You’ve mentioned structural barriers several times. Why, in your view, is the structural framework currently unfavorable?

      
The present structures have their origins in social conditions of the past; in other words, they’ve existed for quite some time. They were created by men; women played only a marginal role. This has given rise to an organizational climate shaped by men. Changing these structures requires a change in awareness; you have to first recognize the problem and then also have the will to tackle it. One of the recommendations given by the American Physical Society (APS) in its Best Practices for Female Faculty is: “Hire a critical mass of female faculty sufficient to impact the climate.” These guidelines can also be applied to Swiss higher education institutions. Currently with women holding less ten percent of physics professorships as mentioned before, we’re a long way from “critical mass”. According to a Catalyst Information Center study, when the proportion of women reaches thirty percent, women are no longer “rare” and can behave naturally and help to shape the climate.
If an organization is open to change, it will welcome, support, and encourage a network initiated by women within the organization. It will also be interested in women’s views on what is not working well and how things could be improved. Based on this feedback, the organization can specifically address any weaknesses.
Evidence shows a correlation between a higher proportion of women in leadership positions and the success of an organization, although a causal relationship can scarcely be demonstrated. My personal impression is that a higher proportion of women leads to changes in corporate governance. This in turn leads to a healthier, more productive, and more successful organization. The modified structures also make it possible for minorities to access leadership positions. In this connection, I’d already mentioned that minorities are often poorly networked, which makes it more difficult for them to access information – especially of an informal kind.
Good corporate governance addresses questions such as: What criteria are used to award funds? How are they allocated? Are the recipients disclosed? The emphasis is on accountability and transparency, rather than on personal relationships. Very often, unfortunately, there’s an inner circle which is a bit “more equal than the others”.
In the UK, some funding agencies assess individual universities’ structures to see whether they meet certain conditions. If they are not compliant, no funding is awarded. Changes can be brought about very rapidly in that way.
In this country, it would also be desirable for criteria to incorporate structural elements. But they need to be effective and must not represent administrative barriers. For this reason, I think it would be advisable to define different approaches for different disciplines, as they each face challenges of different kinds.
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