»BestChance« Award 2022 goes to Fraunhofer IZM

Überreichung des »BestChance« Award 2022
Prof. Martin Schneider-Ramelow (left) awarded the certificate to Christina Lopper and Michael Schiffer.

For their commitment to providing effective support for female students at Fraunhofer IZM, Christina Lopper and Michael Schiffer have been honored with the »BestChance« award for 2022. The award was presented on 8 November 2022 as part of the 17th networking day of the Equal Opportunities Representatives, again hosted in virtual form. Professor Albert Heuberger, Director of Fraunhofer IIS in Erlangen and speaker of the Microelectronics Association, praised the recipients of the award in his speech; the actual presentation of the €3000 prize was taken over by Professor Martin Schneider-Ramelow, Acting Director of Fraunhofer IZM, on site in Berlin.

Christina Lopper had recognized that women have long been underrepresented at all levels of the Fraunhofer IZM, prompting her to investigate the causes in conversations with students leaving the Institute. One of her findings was that many of the female students were missing a meaningful link between their practical work at the Institute and their study topics. They lacked prospects and were rarely spoken to about possible career opportunities and conditions. Christina Lopper also asked herself whether female students at the Institute should be more visible and more effectively employed as an important talent pool in times of constrained labor markets.

Her idea was the creation of a dedicated support program for female students – the YOUNG RESEARCH TALENT CLASS »WOMEN IN SCIENCE«, developed by Christina Lopper and Michael Schiffer and run by her ever since. The program’s goals are to:

  • Actively guide and support female students in the definition of their personal strengths and professional prospects;
  • To give young female researchers more visibility;
  • To offer employment options after graduation, with meaningful consideration for the students’ career aspirations;
  • To increase the representation of women in scientific and technical jobs at Fraunhofer IZM and reduce old inequalities.

The Institute put in place the necessary framework for the program at the turn of 2021. In January of the same year, Christina Lopper started conducting and analyzing her exit talks with students in her role as Equal Opportunities Representative at the Institute. By October, she had prepared the first draft of the program for presentation to the Institute’s leadership. The first selection round for the 14-day pilot started in January 2022, leading to one participant finding a new opportunity in a different unit with a selection of topics for her master’s research, which she would have pursued outside of the Institute without this option. Mentoring will be introduced to help the participants network even after they complete the program.

With the successful pilot, a decision was taken to give the concept a permanent place at the Institute, not limited by departmental boundaries. The second cycle has already been completed, and a third round is currently being planned.

The »BestChance« Award 2022 was won in recognition of the thinking behind and the work done on the program for female students. For the symbolic presentation of the award, Professor Albert Heuberger praised the winners: »I congratulate the team at Fraunhofer IZM. It is great to see a member institute of the Microelectronics Association winning the Fraunhofer »BestChance« prize for the first time. This draws attention to all of the work being done to promote equal opportunities both in our institutes and in the association.«

It fell to Professor Martin Schneider-Ramelow to present the actual prize to his two colleagues and winners of the »BestChance« award 2022, Christina Lopper and Michael Schiffer: »We are so pleased that the support program initiated her at Fraunhofer IZM has been met with so much positive attention even outside of our Institute. We hope that it will inspire other Institutes and give young female scientific talent more prospects in the field.”

Elisabeth Ewen, Director for People, Culture, and Legal Affairs and sponsor of the »BestChance« award, also congratulated the initiators of the program, Christina Lopper and Michael Schiffer, on their commitment. For the presentation of the award, she explained: »Fraunhofer IZM has come up with an internal support program that offers talented women systematic support with their careers already during their time at university and helps us build a greater pool of scientific talent for Fraunhofer. The many individual activities, the great commitment of the people involved, and the broad support for the initiative at the Institute is an example for others. I consider the strategic thinking behind and the focused work on the activities relevant for bolstering the representation of female scientists at the Institute.«

The ten jurors had to pick a winner from a large pool of promising candidates. This year’s prize was again awarded for the criteria ‘Impact’ (expected efficiency or actual successes), ‘Relevance’ (reach / example, sustainability / structural integration, wider applicability), and ‘Commitment’ (involvement of the people involved, innovativeness, creativity, novelty). This year’s winner of the »BestChance« fulfills all of these criteria without reservations.

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