East German Female Scientists during the Process of Transformation, 1980-2000: The Professional Outlook of Female Physicists in Science and Research

Employees (IfZ):  Dr. Heike Amos

Women with successful academic careers at universities, and in the natural sciences in particular, continue to constitute a rarity in Germany. This has been confirmed in current analyses of the Federal Ministries of Education and Research and of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, reports by the Bund-Länder-Kommission für Bildungsplanung und Forschungsfragen (“Federal-State-Commission for Education Planning and Research Matters”), and expert reports on Europe: While 51 percent of university graduates are now women, this figure drops to 39 percent for doctorates and only 23 percent for post-doc Habilitations. This current understanding of the problem leads to the question of its historical causes and developmental trajectories. Are there historical causes and reasons for Germany’s poorer showing with regard to equal opportunities as compared with other European countries, and if so, what are they?

This project looks into the question of how the situation changed for female natural scientists in eastern Germany in the course of the systemic shift, and how they experienced and perceived this change. The study will focus on why the situation with regard to equal opportunity did not – or did not sufficiently – improve in university teaching and research, and for physicists in particular, in the course of German reunification and the assimilation of the scientific world in the East to that of the West. Or to put in blunter terms: One central thesis of the study is that the transformation and unification process in Germany, despite all knowledge of the problem of equal opportunities for women, led to a worsening in the career situation of female natural scientists in eastern Germany, and thus to a further delay in the sociopolitical modernization of the Federal Republic as a whole. The research on the topic connects economic history, political history, and experiential history. Important aspects of the field of gender research will be incorporated into the study as well.

Publications within the project

Heike Amos

Karrieren ostdeutscher Physikerinnen in Wissenschaft und Forschung 1970 bis 2000

Quellen und Darstellungen zur Zeitgeschichte

Berlin 2020


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