1988 - 2000

The first preliminary regulations for the election and appointment of a women’s representative at the University of Bonn in July 1988. Representatives in the Convention, the Senate and the Faculty Councils proposed Dr. Brigitte Mühlenbruch, academic senior councilor at the Pharmaceutical Institute, for the office. She was appointed by the Senate.

Increasing the Percentage of Women Professors

Initially, the women’s representative focused mainly on accompanying professorship appointment procedures. In 1986/87, only 2,3% of professorships were held by women scientists – while female students made up 46,6% of the student body. In her final report Zur Situation der Frauen an der Universität Bonn (On the Situation of Women at the University of Bonn) from 1990, Mühlenbruch describes the obstacles and the conscious and unconscious processes preventing the rise of qualified women scientists. According to her observations, the same biographical facts can have opposite effects depending on the individual’s gender: while “qualified female applicants are denied good places on the list of potential candidates because they are too young”, male applicants’ “youthful promise worked to their advantage” (p. 11). Upper age limits likewise negatively affected the chances of women candidates, as they did not take into account periods of parental leave or other factors “typical of female biographies” (p. 12).
The percentage of women applying for professorships was very low to begin with. But while male scientists who had not even applied for open positions were actively encouraged to do so and even received votes, female scientists were not promoted in this way. In her report, Mühlenbruch notes: “There have also been appointment procedures in which the degree of rationality and objectivity was not as high as officially expected.” (p. 12f.).

Bericht Mühlenbruch.jpg
© Gleichstellungsbüro


Startpunkt für die Gleichstellung

2,3 %


46,6 %


© Gleichstellungsbüro

Women’s Studies Work Group Bonn and Women’s Studies Network NRW

For a long time, the University of Bonn held a pioneering position in the field of women’s studies in North Rhine-Westphalia. In 1982, Marianne Krüll (then academic councilor at the Institute of Sociology) founded the AG Frauenforschung (Women’s Studies Work Group), committed to promoting, spreading awareness of and communicating women’s studies within and beyond the university. Its members played a significant role in establishing the office of the women’s representative and appointing Brigitte Mühlenbruch.

Beginning in the winter of 1989/90, the University’s women’s representative published the “Fraueninformationsblatt” (Women’s Information Letter) for each term. It catalogued classes relevant to the field of women’s studies, as well as a lecture series bringing together women scientists from different disciplines organized by the women’s representative’s office. In addition, it featured information on opportunities for further education and workshops for women and reports on recent developments in women’s politics. For a time, the gender equality office documented all professorial or doctorial dissertations and final theses submitted at the University of Bonn that focused on these and related issues.

During the 1980s and 90s, three professorships within the Women’s Studies Network NRW were established at the University of Bonn alone. In 1986, historian Annette Kuhn became the first ever network professor (“Didactics of History, Medieval and Modern History and Women’s History”). Another network professorship (“Old Testament and Theological Women’s Studies”) was created at the Faculty of Catholic Theology in the winter term of 1997/98. It was held by Irmtraud Fischer. Finally, a third network professorship at the University Clinic Centre for Obstetrics and Gynecology was filled by Anke Rohde in April 1997. Moreover, her chair of “Gynecological Psychosomatics” was the first institution of its kind at a German university. Unfortunately, none of the network professorships at the University of Bonn were continued after their initial occupants left or received emerita status.

Impulses for Women’s and Gender Equality Politics

In addition to her work at the University of Bonn, Mühlenbruch was active as one of the speakers of the State Conference of Women’s and Gender Equality Officers at Institutions of Higher Education in North Rhine-Westphalia (Lakof). Between 1992 and 1999, she was one of the speakers of the Federal Conference (bukof). She also took on the direction of the federal “Koordinationsprojekt zur Verbesserung der Chancen von Frauen im Hochschulbereich” (Coordination Project for Improving Women’s Chances in the Field of Higher Education), which was later to become the Centre of Excellence Women and Science (CEWS) in Cologne. Under her direction and with the assistance of her successor Ursula Mättig, the coordination of all these organizations, initiatives and projects was anchored at the University of Bonn. In 2005, on behalf of the European Union, Mühlenbruch founded the Brussels-based European Platform of Women Scientists (EPWS), a non-profit platform representing the interests of women scientists in EU member states with about 100 associated networks. She initially held the office of Vice President, later that of President. In 2017 she was elected Honorary President. She is a member of many further committees and expert networks, such as the European Commission’s “European Network of Women in Decision-Making in Politics and the Economy”.

Another project during Mühlenbruch’s term of office was the 1996 exhibition “100 Jahre Frauenstudium – Frauen der Rheinischen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn” (100 Years of Women Students – Women of the University of Bonn). The exhibition and accompanying publication were developed by Mühlenbruch in cooperation with historians Annette Kuhn and Valentine Rothe and document the beginnings of women entering the University in Bonn. It was a great success.

© Gleichstellungsbüro


Arbeitsgemeinschaft Frauenforschung (Hg.)

Trotz alledem...10 Jahre Arbeitsgemeinschaft Frauenforschung der Universität Bonn. Oktober 1992. [Archiv des Gleichstellungsbüros]

Arbeitsgemeinschaft Frauenforschung (Hg.)

Chronologie. 15 Jahre AG Frauenforschung an der Universität Bonn. Wissenschaft anders betrachtet. Februar 1998. [Archiv des Gleichstellungsbüros]

Annette Kuhn, Brigitte Mühlenbruch, Valentine Rothe (Hg.)

100 Jahre Frauenstudium. Frauen der Rheinischen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn. Dortmund: Ed. Ebersbach 1996.

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