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A quota for women in science?

Conference with top-class experts at the German Cancer Research Center

No. 55 | 23/11/2015 | by Sel

Attracting more women to senior positions in science is a challenge most research institutes in Germany are presently facing. Whether and how this can be achieved as well as the potential role of imposing a “quota for women” will be discussed at a conference entitled “Quote, Quark(s) und Qualität” (quota, quark(s)* and quality) that will be held on November 26-27, 2015, at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg. The conference is organized by the working group “Women in Research Centers” of the Helmholtz Association.


At the 2-day event, selected experts from industry, science and medicine will present their disparate views on the topic. For example, Burkhard Schwenker, former head of Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, considers a quota system indispensable in order to take a systematic step forward towards increasing the proportion of women in executive positions. Gabriele Kaczmarczyk from Charité Hospital in Berlin, who heads the “ProQuote” association, also demands a quota in order to get more women into top jobs. Sociologist Stefan Hirschauer, by contrast, regards a quota system as a “desperate act of those who want to promote women in science”, with a danger of “sexist side effects”. Equally interesting will be the talk presented by Curt Rice, who describes himself as a “sexist man”. Rice, who is the first American to head a Norwegian university, has intensively looked into the subject of gender issues.

DKFZ’s equal opportunities officer Karin Greulich-Bode, who has organized the conference, considers Germany’s largest biomedical research institute to be the ideal venue for this debate. “Most staff scientists at the DKFZ have degrees in biology or medicine, which are precisely the disciplines with far more women than men among graduates. Nevertheless, women are substantially underrepresented as group leaders or department heads. It will be most interesting for us to hear field reports from countries that have already introduced a quota for women in research such as the U.S. and Norway. And we will also be eager to hear about answers from other sectors.”

“We will have to overcome the obstacles that block the road leading to executive positions for talented and motivated women,” says acting DKFZ Chairman and Scientific Director Michael Boutros about the conference’s main objective.

Journalists are very welcome to attend the conference.

Please find the conference program at

For interview requests, please contact the Press Office.

* The German word “Quark” also means “nonsense”.

With more than 3,000 employees, the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) is Germany’s largest biomedical research institute. DKFZ scientists identify cancer risk factors, investigate how cancer progresses and develop new cancer prevention strategies. They are also developing new methods to diagnose tumors more precisely and treat cancer patients more successfully. The DKFZ's Cancer Information Service (KID) provides patients, interested citizens and experts with individual answers to questions relating to cancer.

To transfer promising approaches from cancer research to the clinic and thus improve the prognosis of cancer patients, the DKFZ cooperates with excellent research institutions and university hospitals throughout Germany:

  • National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT, 6 sites)
  • German Cancer Consortium (DKTK, 7 sites)
  • Hopp Children's Cancer Center (KiTZ) Heidelberg
  • Helmholtz Institute for Translational Oncology (HI-TRON Mainz) - A Helmholtz Institute of the DKFZ
  • DKFZ-Hector Cancer Institute at the University Medical Center Mannheim
  • National Cancer Prevention Center (jointly with German Cancer Aid)
The DKFZ is 90 percent financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and 10 percent by the state of Baden-Württemberg. The DKFZ is a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers.


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