Breaking Barriers: The BeWISE Conference Empowers Women in Science Across the Dresden Community

The fourth BeWise conference took place in Dresden this April, driving knowledge exchange and networking amongst female scientists.

A crowd of scientists are sitting smiling and facing a presentation that is not visible to the right
80 female scientists came together to attend the BeWISE conference in Dresden © Sebastian Weingart

From the 15th to the 17th of April, the fourth Women in Science and Engineering (BeWISE) conference took place at the Pullman Hotel in Dresden. This three-day conference was conceived and organised by the Diversity Management unit at TU Dresden, in coordination with several Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)-funded institutions including the Cluster of Excellence Physics of Life (PoL).

Conducted in English and occurring every two years, the conference offers a platform for intensive exchange of ideas, networking, and career development opportunities. Through interactive workshops, coaching sessions, and discussions with female professors and researchers in top leadership positions, participants could benefit from the knowledge and experience of numerous colleagues in the research community. A total of 80 places were available, and primarily aimed at female researchers from participating DFG-funded programmes, and from the Women@DDc network.

The first and second days of the conference comprised of workshops, such as scientific visibility, the art of storytelling in science, and leadership skills. These sessions provided invaluable insights into navigating the academic world, which can often demonstrate gender bias. As one participant, Manon Valet, a postdoctoral researcher from the Campàs lab highlighted, 'Under the disguise of allowing “objective” comparison between candidates for academic positions, quantitative criteria such as the number of publications or attended conferences can be used to discriminate against women, especially when female researchers tend to list less of their achievements than their male counterparts.' As one key takeaway from the conference, she added, 'I learned that in a competitive environment we should not be modest about our achievements.'

An additional ‘fireplace talk’ gave a more personal touch, where scientists could discuss their individual career journeys in a relaxed atmosphere. By the end of the second day, participants were empowered and inspired, equipped with knowledge to aid in realising their scientific goals. One such person was Arufi Singh, a pre-doc from the Doyle lab at PoL. "It was illuminating to be part of the BeWISE conference and get a chance to interact with fellow women in science", she said. By taking part she noted, "It cultivated a sense of belonging in the scientific network of the city". Creating a supportive space where female researchers could gain contacts, several participants emphasised an interest in similar events being organised in the future.

The involvement of PoL in the BeWise conference aligns with one of our key values regarding gender equality, and through supporting encouraging and supporting female researchers, translates these values into action. Additionally, through collaborations with other institutes in Dresden on events such as the BeWISE conference, this highlights the active participation of PoL in the wider scientific community.

Well done to all participants!