Vice President Sabine Sedlacek: Why we support International Women's Day


Interview with Vice President Sabine Sedlacek
Head of the Department of Sustainability, Governance and Methods

As academics we are ambassadors for equal opportunity and have a responsibility to support both women and men in finding that equal opportunity in their shared working environment.


1. What is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day was first celebrated 1911 - over 100 years ago. The movement which started in the late 19th and early 20th Century with single female activists fighting for better working conditions, self-determination and the right to vote, today stands for better gender balance, equal pay and equal access to leadership positions across all professions. International Women’s Day is a key initiative for expressing the importance of equal opportunities.

2. Why is Modul University Vienna supporting it?

MU has developed a strong agenda for equal opportunity which is supported by the University Board and anchored in our constitution. In such a diverse environment as MU, an awareness of gender and diversity topics is essential and needs strong institutional structures. As academics we are ambassadors for equal opportunity, and therefore dedicate ourselves to initiatives such as International Women’s Day, and have a responsibility to support both women and men in finding equal opportunity in their shared working environment. As an HEI we are a key institution for addressing the ongoing unequal position of women when it comes to payment deficits or a lack of equal access to leadership positions. For example, Austria’s gender pay gap is higher than the EU average at 21.7% and Austria’s Glass Ceiling Index, which measures the relative chance of women getting the same position as their male competitors, is still lacking behind at 0.7.

3. How can we all benefit from having a gender balanced and diverse workplace?

If we look at the amount of time we are spending at our workplaces, it is of the upmost importance that we create an inclusive and cooperative environment. Gender balance is just one of many areas we consider when trying to achieve this. There is evidence that gender balance in teams is good for performance and output. With gender diversity comes different perspectives and a wider spectrum of input. Unfortunately, as we are still bound by gender stereotypes in some professions, some sectors are still dominated by either men or women. Taking academic personnel in research and technology in Austria as an example, females are still underrepresented at just 24%. This correlates with female student numbers in STEM courses which are still relatively low. A more diverse workplace widens our own perspectives, helps to overcome systemic gender stereotypes and provides a positive environment for us all.

4. What advice do you have for young women who want to succeed in higher education?

Young women should firstly believe in themselves, believe in their own ideas and use their own interest and knowledge as a guide. The more they want to achieve, the more they will succeed. Curiosity is an excellent companion for finding out what they are really interested in. This includes being open to new ideas, listening to other perspectives but without losing their own objectives.