’It is quite clear that our commitment is gradually bearing fruit’

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Julia Dannath: ’I am confident that we can enable everyone - regardless of
Julia Dannath: ’I am confident that we can enable everyone - regardless of their gender - to develop their potential optimally and pursue their educational and career path in a self-determined manner.’ (Photograph: ETH Zurich / Daniel Winkler)
Since 1991, 14 June has in Switzerland traditionally stood under the banner of feminist campaigns and causes. Julia Dannath, Vice President for Personnel Development and Leadership, explains in an interview why commitment to equal opportunities and gender equality is still needed three decades later - including at ETH Zurich.

Ms Dannath, back in 1991 there were just five women professors in total at ETH. What is the gender ratio like today at ETH?
ETH recently published its Equality Monitoring. The report shows that some areas are developing in a good direction, which I’m pleased about. This is especially true of the professorships: two-thirds of new appointments in 2023 were women. This is very positive. However, the figure cannot hide the fact that altogether we still have a low share of women professors at ETH. Just one in five professorships at ETH is currently held by a woman. We therefore still have a long way to go...

Nevertheless, the growth in the share of women is considerable. How do you explain that?
Alongside a general commitment by the Executive Board, this development is clearly also attributable to specific measures: for instance, since 2021 there has been a requirement for the selection committees to comprise at least three women professors, while one member of the committee assumes the role of "Gender and Diversity Advocate". In addition, the President can appoint outstanding women researchers directly. It is quite clear that our commitment is gradually bearing fruit.

So which areas are not developing as you would wish them to?
Very little has changed in recent years among the students, for instance. The share of women at both Bachelor’s and Master’s degree level has for years remained unchanged at around 30 percent. This is particularly deplorable when we consider that today’s women students are the women professors of tomorrow...

What are you doing about this?
Developing a "one-size-fits-all" approach unfortunately makes little sense here. A closer look at the figures quickly reveals that there are major differences between the departments. There are degree programmes with a share of women of 50 to 60 percent up to postdoctoral level, after which the figures tumble - in other words, the classic leaky pipeline. On the other hand, we see that for subjects such as computer science women are still clearly in the minority at Bachelor’s and Master’s degree level. However, there is practically no leaky pipeline to be observed here - that is to say, the share of women in these subjects remains more or less constant across the levels. So different support measures need to be developed and implemented in the individual departments depending on the current prevailing situation.

How do you think the field of gender equality and equal opportunities will develop further at ETH in the years to come?
I am confident that we can uphold the momentum of the last few years and enable everyone - regardless of their gender - to develop their potential optimally and pursue their educational and career path in a self-determined manner. However, this is not something that we can influence on our own as ETH - this requires the commitment of society as a whole. This is what makes 14 June such an important day.

The latest edition of Equality Monitoring

ETH Zurich provides information about equality and diversity at the university once a year as part of the Equality Monitoring. These data are for the first time accessible via interactive graphs. Find out more about the leaky pipeline, the proportion of women, new appointments and appointment processes, languages and internationality at ETH Zurich in the interactive graphs of the Equality Monitoring.
Simone Gohl