Professor Dr. Julia Ostner is head of the junior research group “Social evolution in primates” at Göttingen University. With a Feodor Lynen Research Fellowship, the Animal Ecologist spent two years researching at the Department of Anthropology at Stony Brook University in New York. Julia Ostner has three children.
Cover Story: Careers with Obstacles - Women in Academia
There Are Positive Signals
Julia Ostner, Biologist, Germany
Reconciling family and career has never been a problem for me, which is mainly due to the very balanced relationship between my husband, who is himself a scientist, and myself. We now have three children, and we both took care of them equally, so that neither of us had to give up too much and neither of us had the feeling of missing out on the children. What I appreciate about academic work, in particular, is the flexibility with regard to time and to some extent place.
All universities take pride in their equal opportunity practices, and yet women are drastically underrepresented in science nationwide. But there are also positive signals: as part of appointment negotiations, universities create attractive positions for partners, provide concrete support with childcare, have specific programmes that promote women et cetera. So things are moving, even if the numbers are still lagging behind. Apart from all the promotional measures, it’s important to have a family-friendly basic attitude, where children can be integrated into the work routine, both partners share the tasks and there is enough practical and mental flexibility.
Networks are also very important, especially for young female academics. Networks can serve mentoring purposes, provide support with applications or appointment negotiations, and they are an important gateway into the scientific community. All-women networks don’t seem so important to me. That may be different in other disciplines, however.
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