International Day of Women in Science 2020

On this day, February 11th 2020, we once again celebrate the UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Since 2011 all over the world we commemorate the great work and sacrifices women have made to move sciences and with it our societies forward.

Benefits of gender balance in sciences ((c) UN Women).


Despite the many successes of women in science, until this date a significant gender imbalance is to be seen in scientific teams, number of publications by women, women holding lead roles in science boards etc. Initiated by the UN amongst other renowned associations this day should bring more awareness towards the achievements, hindering and opportunities of women in science.


Women of SUSFERT

Let’s see what some of our female SUSFERT researchers and partners have to say about their situation in our recent blog interview. Renate Weiß (BOKU) is a PHD student at BOKU Institute of Environmental Biotechnology working on the valorisation of waste streams from different industries.

Barbara Haiden (Timac Agro) works for a fertiliser manufacturer based in Austria with French roots where she is responsible for international Project Management. She has 10 years of professional experience in the areas of animal nutrition & health, feed & food safety as well as plant nutrition with a background in both Business Administration and Medical & Pharmaceutical Biotechnology.


SUSFERT experts Renate Weiß (BOKU) (left) and Barbara Haiden (Timac Agro) (right).

Blog interview with female SUSFERT experts

Is life science male?!

Renate: “In my experience it is very much so. Especially higher positions are dominated by men. At congresses this is also very evident.”

Barbara: “It does depends very much on the exact area of life sciences, but for agriculture I would say, yes, it is still very male-dominated.”


Did you have or do you have any concerns of being a woman in a still mainly male-oriented field/industry?

Renate: “To be honest, for me as a PHD student in her last and most important year I recently had to decide if I want to have a career in science or if I would like to have a family. For now I decided to have a career because I know many female peers who struggle a lot after having children. Also, a lot of colleagues take you less seriously after having a child. What makes it even more difficult: in Austria you either have to have quite some money available for childcare or a family that supports you day and night. Otherwise it’s no good to want a child and make a career at the same time.”

Barbara: “If as a woman you aim to reach a certain career level it is very likely that you have to put in more effort or prove yourself harder, than it is the case for male colleagues. But I think this is more a recurring topic of higher career levels, and not so much only specific for life sciences.”


Are there any aspects of being a woman in your field of work that affect your situation positively?

Renate: “I have not yet encountered any especially positive aspects for me or female colleagues because of being female.”

Which tools and materials helped you the most in developing your career in sciences/a science-related field?

Barbara: “One of my former superiors taught me to stand up for myself and say ‘no’ without having a bad conscience to certain roles which male colleagues often automatically assign to me just because of the fact I was a (young) woman, e.g. being the one taking the meeting minutes in a meeting where I was the only woman.”


What would you personally recommend to young girls toying with the idea of following a career in life sciences?

Renate: “If you really want to have a career in science stay strong and be firm. You have to get through tough situations sometimes, but it is true what does not kill you makes you stronger. Choose the things that make you happy and don’t let men stand in your way!”

Barbara: “If you are really interested in life sciences, just go for it! Even if you strive for a future management position in life sciences. There’s always time to get the business administration skills later via an MBA or similar. Doing it the other way around, first go in for studies in business administration and later get a degree in a life sciences, like I did, is certainly the harder way.”


To get to know the SUSFERT project some more please visit our website and stay in touch with via our social media channels – Twitter, LinkedIn and Research Gate and YouTube -, and through the SUSFERT newsletter! If you are curious about other (not well-known) female researchers that shaped the world as we know it go to this article by the UN Women website.