Gender Equality at VIRTUAL VEHICLE Research Center
Sibylle Sommer (VIRTUAL VEHICLE)
The proportion of women in technical and scientific professions in Austria is around 37% 1. Underrepresentation of women in the scientific field of automotive engineering is significantly related to the low number of female students in relevant studies. Therefore, VIRTUAL VEHICLE supports a work environment that fosters gender equality – for researchers and students alike.
Gender shouldn’t be an issue especially not at work or in education. It still is but maybe for other reasons than we think. Statistics show that the share of women in so-called STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is still low, despite various initiatives. The number of female graduates at Graz University of Technology was 18.06 % 2 in the study programs relevant to the VIRTUAL VEHICLE research center.
Practice Days & Modelling Week
Increasing the interest in STEM subjects for female and male pupils alike is a main goal at VIRTUAL VEHICLE. Our employees regularly open their labs to students for so-called practice days. Recently, pupil Aurelia expanded a city model with the CARLA driving simulator. And pupil Marco helped in the acoustic test lab and learned a lot about acoustic simulation.
Furthermore, we take part in the Modelling Week, organized by the Institute for Mathematics and Scientific Computing at KFU. In this theme-focused week students learn all about mathematics and mathematical models. Our employees Stefan Harald Reiterer and Florian Thaler supported young talents from Styrian schools as tutors. Student groups were taught the extensive possibilities of applying mathematics to real-world problems using mathematical models. This year, VIRTUAL VEHICLE also supports the modeling week as a sponsor.
Equal Opportunities Officer and Team
Already in 2014 VIRTUAL VEHICLE recognized the necessity of implementing a Gender Mainstreaming Officer. In 2020, the concept of gender mainstreaming was expanded, and the position of an Equal Opportuities Officer was created. This person is intended to analyze and address equal treatment and equal opportunities not only in terms of sex and gender. Since then, the focus has also been on other distinguishing characteristics of employees to create a pleasant and appreciative working atmosphere without exclusion or discrimination.
The Equal Opportunities Team was then founded in September 2021. Coordinated by the Equal Opportunities Officer, employees from different work areas, management levels and scientific disciplines form a working group dealing with the topics of gender mainstreaming, diversity management and gender & diversity in research and innovation.
Research projects with gender equality topics
At VIRTUAL VEHICLE, gender equality is not only lived in the corporate culture, but also taken up in FEMtech research projects .In the autoHMI project, for example, HMI (human-machine interface) approaches are developed together with amateur drivers and the benefits of new HMI approaches are evaluated in a simulator study to promote trust. The focus is on the UI (user interface) of the vehicle, such as the dashboard with its various displays.
The gemmA project is about analyzing the demand for sustainable mobility and optimizing the offer of sustainable means of transport. Two main questions are:
– How can sustainable mobility be made more attractive for different groups of people?
– Which different needs exist and should be taken into account in mobility platforms?
For example, people with children may have different needs when using sustainable public transport than, for example, people with physical or speech impairments. Based on these analyses, a gender-sensitive user interface will be designed, developed, and evaluated, and a catalog of measures and recommendations for mobility platforms will be derived.
Gender Equality with all its facets is deeply rooted in the corporate culture of VIRTUAL VEHICLE. In addition, the research center dedicated itself to important FemTech projects to address gender-specific aspects of sustainable mobility and automated driving and will continue to do so.
1 N. Bergmann, N. Lachmayr, M. Mayerl & N. Pretterhofer, “Frauen in technischen Ausbildungen und Berufen ‐ Fokus auf förderliche Ansätze”, Österreiches Institut für Berufsbildungsforschung ‐ L&R Sozialforschung, 2021.
2 As at 30.09.2021: Source: https://online.tugraz.at/tug_online/Studierendenstatistik.html?pAuswertung=13&pSJ=1664&pSemester=S&pGrup‐ pierung=2&pVerteilungsschluessel=TRUE, last accessed 14.01.2022