Press Release No. 24 | July 5, 2017

Gender Equality in Research: DFG Steps Up Its Engagement

Stronger focus on own funding activities / Renewal of voluntary commitment to the Research-Oriented Standards on Gender Equality

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) intends to further advance gender equality in research through additional measures and a refocusing of its efforts. On 5 July 2017, the statutory bodies of the DFG – the largest research funding organisation and central self-governing organisation of the research community in Germany – adopted a multipart resolution on this issue during the annual meeting in Halle (Saale). The resolution envisages firstly the continued implementation of equality measures within the scope of the Research-Oriented Standards on Gender Equality. Secondly, gender equality – which, as an aim enshrined in the DFG’s statutes, is already of prime importance in the organisation’s work – is to play an even more prominent role in DFG funding activities.

The background situation is that, although the number of female professors and women in senior academic positions in Germany is continuing to increase, it is still lower than it could be. At present, 22 percent of professors (not counting junior professors) are women, whereas women make up about 50 percent of graduates and account for 45 percent of doctorates.

To strengthen gender equality at universities, in 2008 the DFG launched the Research-Oriented Standards on Gender Equality, which were approved by its members as a voluntary commitment. These standards have proved effective in the establishment of equality-promoting structures and measures within the member organisations. This was demonstrated by a DFG study on the implementation and impact of the standards, which concluded that there was ample evidence indicating that the standards had contributed to organisational development and cultural change in favour of equal opportunity. The study also found that, together with other (political) initiatives and programmes, the Research-Oriented Standards on Gender Equality significantly contributed to the greater prominence of gender equality in the research system as a whole.

Building on the results of the 2017 study, a working group appointed by the General Assembly in 2009 convened to discuss and draw up recommendations for the continuation of the Research-Oriented Standards on Gender Equality. The member organisations have now expressed their support for these and renewed their voluntary commitment. In view of the positive developments in gender equality, reports on the implementation of the standards are to be slimmed down; in the future, the member organisations intend to submit qualitative reports on changing key topics every two to three years.

During the annual meeting, the Executive Board and Executive Committee of the DFG welcomed the fact that gender equality now enjoys a prominent status in the member organisations and the research system. However, they noted that there is still a need for action: “Gender equality in research has not yet been achieved. This means a loss of excellence and efficiency: outstanding research cannot do without the potential offered by female researchers,” said DFG Secretary General Dorothee Dzwonnek. “So our universities cannot afford to reduce their efforts to counter any tendencies to accept a certain situation as the norm. For its part, the DFG will continue to provide ongoing monitoring while looking more closely at its own funding activities and developing a qualitative strategy for gender equality so that we can promote equality and a work-life balance even more effectively.”

In addition to the continuation of the Research-Oriented Standards on Gender Equality, the statutory bodies approved the preparation of a qualitative gender equality strategy and its implementation by the end of 2018. In preparing this strategy, the DFG will examine its funding programmes and instruments to identify any structural obstacles and promote the equality of men and women by means of suitable measures. Funding activities will also be reviewed from the perspectives of career and staff development and achieving a work-life balance. Initial measures have already been taken: for example, for the Emmy Noether Programme the statutory bodies approved doing away with the 12-month required residency abroad and introduced an earmarked family allowance of up to €6,000 per year for travel to conferences and research visits. In addition, more women are to be involved in the review processes for all programmes.

In March 2017 the DFG defined a target of 30 percent women for its decision-making bodies and their sub-groups. This is an ambitious figure because it is much higher than the current proportion of female professors of 22 percent. However, the DFG has already achieved the 22 percent figure in relation to the participation of women in its statutory bodies in the vast majority of cases, depending on subject area.

Further Information

Media contact:

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

The study on the implementation and impact of the Research-Oriented Standards on Gender Equality is available here:

The statement and recommendations of the working group on the Research-Oriented Standards on Gender Equality can be consulted here:

DFG programme contact:

Detailed information on gender equality and activities undertaken by the DFG is available here: