Female Science Talents GATHERING

On 23 and 30 July 2021 the Falling Walls Foundation and the Bayer Foundation organized a mutual networking event to help boost the career of female scientists. Women from all over the world and from different disciplines gathered to share their own experiences and build personal connections with the community of those determined to reach their ambitions. The participants of the Gathering learned about and discussed gender equality in science, business and society to become better equipped to break through the ‘glass ceiling’ in leadership.

The Female Science Talents Gathering offered discussion formats that allowed insightful connections with outstanding female leaders and scientists. We welcomed Dr. Monika Lessl, Dr. Ingrid Wünning-Tschol and Dr. Sandra Milligan who took part in a Round Table discussion and a Q&A session. Prof. Dr. Helga Nowotny joined us for the time of a Role Model Talk. Both sessions were moderated by the brilliant journalist Louisa Reichstetter.

Watch the Videos below and find out more about the speakers and impressions of participants by clicking on the corresponding field.


Round Table Discussion

Day 1

The first day was all about self-reflection on leadership. Who did inspire you on your way to become a scientist or in your life in general? And which character traits does said person have? Which character traits define a good leader?

Impressions and Interview

On Friday, July 23rd, Falling Walls held the first day of its annual Female Science Talents Gathering. Around 43 promising female scientists from all over the world joined us via Zoom for a three hour exercise in empowerment, networking and mindfulness. Sponsored by Bayer Foundation, we were happy to provide a safe space to talk and share thoughts about career paths of female leaders in science, business and society.

The first day was all about self-reflection on leadership. After the official welcome, our host Magdalena Geissler took the virtual stage and, after a short breathing exercise, asked our talents a very crucial question: Who did inspire you on your way to become a scientist or in your life in general? And which character traits does said person have? The point of this exercise was to figure out who we look up to – and whether we value traits that may not be as obvious as one might think.

After we send all talents into small breakout rooms, where they could discuss the thoughts in an even more personal environment, we used the interactive software Mentimeter to find out, which traits were the ones most mentioned within the groups. Sure enough, for our talents, the most important traits in a leader were not the ones usually associated with male-dominated leadership. Instead, traits such as empathy, humility and emotional balance turned out to be much more important.

As the talents reflected on their findings in the plenum, it became obvious that there are not as many female role model leaders yet within the science community, which has led to an askew definition of which character traits define a good leader. One participant recalled how she used to adopt traits from a previous leader, which she does not value anymore. Reflecting on how and why these shifts occur may teach us something about the very nature of leadership – and how to actively change it towards a better, more inclusive one.

How do you juggle work-life-balance?

After the first reflection exercise, it was time for our round table talk. We were happy to welcome three powerful female leaders for an hour-long discussion with acclaimed journalist Louisa Reichstetter: Dr. Monika Lessl, Dr. Ingrid Wünning-Tschol and Dr. Sandra Milligan.

The first day concluded with a second exercise. This time, our talents had to reflect upon leadership styles at their institution: What do they value, what is challenging? And, even more important: How can you contribute your personal leadership style at your institution and further develop your skills? Once again, our talents moved into breakout rooms, before discussing their findings in the plenum. As the participants shared their stories, it became obvious that a lot of the leadership challenges for female scientists are similar – and that reflection and self-reflection are a key element for change.

Round Table Speakers


Role Model Talk

Day 2

The second day shifted its focus towards leadership challenges. We were happy to welcome Helga Nowotny, Professor emerita at ETH Zürich and former president of the European Research Council for our role model talk. One of the most experienced and well-respected female leaders, Helga provided an in-depth look into the pitfalls of female leadership – and was also able to share helpful insights on how to overcome them.

Impressions and Interview

On Friday, July 30th, the second day of Falling Wall’s annual Female Science Talents Gathering took place. Once again, we welcomed around 40 promising female scientists from all over the world to join us and our sponsor Bayer Foundation for three hours of networking, empowerment and inspiring talks.

After the first day one week earlier was all about self-reflection on leadership, the second day shifted its focus towards leadership challenges. The goal of the gathering once again was to support women on their way to a leading position and provide them with inspiration and tools from our growing community of female science talents.

Our host Magdalena Geissler kicked off the second day with yet another exercise. Or to be more precise: “The 3C-Exercise”, in which we aimed to give our talents the opportunity to listen to each other and each others challenges. In small groups made of three participants each, the goal was to create a shifting speaker-listener situation. In each round, the speaker first talks about the leadership challenges she is facing, while one listener listens with curiosity (i.e. the facts, “what has been said?”) and one listener listens with compassion (i.e. emotions, “how did it feel?”). Afterwards, each listener provides encouraging feedback back to the speaker.

Curiosity, persistence, passion

Thoroughly warmed up, it was time for our second talk. We were happy to welcome Helga Nowotny, Professor emerita at ETH Zürich and former president of the European Research Council for our role model talk, which was also streamed live on YouTube. One of the most experienced and well-respected female leaders, Helga provided an in-depth look into the pitfalls of female leadership – and was also able to share helpful insights on how to overcome them.

After the role model talk and a short break, our talents got to do a very special networking exercise. We invited five young female scientist leaders of Bayer AG to share their personal stories and advice with our talents. Covering areas such as cardiovascular biology, organic chemistry and biotransformation, our experts were able to provide unique insights into their work and the challenges as a woman in leadership positions. And judging by the response in the chat and plenum, the engagement proved to be both helpful and joyful – for our talents, as well as our leaders.

Role Model Talk Speakers


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