Equal Opportunity Group

Equal Opportunity Group

December 06, 2019

Need help now? Contact us at equal.opportunity@phdnet.mpg.de or, for more privacy, contact our coordinator directly.

What is Equal Opportunity (EO)?

The similar treatment of people, unhampered by artificial barriers, prejudices or preferences. While working at the Max Planck Society, this means that you should not face discrimination or preferential treatment during your career by :

  • gender identity or sexual orientation,
  • physical or mental health,
  • race or ethnicity,
  • cultural or social background,
  • external appearance,
  • language,
  • religion, and more.

Why does the EO Workgroup exist? Doesn’t the Max Planck Society (MPS) practice EO?

Yes, the Max Planck Society supports EO.

However, in practice, EO is a long term project. Discrimination and implicit biases in the scientific community continue to exist, and the MPS is not exempt from continuing to work on providing EO for all of its many members. (https://www.chemistryworld.com/features/sciences-problem-with-unconscious-bias/3007586.article; http://science.sciencemag.org/content/361/6403/630 ).

Bullying, gender-biased policies, implicit bias and more, in various levels of scientific careers, often discourage scientists from already underrepresented groups to not continue in their scientific careers, which has over time constructed a system which has trouble maintaining a diversity of people from the beginning of a science career to the end, as well as with providing a fair environment for everyone to work in.

What are our goals?

To achieve equity (see figure 1), barriers that remain in order to achieve EO must be broken down, which is our group’s primary goal (long term, figure 1, right panel), but in the meantime, we can also help by working to make sure services are available that prop up underrepresented people to overcome those barriers (short term, figure 1, center panel).

We also offer information to anyone who encounters a situation of compromised EO in their institute, with peer-to-peer advice as well as redirection to appropriate people and avenues for action (general administration contacts, mpg main EO page - https://www.mpg.de/equal_opportunities; peers with advice for similar situations). Please e-mail us at any time at if you have any questions, or, if you would like more privacy, you can e-mail our coordinator directly: Barbara Šafarić ().

Who are we?

We are a group of 30+ MPS doctoral researchers who have different experiences and interests in EO. We all receive the messages from the main e-mail (), and anyone is allowed to reply with advice from their experience, or directing the person contacting us to relevant resources, which are also available on our subpage. Within the group, members can join individual subgroups on Slack (see the subpage), and work with other members on EO projects to be implemented both at the local and MPS level.

Anyone can join, at any time: e-mail us at with your name and EO interest.


The following Resource and Contacts document provides varying known funding, mentoring, resources, information and advice for members of the MPS, under the categories:

  • Alumni
  • Career
  • Career (female/non-binary)
  • Childcare
  • Crisis
  • Intercultural Communication
  • FAQs
  • Maternity
  • Mental Health
  • International Offices
  • Pension/Taxes/Insurances
  • Surveys
  • Welcome Services/Onboarding
  • Work-Life Balance

It also ends in a one page list of further contacts, called “More Contacts to get Involved” which cover topics such as:

  • Writing for the PhDnet Offspring Magazine
  • Bringing free sanitary product availability to your institute
  • Hosting seminars, workshops, alumni workshops
  • Getting funding for seminars, workshops, soft skill courses on EO and non-EO topics
  • Where to go if you have an inquiry that is unrelated to all of the previous sections
  • How to join the Parenting & PhD task force

For an overview of our resources and contact information check out the PDF:


Within the group, members can join individual subgroups on Slack (organizational/discussion program), and work with other EO members, as well as the General Administration and the PhDnet Steering Group, to provide EO resources in a variety of ways (both at the local and at the MPS level).

Our current subgroups (you can also always start a subgroup and recruit other EO group members to help you for your own EO goals) are as follows:

Mental Health Initiatives

1) Goals/Aims:

  • Bring Mental Health Initiatives that were held in Munich, Jena, etc. to other hubs
  • Help local institutes to improve Mental Health resources by providing funding options (BGM program, see below), ideas for potential extended mental health services (BGM officer + professional help?), and  suggestions for pushing initiatives forward in individual institutes and hubs
  • Increase visibility of mental health issues as well as initiatives

2)  PhDnet Achievements:

  • 2017-2018 Steering Group and General Administration have worked together in the Institutional Health Management Working Group (BGM) and since 2017 have required every institute to have a BGM        officer, as well as have ensured 20 euro/person/year to each institute for Institutional Health Management resources
  • Munich hub hosted: Mental Health Workshops in collaboration with TK; Strong and Fit for your Doctorate
  • Crisis Hotline in the works for 2019, available to all MPS members (with anonymity and the possibility for recurring calls)

Offspring Magazine

1) Goals/Aims:

  • Emphasizing the fact that inequalities exist is an important mission for us, therefore we seek to raise awareness of inherent discriminations and propose solutions in order to achieve fundamental changes. As EO group, we closely collaborate with the Offspring workgroup of the PhD Net publishing articles regularly. If you believe in the power of spreading awareness and enjoy writing, feel free to contribute!

2) PhDnet Achievements (some article examples):

Gender Equality

1) Goals/Aims:

  • Provide support for the mobility of underrepresented genders in academia
  • Work with the EO Commission to increase the percentage of underrepresented genders in upper level academic job levels
  • Provide resources to report sexual harassment and other gender-related lapses in EO

2) PhDnet Achievements:

  • Contact established with the EO Commission of the MPS (EO Commission set up Career Steps Opportunities, for example, which has a whole series of Gender Equality Workshops and lectures)

Parents and PhD

1) Goals/Aims:

  • Provide more resources for parents which may be on a variety of contract types; organize resources by German state (federal, state, MPS supported)
  • Ensure rights to being a parent during the PhD, and maternity/paternity leave
  • Provide re-entering support for end of maternity/paternity leave
  • Provide resources for parents while on leave
  • Provide resources to parents with children who are older than kindergarten age
  • Collaborate with the Steering Group’s Task Force

2) PhDnet Achievements:

  • 2017-2018 Steering Group has set up a Parenting and PhD Task Force which is currently active

EO-related Workshops, Seminars and Symposiums

1) Goals/Aims:

  • Incorporate EO lectures (on implicit bias, identity awareness, cultural sensitivity, etc.) into official institute seminar series
  • Host everything from workshops to seminars to symposiums on EO topics

2) PhDnet Achievements:

  • Leipzig MPI-EVA - [In]Equality Symposium 2018
  • Jena MPI-CE - Included in the Institute Seminar Series: Diversity, discrimination, and respect at work (Respektvoller Umgang mit Verschiedenheiten & Diskriminierungsfreies Arbeitsumfeld)

Follow-up on EO mini-survey (Oct 2018)

1) Goals/Aims:

  • Organize and publish results
  • Address discrimination and harassment results through collaboration with the General Administration
  • Address lack of facilities in many MPIs (resources for disabled researchers, sanitary products availability in institutes)

EO-related Speaker/Workshop Leader Database

1) Goals/Aims:

  • Keep the speaker/workshop leader database up to date
  • Seek out information from people having these events to get comments on good speakers

2) PhDnet Achievements:

  • The database google worksheet already exists and has been recently updated for the PhDnet 2018 General Meeting for EO-related speakers/workshops

March Awareness Month Twitter Take-over

1) Goals/Aims:

  • Takeover of the PhDnet twitter in March (March Awareness Month)
  • One post on EO awareness per day - create a thread

Transparency in Hiring Practices

1) Goals/Aims:

  • Work with the General Administration on the new initiatives for making hiring more transparent
  • Make clear how many years a director has before retiring (to new employees/students)
  • Provide information on the experience of potential supervisors; access to potential equivalents of exit interview information
  • Work on standardizing IMPRS recruitment practices

Training of Management at the Level of Group Leader and up/Accountability of Management

1) Goals/Aims:

  • Work with the General Administration for new personalized trainings to spread awareness and prevent bullying/non-accountability
  • Work with Steering Group to demand different infrastructure to protect junior scientists in case of conflicts

2) PhDnet Achievements:

Communication with the General Administration

1) Goals/Aims:

  • Communicating with the Central EO Officer/Prep for the All-EO Officer Meeting
  • Communicating with the Department of HR Development and Opportunities (updates on the EO Commission)
  • Meetings with the General Administration
  • Request that Gender Equality Officers by changed in name to EO Officers in each institute

2) PhDnet Achievements:

  • Contact has been established to begin working with the Department of Human Resources Development and Opportunities in the General Administration


1) Goals/Aims:

  • Network for LGBTQIA+ scientists in the MPS
  • Increase visibility and support in finding groups for events/support/rallies within cities, hubs, and across the country

Meet us & get involved!

We welcome any form of contribution: if you have ideas for implementing EO at your institute, or even in the whole MPS, if you need support, or even if you want to share your experience, an interesting article, or are simply curious, contact us via .

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