Who is a great scientist? Wetoo and other ideas to improve our lives in academia and outside

If you ask a child to draw a scientist, they will usually draw a white man. Is it true that scientists are only white men? Somehow yes, still. Data show that after PhD level, the number of men continuing in academia is becoming larger and larger than the number of women.

Why is it so? What are the main reasons behind this status-quo? The Wetoo documentary asks female scientists at different career stages what they think about this and how they live the situation from the inside. But women are not the only ones excluded. What about all groups not belonging to heterosexual white men?

We will discuss all this with you and our speakers in our get together on the 05 May 2023, from 16:30 to 19:00 in Room S01, Seminargebaüde (106), Universitätsstraße 37, 50931 Köln


16:30 – 16:35: Introduction (Dr. Claudia Acquistapace) 

16:35 – 17:00: Projection of the video “Wetoo: what they don’t tell you” and brief collection of impressions. (moderating Dr. Anna Werma)

17:00 – 17:30: “It’s a long way to the top (if you wanna do Science). Gender and Career in STEMM fields” – Presentation from Dr. Francesca Crivellaro

17:30 – 17:45: Q/A (moderating Dr. Anna Werma)

17:45 – 18:00: Distant no more – Presentation from Dr. Dirk Schulz.

18:00 – 19:00: Open discussion, questions, opinions, round table (moderating Dr. Anna Werma). 

Come and join our lively discussion to share your opinion and ideas! We are looking forward to hearing from you!

Event attendees:

Dr. Francesca Crivellaro, invited speaker, Adjunct Professor at the Department of Education Studies, Department of Education Studies “Giovanni Maria Bertin, University of Bologna.

Dr. Dirk Schulz, invited speaker, Managing Director of GeStiK – Gender Studies in Cologne, GeStiK – Gender Studies in Cologne, University of Cologne,

Dr. Anna Katrin-Schmidt Verma, moderator, Doctor in inorganic chemistry, Institute of Inorganic Chemistry, University of Cologne

Dr. Claudia Acquistapace, round panelist, Junior research group Leader, Institute for geophysics and meteorology, University of Cologne

Dr. Hajar Maleki, Group leader at Institute of inorganic chemistry and associated group leader at CMMC, DFG, University of Cologne.


05/05/2023, from 16:30 to 19:00


Room S01, Seminargebaüde (106), Universitätsstraße 37, 50931 Köln

Organizing institutions:

University of Cologne (https://portal.uni-koeln.de/en/uoc-home)

Forum Accademico Italiano (https://fai.science/)

Wetoo documentary: the video!

After all this time, a pandemic, and lots of efforts, the video is finally out. Take the chance to watch it, let us know your thoughts, and stay tuned… we are working on a live event soon in Cologne 🙂

Videodocumentary on women in science produced by the University of Cologne.

Before closing this post, we want to exploit the chance to really thank all the people who made it possible to realize this video. From the videomakers to the commission members, including all the colleagues that contributed somehow to the realization of the project. It is a collective effort to raise interest on the issue of gender gap in research and find new solutions for a better life for everyone.

Wetoo: how it all started

Why this project

Women in high-level scientific positions are strongly underrepresented in Western society compared to men. The project tackles this problem in a constructive way, which is not pointing just at claiming rights that should be granted, but showing how women with their diversity can genuinely improve the current scientific environment.

Some numbers

In recent times, the number of female students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) has increased significantly, bringing to an almost equal representation of both sexes in the student body. Also, in media and previously dominated male fields, women occupy now a larger space. All of a sudden, it seems that the possibility for women to affirm themselves is open and walkable. But is it so?

FIgure 1: Degree of qualification in scientific disciplines specified by gender, between 2006 and 2016, at the university of Cologne, Germany. Source: https://www.portal.uni-koeln.de/datenundfakten.html

Despite the appearance, the presence of women in leading roles has not changed that much.  The percentage of women currently working in leading positions in academia is much lower than the corresponding number of men. However, this trend is not following the tendency observed in the student body up to the Ph.D. level (see Figure 1 for the University of Cologne).

But why is it so?

Why are there so few women in Western society pursuing scientific careers? Recently, a lot of research has tried to shed light on the main reasons for such discrepancies, finding various motivations (Corbett et al., 2015). Isolation, lack of role models and no sense of belonging, perception of the working place as competitive and hostile, unconscious and/or implicit biases driven by stereotypes, and incompatibility between the demands of work responsibilities and family life. All these causes often push women to choose family over work. Biases are still present also in the evaluation process, affecting the chances of a woman getting a position.

To what extent does each of these factors play a role? What do female scientists think about that? What’s their experience? Now is the time to listen to their voices and their stories.

Our goal

We believe that this video documentary can encourage young female researchers to believe in themselves and connect with other women, breaking the loneliness they face from gender discrimination. Moreover, these stories can inspire teenagers to pursue a scientific career.

All the info on the project

The project started from an idea discussed during a coffee break at the Institute of Geophysics and meteorology and a bunch of people helped in different ways to make that tiny idea evolve into a video documentary. So, even if the project was created and led by Claudia Acquistapace, and the final authors are Claudia Acquistapace and Valeria Lo Meo, we try here to mention all those that contributed to it: Thirza van Laar, Julia Munchowsky, Carolina Doran, Feray Ünlü, Rene’ Weißing, Anna Werma, Ute Gärtel, Susanne Crewell, Dario Valenzano, Miriam Janke, Annika Dähne, Nina Steinweg, Sigrun Korsching, Karin Boessenkool, Adam Polczyk, Fabio Magnifico, Jürgen Rees, Katrin Schrader, Markus Ritschel, Harmonie Jimenez, Selin Kandemir, Sabrina Schnitt.

It would not have been possible without the administrative support of Alma Bojcic, Ramize Iseni, Estelle Knoblauch, Annika Dahne, nor without the members of the gender equality commission that approved the project: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Thomas Langmann (Chairman), Univ.-Prof.in Dr. Martina Fuchs, Dr. Katrin Schrader, Dr. Jan Kruse, Silke Koppenhöfer, Dr. Ralf Müller, Viktoria Labus, Metin Serefoglu.

Many institutions were involved in the filming:

  • Institute for Geophysics and Meteorology, Department of Geosciences
  • Institute of Inorganic Chemistry, Department of Chemistry
  • Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences
  • Gender Equality Commission of the University of Cologne
  • Referat Gender & Diversity Management  
  • University Administration Communications & Marketing
  • Institute for General Didactics and School Research
  • University of Cologne
  • Division 44.2 Travel cost center 
  • CECAD – Cluster of Excellence
  • Research Vessel Maria. S. Merian board

as well as some external partners:

The wetoo documentary on women in science was funded by:

  • The Financial Fund for the Implementation of the Statutory Equal Opportunity Mandate of the University of Cologne
  • The Atmospheric Water Cycle and Remote Sensing group from the University of Cologne
  • The Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences

Finally, I want to especially thank all the female scientists who spent their time contributing to the project: Lena Pernas, Fernanda Pinheiro, Jane Reznick, Simone Morak, Eva Karatairi, Tamara Gigolashvili, Sabine Graf, and the ones that were interviewed in the documentary, for being so strong, direct and sincere: Natalia Kononenko, Hajar Maleki Anna Kathrin Schmidt-Verma, Claudia Acquistapace. Shaista Ilyas, Sanjay Mathur.

The backstage was curated by Tina Burg and Luciano Perbellini