On the second iteration of “Reach higher, reach beyond. Mentoring programme for women, inter*, and non-binary artists at the mdw who aspire to a university career.”

Around one year ago, the percentage of the mdw’s full and visiting professors who are women was addressed here in a report on the launch of an mdw mentoring programme for women, inter*, and non-binary pre- and postdoctoral students. At the close of 2021, this share lay at 33.5 percent—but these mdw gender distribution statistics pertaining to the professorial level reveal a particular imbalance in terms of gender representation: while women have caught up rather well in terms of academic professorships, of which they currently hold 45 percent, women’s share in the category that makes up the vast majority of mdw professorships—namely those in artistic fields—is comparatively low, at just 32 percent.

A second pilot programme, entitled “Reach higher, reach beyond. Mentoring Programme for Women, Inter*, and Non-binary Artists at the mdw who Aspire to a University Career”, developed by the Administrative Department for Equality, Gender Studies and Diversity (GGD) together with Vice Rector Gerda Müller, Prof. Barbara Strack-Hanisch, and the mdw’s Human Resources Development Office – Center for Further Education (ZfW), has attempted to contribute to the amelioration of these sobering figures over the past year.

This project saw twelve mdw graduates, visiting lecturers, and senior lecturers from artistic and artistic/pedagogical fields alike scrutinise their own university careers and work on their careers’ strategic development individually, in small mentoring groups, and in the larger “peer group”. A three-part skills training programme, could finally be held in person in 2022, gave the participants an opportunity to investigate the tensions between competition and cooperation in the professional arts world, learn to better understand and make active use of university structures, and experience what “holistic presence” can entail for communication.

In an exchange format specific to this programme, several mdw teaching faculty members employed as professors and senior lecturers shared their experiences and (career) decisions in the arts university context in a very open and personal way. Additionally, Barbara Strack-Hanisch provided the mentees with a detailed survey of the mdw’s search and selection process for filling vacant positions.

An experimental aspect was the mentoring programme involving small groups comprised of three artist-mentees: each of these groups worked together regularly with one mentor whom they had chosen themselves. Conductor Sian Edwards, an mdw professor since October 2022, as well as the American tubist and university administrator Joanna Hersey, the filmmaker Ula Stöckl, and the former concert violinist, dancer, and Mozarteum professor emeritus Helmi Vent (Lab Inter Arts) generously let the mentees in on their experiences and realisations and provided them with advice: “Helmi gave us an interesting glimpse behind the scenes but also worked with us in a way that was very well founded in an artistic sense. Furthermore, she worked together with us to critically question lots of things, which allowed us to cast off a great deal of insecurity about the complex university system,” says Marlene Lacherstorfer.

Even so, and in a way that went far beyond what had originally been planned, what ended being a central focus of the programme’s participants over and over was the topic of “doing gender” in the context of “doing art”. Intense conversations during the programme were sparked not just by the input of Ulli Mayer but also by the discourse on abuses of power, which was acutely present last summer at the mdw: in discussions organised expressly for this purpose, Vice Rector Gerda Müller and AKG head Angelika Silberbauer engaged in very open exchange on this topic with the mentees. “I’m grateful that ‘Reach higher, reach beyond’ inspired me to take a more critical view of power mechanisms and gender relations, which I’d hardly ever questioned prior to taking part,” says oboist Katharina Hörmann. Quite generally, dealing with gender and power relations was important to the mentee group from the very beginning. For Dorothy Khadem-Missagh, “It was extremely valuable to engage in trusting exchange with other mentees from similar as well as entirely different fields. In doing so, I became aware of how I’m not alone with certain personal experiences and challenges. This exchange shifted my view to focus on a higher level and placed experiences that I’d often perceived as merely subjective in a broader context.”

Information on the programme, the mentees, and the mentors:

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