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Federal Minister Karl: “Women need to make their achievements visible.”

(Vienna, 9 March 2010) On the occasion of the International Women’s Day 2010, MedUni Vienna invited a top-notch round of speakers to the Art Nouveau Lecture Hall – Federal Minister Beatrix Karl was also among the panel participants.

“We just need to be patient”, explains Rector Wolfgang Schütz in his initial appeal on Monday afternoon in the packed Art Nouveau Lecture Hall, “MedUni Vienna is on the right track.” After all, he adds, as many as one third of all newly appointed professors are now already female, and furthermore Vienna has the first chair for gender medicine in Austria. This professorship is held by Alexandra Kautzky-Willer; for her and the largely female audience, developments are not always as quick as they would wish them to be. Rightly so? Although MedUni Vienna has a pioneering role in the university-based promotion of women, merely 17 of 127 professors of MedUni Vienna are female.

But quite a lot has been achieved, as discussion participant Federal Minister Beatrix Karl underlines. It is with horror that she remembers the year 1991 when she applied for a post as an assistant professor at Graz University. Then she was asked, “Would you just like to earn something extra or do you really want to work?”. Beatrix Karl was not impressed and in the end became the second female professor of labour law in Austria.

The other female panel participants present, all of them experienced scientists, have also made their way to top positions – with Professor Karin Gutierrez Lobos and Professor Andrea Langmann, both from MedUni Vienna, two vice rectors took part in the discussions. But there is still no female rector in Austria. “How come, Minister?”, asked a young female physician from the audience. “Women need to make their achievements visible; they have to be self-confident. Now as before, women at universities usually leave research work to men and dedicate themselves to administrative tasks.” And she adds that university life needs more flexibility.

She is supported – not just in this context – by Gutierrez Lobos, who also sees rigid working time arrangements as one of the main obstacles for women. “As women still bear a large part of child-raising responsibilities, possibilities need to be created that enable women with children to start a university-based career.” The Vice Rector for HR Development has no problem with promoting quotas either: “The term ‘token woman’ does not touch me emotionally at all. In parliament they also have a quota system according to which a certain number of MPs are assigned to every province and professional association. Quota systems are a legitimate democratic means.” To get things moving it is necessary to be pushy, explains Gutierrez-Lobos. “Fight and never give in” is a motto which Ursula Köller from Hietzing Hospital is also happy with. But it is questionable whether this perseverance on the part of the panel participants is synonymous with the patience demanded by Rector Schütz in the beginning.