFG therefore addressed the question of recruitment procedures to attract women researchers and reducing their workload to enable them to participate on committees. It approved the publication of the "Summary and Recommendations 2020" on these two key topics relating to equal opportunity in research. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the General Assembly met by video conference.

The recommendations form part of the implementation of the DFG's Research-Oriented Standards on Gender Equality. They are based on the qualitative reports on selected key topics prepared every two years by universities and a discussion between university leaders at a one-day workshop held in Bonn in October 2019. They were also discussed in the working group on Research-Oriented Standards on Gender Equality set up by the General Assembly. This multi-step process was adopted by the member organisations of the DFG at their assembly in 2018 as part of an updated voluntary commitment in the context of the Research-Oriented Standards on Gender Equality.

"Through these recommendations, the research community organised in the DFG aims to communicate the message that this is still a highly relevant topic," says DFG Vice President Professor Dr. Roland A. Fischer, who chairs the working group on Research-Oriented Standards on Gender Equality. "The recommendations are aimed at DFG member organisations themselves, but are also intended to stimulate a discussion process in other research organisations, research funding and politics and contribute to further improvements with respect to equal opportunity and equality in the research system."

In the recommendations on recruitment procedures for attracting female researchers, increasing the general attractiveness of research careers is identified as a key requirement for increasing the proportion of women in research. For example, it is recommended that career planning should be made easier with models like tenure track programmes, and existing measures should be more extensively used and promoted. Another aspect identified as being essential to the recruitment of female professors is active recruitment starting from the doctoral phase and continuing during the postdoctoral phase. This requires procedures to be more professionalised, with open job advertisements and broadly defined professorships, the definition of subject-specific targets, and the monitoring of procedures and measures. Last but not least, all participants in the research system – but especially those at management level – must work to achieve cultural change to combat prejudice and traditional role models.

In terms of reducing women's workload to allow time for committee work, the recommendations suggest that in order to bring about change it is essential to enhance the perceived value of committee activities. In the evaluation of scientific productivity, committee roles should be better recognised as a vital part of scientific work. Subject-specific quotas are also recommended throughout the cascade model, with the target proportion of women at each career level depending on the proportion of women at the next lowest qualification level. The recommendations also identify a need for concrete workload relief and support measures backed up by adequate resources, such as reductions in teaching load, research sabbaticals and qualified support staff. This demands sufficient financial resources for universities' basic budgets. On this topic, the recommendations again emphasise the importance of the role model function of management-level staff to a change of awareness in the research system.

The DFG member organisations decided, between now and 2022, to engage with the key topics of increasing the proportion of women in the postdoctoral phase and the way in which universities approach diversity. Recommendations are to be developed for each area.

Further Information

The publication "The DFG Research-Oriented Standards on Gender Equality: Summary and Recommendations 2020" and further information on the Research-Oriented Standards on Gender Equality can be found at:

Information about other ways in which the DFG promotes equal opportunity in research is available at:

Media contact:

  • DFG Press and Public Relations,
    Tel. +49 228 885-2109,

Contact at DFG Head Office:

  • Dr. Eva Reichwein,
    Equal Opportunities, Research Integrity and Cross-Programme Development,
    Tel. +49 228 885-2768,