The 2022 ETH Diversity Award Goes to…
This year, AVETH and ETH Diversity organized the second annual Diversity Award aimed towards recognizing the efforts of community members who have demonstrated excellence at promoting social justice and diversity at ETH Zürich and beyond. The award is entirely based on nominations from community members at ETH Zürich and has an individual and group category for organizations. The first place individual and group winners each receive 500 CHF. This year, we had over 35 excellent nominations that represented a tremendous diversity of activities and approaches by ETH-affiliated individuals and organizations to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.
On June 8, 2022, we recognized the winners of this year’s award at the annual diversity award celebration. The event was kicked-off with a keynote address by Dr. Claudia Kasper, co-founder, pod co-coordinator, and networking coordinator of the 500WS Bern-Fribourg pod, a grass-roots, non-profit organization that supports networking of female-identifying individuals and gender minorities in STEM. Dr. Kasper discussed the tremendous challenges to promoting inclusion and social justice in the sciences as well as the advances made and future opportunities to promote gender equality now and into the future. Dr. Kasper researched the rocky road of inclusion for women at ETH, exposing a 75 year gap between 1910 when the first woman with a habilitation was at ETH until 1985 when the first full professor who was a woman was appointed. Dr. Kasper also made a case for why we need to increase diversity: first and foremost because it is a matter of justice but also because it benefits society and has important demographic implications. A loss of talented women leads to over-representation of less talented men in higher career positions. This is not only a matter of injustice but it also hinders innovation and contradicts the value of excellence.
Dr. Claudia Kasper, co-founder of the 500WS Bern-Fribourg pod, delivering the 2022 ETH Diversity Award Keynote Address.
Coordinator of diversity for AVETH, and co-planner of the 2022 ETH Diversity Award, Dr. Mark Anthony, also created a video show-casing the many efforts of ETH organizations to promote diversity and inclusion. The video highlighted the efforts of grass-roots organizations and ETH to make actionable contributions to social justice. The video was intended to show the ETH community just how much individual leaders at ETH are doing to promote social justice and to build community. While nobody does this work for the recognition, the tireless and voluntary efforts of everybody represented in this video is incredibly worthy of celebration of recognition.
We were then joined by Tayssir Limam Tunisia, auditor for the African Students Association of Zürich, and winner of last year’s diversity award. Tayssir framed the importance of doing the work of social justice and announced the winners of the 2022 ETH Diversity Award. Learn more about the winners and what people who nominated them said below:
1st Individual Winner: Professor Elizabeth Tilley
Nominations for Prof. Tilley demonstrate her deep commitment to inclusion and the promotion of under-represented groups in the sciences. Prof. Tilley won because of her many actionable steps to promote social justice and inclusion. Those who nominated Prof. Tilley describe her as person of inspiration who is consistently working to promote diversity and inclusion. Nominators say that Prof. Tilley is a tireless voice for women in engineering and that she really practices what she preaches. Her nominations describe her as promoting diverse hiring, using her power to work for diversity and inclusion, citing from diverse researchers and journals, hiring and teaching open science and open access, and much more. Prof. Tilley also delivered a LIMES – Ladies in Mechanical and Electrical Studies – talk for the female student committee of AMIV, the association for students of D-ITET and D-MAVT, on women in engineering. She also used her inaugural lecture to center the work of her predominantly female, and non-white junior researchers. Her emphasis on equitable engineering education, apparent in her numerous key-note speaking opportunities, such as this year’s Water Summit for Global Development, in her published work, and teaching, including the supervision of several graduate post-graduate-level students at African universities, has enabled her to drive the creation of the next generation of future engineers, both in Switzerland and throughout the Global South.
1st Group Winner: Wall of Scientists
Wall of Scientists is an exciting new platform and compilation of inspiring scientists throughout history with the aim to show that science and talent do not (and did not) distinguish among gender, place of birth, nor cultural and ethnic background. Wall of Scientists was founded by Enriqueta Vallejo-Yagüe, software is developed by Oli Walker, and cultural diversity advising is by Fatma Abdi. From the nominations for Wall of Scientists, it is clear that this project is making a difference to promote visibility and provide diverse scientists with a greater sense of belonging. Those who nominated Wall of Scientists said that Wall of Scientists has opened the eyes of many at ETH, particularly on regard to how many great scientists were undervalued, unknown or forgotten, especially those who would belong to a currently under-represented group in the scientific community. This is a refreshing project that creates awareness of a worldwide historical injustice that is both the cause and consequence of society’s racial and gender biases. It shows that the scientific community was always a diverse community, and this is relevant in the scientific context and beyond.
2nd Individual Winner: Dr. Lavinia Heisenberg
Prof. Heisenberg receive a number of very strong nominations that demonstrate her incredible efforts to promote social justice and inclusion the sciences. Those who nominated Prof. Heisenberg show that she has done many actionable things to promote equity and inclusion. For example, Dr. Heisenberg has been organizing workshops and seminars, such as the “Career and family” workshop and seminar “Soldier, Pilot, Engineer, PhD Student, Project Manager, Mom – how do you do it all?!”, where a female astronaut candidate shared her view on how women significantly contribute to scientific and technical progress while having a family. Prof. Heisenberg has been participating (and will continue to do so) in many ESA events and workshops aimed at sparking a fascination for space and physics in children and, in particular, in women. She is committed to public outreach and providing a role model for girls and female students. For instance, the Swiss Military invited her to present an inspirational talk on the role of women in science. Furthermore, she will serve as a mentor in the mentorship program for the Women-in-Physics Career Symposium of the Swiss Physical Society this July. She will also continue to bring women from less represented countries to ETH, in order to offer them a better education and career perspectives.
2nd Group Winner: MeWell
MeWell is a community of students and staff members from Zürich universities that seek to improve mental wellbeing in academia. They increase awareness for via many events each semester, provide a strong network of peer support, and have become the on-campus hub for all information related to mental wellness. We were incredibly impressed by the sheer number of impactful events MeWell organizes. Those who nominated MeWell said that they are fostering diversity and inclusion in the field of mental wellbeing. MeWell organizes monthly awareness events to explore different mental health topics, makes information as accessible as possible, increases mental health literacy, and breaks down the stigma surrounding these topic. MeWell also organizes monthly community events such as board game nights and BBQs. Here, likeminded people can come together and share their experiences in a fun and safe environment.
3rd Individual Winner: Enriqueta Vallejo-Yagüe
Enriqeta was nominated for founding and developing the Wall of Scientists. Her nominations demonstrate an incredible effort to promote the visibility of diversity in the sciences. Those who nominated Enriqueta said that regardless of whether Enriqueta is awarded the diversity award, I hope she gets the full support of ETH to make this project visible on the campus! It’s often the visibility that is lacking, and higher organizations (maybe even people who are paid at ETH) should take their time to help in these projects, not only with money, but also with time – as these people do it voluntarily, next to their PhD or PostDoc. Enriqueta highlights overlooked scientists from the past (and present) with a very diverse background, whose scientific impact was often overlooked. It is an inspiration for minority groups (including women, who are more underrepresented the higher we go in the academic latter) to see that there have been people like them in the past, who have excelled in science and who are finally getting the recognition they deserve.
3rd Group Winner: LIMES, Ladies in Mechanical and Electrical Studies
LIMES (Ladies In Mechanical and Electrical Studies) is the female student committee of AMIV, the association for students of “Information Technology and Electrical Engineering” (D-ITET) and “Mechanical and Process Engineering” (D-MAVT). It was founded by four students in January of 2012 and emerged as the first women’s network in engineering at ETH Zurich. Those who nominated LIMES show just how impactful the group has been to promote accessiblity and inclusion. For example, one nomination said that they nominate LIMES to recognize their efforts – and in particular the personal commitment of Kate Lonergan – to ensure the provision of Menstruation Stations at ETH. We found their initiative inspirational and highly relevant as their efforts tackle a basic need that concerns the vast majority of ETH members with a uterus. Their efforts do not only benefit the members of their own department but indeed any menstruating person at ETH. Furthermore, this initiative showed us that there are very concrete measures that can make a long-term difference in the everyday life of a marginalized group at ETH. Not least, LIMES demonstrated how advocating for the basic needs of wom*n at ETH can indeed be fruitful and successful. This motivates us to start similar initiatives in the future.
2021 AVETH Diversity Award
The 1st Annual Diversity Award was organized by the Association of Scientific Staff at ETH (AVETH) and co-sponsored by the Office of Equal Opportunities. This award represents an actionable plan to give visibility to social justice leaders within our community who serve as role models and are voluntarily committing their time and energy towards outreach activities that raise awareness for tackling discrimination. We received over 80 nominations for members within our ETH community.
The jury was composed of three members of the diversity group at AVETH and one member from Equal. For judging, we could categorize the nominations into 4 main categories: first, people who have integrated diversity & inclusion aspects into their work at ETH but always as part of their job, for example, a Professor being open to discussing the importance of diversity within their group. Second, there were individuals who voluntarily and outside of their actual job, started initiatives that deal with diversity & inclusion and draw attention to these topics. Third, there were individuals who represent or who are very active in organizations or associations. The last group includes associations, organizations and groups that advocate diversity and togetherness, as well as the visibility of minorities.
In seeing these categories, the jury decided to split the award into two categories: an award for an organization that elevates underrepresented groups within our ETH community, and for an individual who is voluntarily outside of their daily job, is actively pushing for diversity initiatives. We judged primarily based on the quality of the nominations we received and the stories they told to be as objective as possible. Since the goal of this award was to give visibility to individuals and organizations pushing for change within our community, we also decided on second and third place finalists in each category.
1st place: The African Students Association of Zurich (ASAZ) was founded in 2015. ASAZ is committed to represent and further the interests of African students in higher education institutions in Zurich. The association not only aims to facilitate their integration into the student life in Switzerland, but it is also a platform where people interested in the African culture and heritage can experience its diversity. ASAZ strives to create more opportunities for African students in Zurich and at ETH as well as to implement projects between Switzerland and Africa.
2nd place: The Parity Group, a fluid group of students, assistants, and professors from the Department of Architecture at ETH Zurich.
3rd place: Combined nomination for groups that empower women in science – LIMES (Ladys in Mechanical and Electrical Studies), WiNS (Society for Women in Natural Science), SWiSH (Society for Wom*n in the Social Sciences and Humanities of ETH Zurich), TWIST, (Towards more Women In Science and Technology), and Phimale.
1st place: Chiara Decaroli is a PhD student in the field of experimental quantum physics at ETH Zurich. During her time at ETH, she has engaged herself in several activities aimed at creating a supportive and encouraging environment for women in science. She has striven to make women in science feel less alone. Her activities to promote gender diversity and inclusion range from getting bins installed in mixed gender toilets in her building, to founding a group called “Honggerberg Ladies Lunches”, aimed at female PhD students at the Honggerberg campus who could meet informally for lunch once a month. She has organised and led events for the awardees of the INSPIRE QSIT award, and more recently has worked on the NCCR Women Campaign, a campaign across all of the swiss NCCRs which highlights swiss female researchers with the objective to inspire young girls to study STEM subjects.
2nd place: Jane Walden works as a Scientific Assistant in the Glaciology Division of the Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology. Jane decided to start regular meetings within their research group on the topics of diversity, inclusivity, and equality. These meetings became known as the “Lunchtime Discussions” and some examples of topics include awareness about implicit bias, representation of minorities in geosciences, and mental health challenges in academia.
3rd place: Darcy Molnar has been working at ETH since 2005, when she joined the Institute of Environmental Engineering as a SNF Marie Heim-Vögtlin recipient. Since 2017, Darcy has been coordinating the swissuniversities project Science Action in Schools for Sustainable Development (SAS4SD) with activities in Ghana and Cameroon, and since 2019 she has been on the coordination team of the swissuniversities project Network for Water and Life (NEWAL) with activities in West Africa. She is also committed to promoting gender equality in the sciences, and in 2018 established a 500 Women Scientists chapter in Zurich.
The success and excellence that ETH stands upon is built on the wide array of talent coming from a multitude of backgrounds, and it is important to continue to promote this inclusion at every level of the institution. We should constantly be striving to learn from others who are different from us, and to elevate those who may need an extra push due to different circumstances. We truly believe that these core values such as diversity combined with excellence, will shape our institution and community to be the best societal role model for the future generations.