Austria celebrated 100 th anniversary of women’s suffrage. We had our first-ever female Head of Government – Dr Brigitte Bierlein was Chancellor of Austria from 6/19 to 1/20. Dr. Bierlein had been a recent VAÖ guest in her previous role as President of the Austrian Constitutional Court and had joined VAÖ. In the current Government, nine of the 17 members of the Cabinet are women. However, the gender pay gap and equal numbers of women in leadership positions more broadly, still remain an issue.
In March this year, the VAÖ elected a new Board. The new President is Dr. Maria Tiefenthaller. Vice President is Dr. Irmgard Bayer. The new CER is Mag. Elisabeth Francis. The full Board is shown on the VAÖ website.
Before the Corona lockdown, all six provincial chapters – Vienna, Lower Austria, Burgenland; Upper Austria; Styria; Carinthia; Salzburg; Tyrol – continued very active, inviting diverse and distinguished female experts and scientists from various disciplines, as well as politicians, to their regular meetings and workshops on issues of interest to women. The current Minister for Women will be our guest shortly.
We have re-instituted the Rose of Appreciation – to be awarded to enterprises or individuals who advance gender equality and who promote or publicise outstanding female achievement. The first recipient was L’Oreal Austria for their practice of annually giving five scholarships to young female scientists. Subsequently the Rose was awarded to a journalist for her exemplary reporting and efforts to make women in science visible.
In 2018 VAÖ hosted the D-A-CH Friendship Meeting (Germany-Austria-Switzerland, also including some Dutch members) in Innsbruck.
It was a very successful gathering with a rich cultural programme. The VAÖ has for some years been supporting and befriending a number of women refugees and is delighted that our friends have successfully integrated into Austrian society and are well underway with their new professional lives.
VAÖ members actively represent GWI at the United Nations Vienna. The VAÖ has joined SDG Watch Austria, a civil society platform promoting and monitoring progress toward the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The new President has been very active, contacting officials and personalities in areas where we do not have members, looking to increase and broaden ourmembership. Attracting younger members continues to be an important objective. Three new Board positions were created – Career and Study Advice, Art and Science, and Public Relations. The Corona crisis has brought many challenges. We are now resuming our activities and are looking forward to celebrate the 90 th anniversary of the Upper Austria chapter in Linz in November.
On behalf of VAÖ,
Elisabeth Francis / CER
During the lockdown caused by the pandemic, all of us experience things, which bring us to our limits. We must keep distance and long to be close. We cannot embrace our beloved ones to our hearts. In times like these, there are many moments, which jeopardise our rhythm. Our Umbrella Organisation of the Austrian Federation of University Women finds itself in a new period. The new Board has been elected and we are excited as to when the constituent assembly can take place. Yes, we are also tense.
Is the feeling of being powerless the worst thing? Through a Google alert I have learnt that the artist Michelangelo Pistoletto, 86 years old, is recovering from a Corona infection. I am appointed ambassador of the Third Paradise, a symbol created by Pistoletto, which is being realised all over the world. Knowing that earth does not forget, the artist sees himself in a big social responsibility. I felt so powerless when I put a few words of sympathy into a WhatsApp message. I was doubting. The crisis leaves its mark, does it maybe even take words? At the very same moment I received a friendly e-mail invitation from our CER to write for the UWE blog. I was happy, of course cautious, already being used to withhold my emotions. When I received a personal response from Cittadellarte, Pistoletto’s art city in Piedmont, where I travelled three times in the course of my scientific work, I was certain again. The performative power of thoughts is something to rely on. I do so. With words, we move towards each other.
President VAÖ Styria
I am a doctor of general medicine in private practice. I used to work in the public health system but am now retired and, because of my age, I belong to a high-risk group. That means I cannot stand in for other doctors, nor can I help out at the Red Cross. My activities as a doctor are currently limited to weekly or fortnightly calls on a few patients who are all over 90 and living at home. Between these calls I, too, am spending my days at home, with my activities limited to what is absolutely necessary. At the moment I cannot imagine that we will ever again be able to go to the theatre or to travel or welcome our children and grandchildren to our homes, without some concern. At home, I have long since done the tidying up and dusting, but nobody comes to visit and the dust settles again and again.
Coronavirus-inspired artwork by Dr. Maria-Luise Öhl, Chair of the Austrian Doctor‘s Art Association, text in English by Natalie Öhl