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Women's Career Day: successful move into virtual space

3 June 2020

Prof. Zehra Sayers, Sabanci University, Istanbul, is currently visiting researcher at EMBL Hamburg. Photograph: Private

How can I fix the camera during an online presentation so that the picture looks good? How do I get my voice under control? How do I generally present myself well? How do I develop a career goal and the appropriate strategy?

In two tailor-made all-day workshops, the Women's Career Day 2020 covered a range of topics from concrete, detailed tips for self-presentation to a comprehensive career scheme. The concluding keynote clearly demonstrated how the path of "homo scientificus" can be successful: Speaker Prof. Zehra Sayers not only chaired the Science Advisory Committee of SESAME (Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East) for 15 years, the BBC also included her on its list of the 100 most inspiring and influential women of 2019.

Only a few women work in the technical area of SESAME. In this respect, the project is no different from others in this field of research, explained Sayers. The Professor of Biophysics at Sabanci University in Istanbul, Turkey, is currently a visiting researcher at EMBL in Hamburg. She said SESAME is a good example of how a scientific community can be built despite political tensions. Passionate researchers, the "homo scientificus", as Sayers said, are dreamers who believe in improving the world and finding answers to extremely complex questions. The SESAME project shows how boundaries can be overcome when people share this dream.

Appropriately, the virtual keynote was explicitly announced as a presentation for a broad audience interested in scientific cooperation, bringing together science, diplomacy and society.

The workshops, on the other hand, were aimed at female doctoral and post-doctoral students in the natural sciences with the aim of developing key competences that can be crucial for their professional careers. The Women's Career Day was not spared from the current restrictions: The move to the virtual space required a reduction of the program, which is usually scheduled for two days, to one day. "Many responded to us that they would have liked to have had more time to work on the topics," say Eileen Schwanold, Equal Opportunities and Diversity Officer of the Clusters of Excellence "CUI: Advanced Imaging of Matter" and "Quantum Universe", and Mirko Siemssen, Coordinator of the PIER Helmholtz Graduate School. "We are pleased about this criticism, however, as it shows that we are right on target with our offer," said the organizers.

Indeed, the majority of the participants seemed to be breaking new ground with all-day digital workshops. Schwanold: "Everybody had to get used to the special conditions, especially with the voice exercises and loosening exercises for the facial muscles, which were sometimes quite unusual, but also funny". But after the initial steps, a surprisingly good group and community feeling developed in the virtual space as well. As in real life, everyone is ultimately in the same boat. "Even people at the top of their game need to keep learning and improving," emphasized trainer Elena Kaufman. "Keep that in mind when you feel insecure and like an imposter, because they probably feel like one, too." The impostor or fraud syndrome, to which many well-educated women are prone, was one of the focal points of the workshops.

The Women's Career Day took place online for the first time. The fully booked workshops were led by Elena Kaufman and Dr. Diana Deterra, two experts with many years of experience in the scientific environment. The Career Day is organized by CUI, QU, SFB 925, the MIN Faculty, DESY, EMBL, MPSD and PIER.

Text: CUI, Ingeborg Adler

Chu Wang
Infection and Structural Biology
Younes Otarid
Particle and Astroparticle physics
Florian Christie
Daniel Marx
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