Laying the foundations for gender equality work

30+ Years of Gender Equality Work at the University of Bonn

With the passing of the new Higher Education Act of 1987 (§ 23a), for the first time all universities in North Rhine-Westphalia were required to appoint a women’s representative (or officer). It would be her task to support the university in implementing equality of opportunities and to reduce disadvantages to women. In July 1988, the University of Bonn adopted preliminary reuglations for the election and appointment of a women’s representative.

1988: Establishing the Office of the Women's Representative

The first women’s representative at the University of Bonn was appointed in October 1988: Dr. Brigitte Mühlenbruch, hitherto academic senior councilor at the Pharmaceutical Institute. The office’s establishment was prepared by the group „Women at the University of Bonn”, a consolidation of the AG Frauenforschung (work group women’s studies), staff councils and spokespersons of various groups of employees, the AStA women’s department and a student work group established specifically for this purpose. From 1991 onwards, the women’s representative – later the gender equality officer – was elected by a committee comprising three elected female representatives from each group of university members (academic staff, administrative staff and students). The committee met several times a year to support and advise the gender equality officer in her work.

© Gleichstellungsbüro
Eine Wissenschaftlerin und ein Wissenschaftler arbeiten hinter einer Glasfassade und mischen Chemikalien mit Großgeräten.
© Gleichstellungsbüro

2000: Change of Office and Expansion of Structures

In November 2000, Ursula Mättig, graduate in German Studies and research associate at the Gender Equality Office, was elected by the committee and appointed by the senate to succeed Brigitte Mühlenbruch. During her sixteen years in office, she successfully worked to increase the percentage of women across all disciplines, to expand the structures of gender equality work at the University and to support female early-career researchers. The first half of her period of office was defined by the ideas of “VorBilder” (pun on ‘role models’, Vorbilder, and ‘images’, Bilder) and “Perspective(s)” and demonstrates her extraordinary commitment to making visible and recruiting more women scientists.

Also in 2000, the Senate adopted the University of Bonn’s first plans for the promotion of women. The 2001 Higher Education Act of North Rhine-Westphalia provided material incentives for gender equality measures: thus in future those units demonstrably trying to achieve equal representation of women and men would be given special consideration in the distribution of funding. The plans’ implementation further led to new possibilities in offering direct financial support to women early-career researchers by means of scholarships or programs.


Brigitte Mühlenbruch

Zur Situation der Frauen an der Universität Bonn. Bericht der Frauenbeauftragten zum Abschluss ihrer Amtszeit. 12. Oktober 1990.
[Archiv des Gleichstellungsbüros]

Ursula Mättig

Frauenstudium und -politik, Frauenforschung und -förderung: 1968/79 bis 2015. In: Doch plötzlich jetzt emanzipiert will Wissenschaft sie treiben. Frauen an der Universität Bonn (1818-2018). Hg. von A. Stieldorf/U.Mättig/I. Neffgen. V & R unipress GmbH. Göttingen 2018.

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