Freie Universität Berlin has a statutory mandate to offer equal opportunity between genders (Plan for equal opportunity between genders 2015-2020 of Freie Universität Berlin). The university is supported in achieving this by the university’s Chief Gender Equality Officer and, at the department level, by the (“decentralized”) women’s representatives.
The women’s representative at the department is the local person who is known at the institutes and entrusted with all of the relevant details within the department, unlike the Chief Gender Equality Officer, who works with less of a focus on specific departments and deals primarily with matters relating to the university as a whole. The duties and rights of the women’s representatives and gender equality officers are rooted in law (Sec. 59 of the Higher Education Act for the State of Berlin (BerlHG), Sec. 17 and 18 of the Gender Equality Act for the State of Berlin (LGG)) and are governed by the Guidelines on the Promotion of Women (Frauenförderrichtlinien, FFR) of Freie Universität Berlin (Sec. 25 and 30 IV).
The women’s representative takes care to ensure that equality of opportunity is taken into account appropriately in all decision-making processes at the department (Circular Nr. 02/2016 from 06 April 2016). She has the right to information on all matters related to her duties and must be provided with comprehensive information early on. She monitors and assists with hiring and appointment processes and participates in meetings of the dean’s office, the department council, and institute councils in an advisory capacity. She has the right to speak and make motions and has a suspensive veto right on all decisions.
The women’s representative also represents the interests and concerns of all female staff members of all status groups at the department. She provides information and advice in conflict situations in particular. She also supports the Dual Career & Family Service as the local point of contact for students and employees with family obligations.
The election of the women's representatives is not a direct election. It takes place in two steps. In the first step, the women at the department choose “electors” (Wahlfrauen). Two representatives are chosen to act as electors for each status group (professors, academic staff, other staff, and students). In the second step, these electors elect the department women’s representative and her substitute for a term in office of two years. All female members of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science (students majoring in the department as well as academic and non-academic staff members) who are eligible to vote can run for office.