Professor Dr. Aleida Assmann teaches English and Literary Theory at the University of Konstanz. In October of 2009, she was granted the Max Planck Research Award by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Max Planck Society. Aleida Assmann has five children.
Cover Story: Careers with Obstacles - Women in Academia
We Need More Flexible Role Models
Aleida Assmann, English Scholar and Philologist, Germany
Compared to the early 90s, when it was still rather difficult for a woman to be promoted to professor in a traditional faculty, some things have improved. In addition to openness and acceptance of other academic biographies, I have witnessed a general decline in merciless careerism: Part of the old university culture was the demand to sacrifice your whole life on the altar of science. That has changed. The young generation increasingly wants to combine their university careers with a family life based on partnership. This change of attitude is slowly making its mark on universities, as well, which are now making efforts to become a family-friendly environment for researchers, with day-care facilities and support for dual careers. We therefore need more flexible role models. That also means that men must learn to show solidarity, take a step back, and sometimes give priority to their wives.
In academic life, I was confronted with many responsibilities that affected me not only as a researcher, but also as a statutory woman. There are an infinite number of all-male committees in desperate search of a woman. Therefore, the women on the upper levels of academia, few as they are anyway, are continually pressed not only to represent science, but also their womanhood. In this regard, we should not only go by visibility and always ask the same women to represent everything. Instead, we should give younger, less established female colleagues a chance to participate. The less established ones are usually no less brilliant and can thus prove themselves in new tasks.
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