From the Women’s Career Center to the Universität Hamburg Career Center—a brief history
Today’s students, graduates, and prospective doctoral researchers are often unaware that the Career Center of Universität Hamburg has its origins in various women’s projects.
The direct predecessor to today’s Career Center was the Women’s Career Center (WCC) model project which ran from 2001–2006. The project was financed in part through the Joint Federal Government-Länder Tenure-Track Programme on equal opportunity for women in research and teaching (Chancengleichheit für Frauen in Forschung und Lehre) and in part through Universität Hamburg, after the then senator for science Krista Sager expressly pushed for its realization. The six-year funding enabled the creation of a broad range of support for women from all subject areas of Universität Hamburg in their career transitions. Female employees were hired, workshops and many other program elements still in place today were established. An advisory board was formed to support and accompany the WCC. It consisted of the full-time Equal Opportunity Commissioner at Universität Hamburg, the head of the cross-university coordinating office for women’s studies and research, a female employee of the Center for Academic Advising and Psychological Counseling, and a female professor.
The idea behind the concept was to support women who graduated from Universität Hamburg in their transition into their professional careers, including academic careers. The WCC sought to expand and enhance key skills that would assist in this transition process. The center was designed exclusively to help prepare women in the career planning process for specific hurdles in the labor markets (e.g., glass ceilings, equal pay gap, poorer advancement and appointment possibilities at universities) as well as to promote their potential and in particular to make this potential clear. Networking was implemented as a general principle and encouraged with the goal of establishing contacts to companies and familiarizing those at the University with the realities of the labor market.
The services were geared to female students, graduates, and doctoral researchers of all faculties for up to two years after their graduation. Nearly 100 seminars with more than 1,500 participants (3,140 registrations) and 30 “Fishing for Careers” events with approx. 4,200 participants were conducted in the period from 2002 to 2006. Some 850 participants were advised individually or in groups and two graduate days with external companies were held, attended by approx. 600 participants. A regular summer workshop for women interested in a career in academia was established as well. The project was not without controversy, however. Female employees often found themselves rebutting articles in the press that described the Women’s Career Center as a measure to compensate for women’s deficits. That was not the case. In the end, the women who took advantage of these service offers were very satisfied—and successful in their own eyes.
After the Women’s Career Center project was completed, budgetary funds were used to establish the cross-faculty Career Center for students and graduates of Universität Hamburg as an independent institution on 1 April 2007. The new center was assigned to the office of the Vice President for Studies and Teaching. The service portfolio of the Women’s Career Center was further developed and expanded. In 2009, the Career Center moved to an office in Monetastrasse 4.
It has retained its strong focus on gender and diversity until today. As a central working premise, awareness of gender and diversity is woven throughout the service portfolio and heavily influences the selection of internal and external employees and trainers. Thanks to additional support from the Qualification Fund of the Equal Opportunity Unit, many additional events and workshops for women have been offered since 2015. Approximately 6,000 participants from the Career Center who find themselves in the transition from studies to work or studies to doctoral research benefit from these events annually. The issue of gender continues to play a key role, in particular in relation to topics such as leadership, entrepreneurship, wages, digitalization, and work-life balance.