Equal opportunities

Family-friendly working conditions

The Oeschger Centre supports the University of Bern in its efforts to enable all researchers – both men and women – to balance their academic careers and their parental duties by providing family-friendly working conditions. We actively help to promote gender equality via tools and career models that boost the career chances for women and men working in the field of science. In particular, we are committed to working conditions that allow researchers to successfully combine family responsibilities and scientific research.

As part of the University of Bern, the Oeschger Centre strives to find individual solutions for its team members – as called for by the university’s Equality Action Plan (in German).

Equality managers

At the Oeschger Centre, there are three equality managers: Olivia Romppainen-Martius and Martin Grosjean. They are the people to approach for advice and support. PhD students and postdocs with family responsibilities are explicitly encouraged to get in touch with them promptly.

120% model

The Oeschger Centre supports the so-called 120% model, which helps people combine work and family while ensuring career continuity. If postdoctoral researchers need to devote time to childcare, they can cut back from 100% down to 60% or less. Using additional resources, a technician or doctoral candidate can be hired to ensure that current research projects are carried out as planned. The total employment rate for both people is 120%.

Best practice examples

The following examples show how members of the Oeschger Centre have managed to balance their work and family lives at different stages of their careers.

The environmental historian Chantal Camenisch wants to go all the way up the university career ladder – thanks in part to her research stints abroad. She has received an “Advanced Postdoc.Mobility” grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation, currently lives as a guest researcher in Rouen, France, and will soon head to York in the north of England. The 39-year-old is married and has a six-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter. Her husband, a high school teacher, has quit his job in Switzerland. In Rouen he’s a house husband and gives German lessons. This style of role sharing is still exceptional – at least in Switzerland. But Chantal Camenisch doesn’t feel that her family model is exotic; she and her husband have always supported each other, and the roles are certain to change again. Nevertheless, the multi-year stay at foreign archives and universities is a challenge not just for the ambitious researcher, but also for her family.

Stefan Broennimann

Stefan Brönnimann is a professor of climatology at the University of Bern’s Institute of Geography. He has a son and a daughter (born in 2003 and 2007), and his wife works 50% in the public sector. When Stefan Brönnimann became a father, he cut his workload as a postdoctoral fellow down to 80%. Even after becoming an assistant professor at the ETH, he still took one day off per week for family responsibilities. In addition to being looked after by their parents and grandparents, the children attended daycare. Since becoming a full professor at the University of Bern in 2010, Stefan Brönnimann has been working full time again. Between daycare and school, the childcare situation is under control.

Olivia Romppainen

Olivia Romppainen-Martius is an associate professor of meteorology (Mobiliar professor for climate impact research in the Alps) at the University of Bern’s Institute of Geography. She has a daughter (born in 2012), and her self-employed husband works 80%. After her maternity leave, Olivia Romppainen spent four months working at 50% before increasing to 80%. At that time, her professorship (tenure track) was limited. Even after being appointed associate professor, she still devotes one day per week to motherhood. Her daughter goes to daycare three days per week.

Raphael Neukom

Raphael Neukom is a postdoctoral researcher with a project (starting in May 2015) that is part of the lake sediments and paleolimnology group at the University of Bern’s Institute of Geography. He has two sons (born in 2011 and 2013). His partner works 60% in the public sector. Since becoming a father, Raphael Neukomm has reduced his work schedule to 60%. He has been involved in various research projects, often via telecommuting.

Willy Tinner

Willy Tinner is an associate professor of paleoecology at the Institute for Plant Sciences at the University of Bern. He is the father of a son and a daughter (born in 2000 and 2003). His self-employed wife works part time; earlier, she worked 60% in the private sector. When his children were born, Willy Tinner was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Bern, and he cut his workload from 100% down to 70-80%. Then he was able to hire a part-time research assistant to support his work. When he received an SNF professorship at the ETH Zurich in 2007, Willy Tinner increased to 100% again and has been working full time ever since.

Petra Boltshauser

Petra Boltshauser-Kaltenrieder is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Bern’s Institute for Plant Sciences. She’s the mother of three sons (born in 2007, 2009 and 2011), and her husband works 100% in the public sector. When her first child was born, Petra Boltshauser worked on her dissertation and taught 30%. After a six-month break, she finished her doctoral work. Then she continued to teach while working on projects at the university. She stopped teaching in 2011, when she took on a 40% position at the Institute for Plant Sciences. Her children attend daycare and day school, and in emergencies, their grandmother looks after them.

Links and publications

The University of Bern has an equality unit offering advice and courses (in German).

The university’s administration has adopted a plan of action , Equality 2013-16; there is a related German-language brochure ("Chancengleichheit. Aktionsplan Gleichstellung").

Another document, also in German, cites best-case examples: „Massnahmen an Fakultäten: Best Practice Beispiele“.

Since 2001 there have been regulations for ensuring equality for women and men at the University of Bern.

The group MVUB at the university is also concerned with balancing academic careers and family life.