Monika Gerschau
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Prof. Dr Monika Gerschau

"Dare!"

Basically, it was not a question of whether Monika Gerschau would become the Women's Representative: Just when she came to the HSWT in 1990 – as the first, and thus today the longest-serving woman professor at the University of applied sciences – the university management had created the position of Women's Representative. It was quite obvious that Gerschau would take on the position when asked – but that she would still hold it, with a few interruptions, 30 years later, was probably not foreseeable. "The eternal women's representative," the professor jokes, and emphasises: "But I am part of a team," which is important to her. "Since my beginnings as a women's representative, a lot has changed in the university law: Today, in addition to the university women's representative, there is a deputy, (project) staff and in each department there is a person responsible and representatives. In addition, the importance of gender equality and diversity as a whole is firmly anchored at the HSWT."

Monika Gerschau holds the position of university women's representative in addition to her teaching and research activities as a professor in the field of agricultural marketing at the department of Sustainable Agriculture and Energy Systems. Her task is to ensure that equal rights for women and men are implemented at the University of applied sciences and to uncover the disadvantages that often exist unconsciously. Together with her colleagues, she accompanies appointment procedures, for example, and organises offers such as mentoring programmes and workshops for female students, women in teaching and research, and prospective students.

"I am motivated by the fact that I can make a difference".

Her task is not always an easy one, and certainly not one where the fruits of labour are immediately apparent. "It sometimes takes generations before something changes in people's minds," says Gerschau. It takes stamina and heart and soul. "I am motivated by the fact that I can make a difference. When students or colleagues have "aha" moments and it becomes clear which socially relevant issues are hidden in supposedly trivial matters, then I have the feeling that I have initiated something," says the professor. "I'm happy, for example, when male colleagues now also jump up at half past four in faculty meetings in the afternoon because they have to fetch their child from the day-care – and topics like the compatibility of family and career are no longer just women's issues."

Supporting others to get going

In her studies of economics and social sciences of agriculture at the Technical University of Munich, the advancement of women or gender equality were not issues, she did not feel underrepresented. "In my professional life, however, I came into a completely male world," she recalls. "At that time, however, there was not yet the same awareness. Today, fortunately, it's different, we now talk about when there's a gender imbalance in an industry, and about how mixed teams are more successful in every way."

Monika Gerschau's advice for young women starting out in their academic and professional lives is: "Have courage! That is the main thing. Move forward proactively, do rather than think too much. Don't constantly compare yourself with others. You don't always have to have everything 110% perfect before you get started."

Getting started is also the keyword when Gerschau rides her gravel bike in her free time. On this special racing bike, which is also designed for off-road riding, she explores routes in the Freising region and south of the Alps. Bavarian folk dancing, her second sporting passion, is more traditional. The Rotarian also invites young scholarship holders, some of them international, to the dance events with brass band music and traditional costumes, whose support is one of her tasks in the Rotary Club. "Many still rave about the dance evening years later," says Gerschau. Here, too, she wants to pass on something for the future, just as she does in her role as professor and women's representative at the HSWT.