As of the end of 2020, the share of women among full and visiting professors at the mdw stood at 33.4 percent (cf. mdw gender distribution statistics). This represented a good 10 % increase over the 2010 figure, and the share of women appointed to professorships in 2020 was 54.5 %—so progress is being made. Even so, we are still far off from achieving gender parity among professors—for which reason strategies aimed at accelerating this process were developed as part of the mdw’s Diversity Strategy.

For the series of mentoring programmes entitled “Reach higher, reach beyond”, the Administrative Department for Equality, Gender Studies and Diversity (GGD) has joined forces with the Human Resources Development Office – Center for Further Education (ZfW) and the Office of Research Support to develop two pilot programmes that aim to support women, inter*, and non-binary persons in the strategic development of their university careers, thereby also helping to further elevate the share of non-male professors. The second pilot programme in this series—“Reach higher, reach beyond. Mentoring Programme for Artists at the mdw who Aspire to a University Career (Women, Inter*, and Non-Binary Persons)”—is set to begin in March 2022 with skills training to accompany the mentoring processes.

The first pilot programme, subtitled “Mentoring Programme for Pre- and Post-Docs at the mdw (women, inter*, and non-binary persons)”, has now been largely wrapped up: it saw nine academics—from the fields of musicology, music acoustics, music education, music therapy, and film studies/artistic research—spend the past year deeply engaged in work on their own academic careers, whose development they furthered through exchange with international mentors.

The programme’s mentees underwent intensive skills training that conveyed knowledge and awareness of university structures, the value of networking and collaboration, and empowerment in academic communication: “In the modules, I learned a lot about how one moves around within the university context as well as how to recognise gender-specific barriers, how to make contacts and work together with others, and how important one’s own presence and ability to communicate is,” says musicologist Elena Minetti by way of description.

The individual mentoring processes together with renowned scientists and scholars active in the USA, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria provided the mentees with opportunities to critically discuss concrete personal questions, strategies, and their own academic work and represented a key part of this programme.

The mentees were surprised, however, at how the peer group ultimately developed into the programme’s core element, serving as an important anchor in turbulent and challenging times. “I wouldn’t have expected to find myself in a group with so much solidarity, where it was possible to engage in such honest exchange on an even footing. The contrasts both between the disciplines represented there and between the questions on careers in the academic realm embodied an aspect that I found highly enriching and reinforcing,” comments Barbara Wolfram, a postdoctoral researcher at Film Academy Vienna.

The programme’s various elements were aimed not only at individual career promotion but also at cooperation and collaboration in academia, oriented as it is toward lone wolves: critical discussion of overall structural conditions and one’s own positioning therein, analysis of mechanisms of power and gender relations in academic life, and working together to develop strategies for action were all central. An important building block was also the reflective conversation on “Institutional Criticism. Queer-Feminist, Decolonial Aspects of Science and Research” with political scientist Maria do Mar Castro Varela. And the entire process was accompanied by the development of an individual career “road map” that depicts existing resources, areas of development, and concrete next steps. Montserrat Pàmies-Vilà, a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Music Acoustics (Wiener Klangstil), states: “I’ve examined my desires, my sources of support, and the adversities I face. I’ve had the chance to write them down, to discuss them with others (mentees, mentors, trainers, coach…), to think about them, to use them to define my path in academia. During the process … I had to reflect a lot on how I am and how I would like to be as a scientist and university professor.”

The numerous, in equal measure structural and personal questions addressed over the course of the initial programme have, in any case, touched off processes of reflection—and, as musicologist Maria Fuchs puts it, “are continuing to work productively within me.” Let’s hope that such productivity will also continue to have a positive effect on gender ratios at the mdw.

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