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Prof. Dr. Gerd Litfin, Göttingen
am 29. Oktober 2009

Rede des Präsidenten aus Anlass der Lise Meitner Lectures in Berlin

Dear Prof. Jarlskog, Prof. Ritsch-Marte, Prof. Gornik, Dr Sandow, Prof. Müller-Preussker, Ladies and Gentlemen, participants of the pupils’ competition,

On behalf of the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft and also personally I cordially welcome you to the Magnus-Haus Berlin. The Magnus-Haus is a historic place and the location of the DPG in Berlin, whereas the head office of the DPG is in the Physikzentrum Bad Honnef on River Rhine. The DPG, founded in the year 1845 with the roots for its foundation laid right in this building, is thus the oldest and with its more than 57,000 members also the most powerful physical society in the world. The DPG, which represents most of the German physicists, does not actually do any physics research itself, however we organize the physics discussion within our scientific community and also with politics and public.

This is why with the financial support of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, DPG and ÖPG which is the Austrian Society of Physicists have jointly created the Lise Meitner Lectures, a series of events aimed at inspiring more women to study Physics. Lise Meitner is exceptionally well suited for this: living in Vienna and later on in Berlin she was one of the most important physicists of her age, and her outstanding scientific and social commitment makes her a historic role model in the best sense of the term.

Therefore I am delighted that Prof. Jarlskog is here as a modern role model and our guest today, giving a scientific lecture. We also have the pleasure of the company of Prof. Gornik and Prof. Ritsch-Marte, the President and Vice-President of the Austrian Society of Physicists.

To come back to the topic of role models: The idea of role models is to make young people, girls and women in particular, enthusiastic about Natural Sciences and to give them the courage to opt for a career in this field. We need such role models today more urgently than ever. Unfortunately it is still the case that Physics, Chemistry and Engineering generate too little enthusiasm in Germany. This has a drastic impact on the further economical development of Germany.

A very specific problem of this development is that young women in particular do not choose Physics for their education. Here are some facts and figures to illustrate the problem: It is true that German industry is exceedingly research-intensive, as is ascertained by the German Institute for Economic Research. And the proportion of women working in it, gauged by all women in gainful employment, is above the international average. However, in relation to men employed the opposite is true. Precisely: in the highly innovative research- and knowledge-intensive sectors, the proportion of women in Germany calculated on this basis is unfortunately particularly small, compared to an international level.

This is also confirmed by facts: at the beginning of the university education the proportion of women in physics is merely 27 per cent. The proportion of women with diploma exam`s then drops to 20 per cent. The percentage of women with ph.d.`s is then only 17 per cent and of professors and university lecturers in Physics the final figure is a scant five per cent. This constant loss of qualified women during the career path is another problem which we have to overcome.

Our aim with the Lise Meitner Lectures and the other activities of the DPG in encouraging the next generation of scientists is to stop and reverse this negative trend and show young women role models for careers in Science, Research, Trade & Industry. This is why we have to encourage girls to take Mathematics and Physics already at advanced level at school.

Hence I am very glad, that the Ministry of Education and Research strongly pleads for a forward-looking policy that has to create the preconditions needed to allow women an appropriate representation in all fields and at all levels. Advantage must be taken of the different view points and ways of thinking of women and men. The encouragement of the next generation of Natural Scientists, particularly young girls and women in conjunction with promoting equal opportunities, has to be and remain a core concern for us all.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Now I personally have to appologize, that unfortunately I have to leave right after the opening remarks due to another obligation I have, however, I garantee that you will enjoy Cecilia Jarlskogs presentation. I have had already the pleasure to listen to her yesterday in Vienna and I can tell you it is really quite enjoyable. Thanks again to our guest speaker to be here, supporting our ideas.

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