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Introducing the ENWE Network: AcademiaNet

Meet the ENWE network’s database with more than 3,300 profiles of leading women scientists.

Collecting over 3,300 profiles of outstanding women researchers, the AcademiaNet database – part of the ENWE network – is a vital tool for decision-makers, journalists, and conference organizers who are looking for leading female experts in the scientific sectors.

We linked up with the database to learn more about their history, selection process, work, and perspectives on the current challenges to achieve gender equality.

Simona Isler of AcademiaNet and Julia Heres Garcia of Les Expertes at the ENWE “First Step to The Top” Event (Milan, 2 December, 2021)
Photo Credits: Sofia Blu Cremaschi

What was the context that brought to the foundation of AcademiaNet?
AcademiaNet was initiated by the Robert Bosch Stiftung, which created the database in 2010. The organization Robert Bosch Stiftung founded it with the aim of raising the visibility of outstanding female researchers and increasing the number in leadership positions. One of the founders of AcademiaNet, Ingrid Wünning Tschol, explains there was a specific reason for AcademiaNet to be launched, namely the EuroScience Open Forum in 2008 in Barcelona. Ingrid Wünning Tschol was one of the organizers, and was partly responsible for the fact that there was only one female keynote speaker. This was criticized. She then realized that a database was needed, where outstanding women scientists could be found.

Candidates cannot nominate themselves,
but must be proposed by one of the 43 partner organizations.

How does AcademiaNet select the women excellences, and how can users access its services?
To guarantee that the female scientists on AcademiaNet belong to the top group of their research field, a special admission procedure has been developed: candidates cannot nominate themselves, but must be proposed by one of the 43 partner organizations. The project partners include renowned scientific institutions from all over Europe such as the Max Planck Society, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Wellcome Trust and the Spanish National Research Council. The partner organizations nominate female scientists based on selection criteria, which guarantee that the women in the database are among the best scientists in their respective fields. The selection criteria include outstanding scientific qualifications, outstanding academic references and independent leadership experience. More specifically, the candidate should have outstanding academic qualifications, as measured by the standard of her particular academic discipline and by her academic maturity, such as prizes and awards, distinguished fellowships or memberships in prestigious academic circles, independently raised funding, publishing activities, number of patents, invitations to conference and talks. In addition, the candidate should carry on independent leadership activities and the candidate’s academic profile should be recognizable.

Every female researcher nominated by a partner organization must agree to become a member of AcademiaNet. On their profile page, female researchers can indicate the type of request they are particularly interested in. Networks and friendships are helpful resources for women researchers. AcademiaNet encourages its members to team up in so-called AcademiaNet Clubs. AcademiaNet scientists have founded clubs at 20 locations to network with each other. Members of the network organize informal meetings in their respective region or online meetings having the benefit that researchers from different regions can attend. Clubs have been established in Austria, Belgium, Germany and Great Britain.

Networks and friendships are helpful resources f
or women researchers. AcademiaNet encourages its members
to team up in so-called AcademiaNet Clubs.

What would you say is the impact AcademiaNet has had since its foundation in the context where it operates? What are AcademiaNet’s greatest achievements?
AcademiaNet is growing every year, with more female experts joining the network, as well as new partner organizations joining in. The later can already be seen as an indicator of AcademiaNet’s success. On average the website AcademiaNet has 20’000 visits/month, 3’600 registered users and 1’300 subscribers plus social media traffic.

Overall, it is not easy to measure the direct impact of AcademiaNet, however, we often hear about AcademiaNet’s success stories. Thanks to AcademiaNet suitable female experts with excellent knowledge and experience can be found for panels for instance, or when appointing leadership positions and committees or when looking for an interview partner or speaker. AcademiaNet plays an important role when it comes to address gender imbalances in academia. It enables the profiles of female experts to be more visible. If society sees women in academia, at some point, it will have an impact at the societal level- and it will become normal to see women in science. This can also create good role models for teenagers whom are hesitating which direction to take.

Finally, AcademiaNet also enables to create networks between women scientists and encourage them to be part of AcademiaNet Clubs. This enables women to create more networking between them, casually exchange and optimally support each other. Women can exchange among the same discipline but also across disciplines—by discussing gender issues or other socio-political issues. These AcademiaNet Clubs are easy to organize and financial support is available from AcademiaNet.

Is there any data sheet about the female experts collected in the network?
When going on the website of AcademiaNet, you can search for profiles within different discipline and fields. There are a number of filters that can be added such as countries or employers. Once you start searching, you will find a number of profile of female experts, with their name, by which partner organization they were nominated, by who they are employed, their academic discipline and field, as well as area of specialization, research interests and distinctions and awards. There is also information on their interests, their language skills, a short CV on Education and training as well as selected publications, projects, membership in scientific bodies and media coverage. You can contact the female expert by creating an account on AcademiaNet and registering as a user.

[The] lack of gender equality in the media
does have an impact on the academic sphere,
as it shapes the image of experts as male.

What is AcademiaNet take on the results of the latest Global Media Monitoring Project?
Increasing the representation of women in news coverage and media is crucial. The media does have an impact on how we perceive reality, and somehow affects the whole structure of society. This lack of gender equality in the media does have an impact on the academic sphere, as it shapes the image of experts as male. It may even, at the micro level, put barriers in front of young girls, who might not find their role model and might not think about the possibility to do research and become experts themselves. In addition, the fact that women are not equally given voice in the media gives a complete bias to what is being discussed in the media from which perspective and which topics and questions are being further developed.

Creating this database with female experts and making women more visible, we believe is a first step towards gender equality not only at the academic level but also in the media. Journalists can use this database in order to find female experts and make sure that women are visible as scientists by undertaking interviews with them or by writing articles about them. AcademiaNet would also contribute hereby by counteracting the male image of science, research and expertise. Thanks to AcademiaNet, there is no excuse anymore, and women experts in their field can easily be found. 

ENWE – European Network for Women Excellence is an advocacy group committed to creating a network of European databases that offer an extensive selection of prestigious female profiles for interviews, conferences, and panels. Find out more about our network of partners here.

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