Demands for equality 2019

The equality of students at the university is one of the core concerns of the SUB at all levels. Here you can find more information about the SUB's 10 demands for equality at the university.

Sexual harassment

The #metoo debate and the events at ETH and the University of Basel have shown that sexual harassment is omnipresent - also at universities. According to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, every second woman has experienced sexual harassment. Men are also affected by sexual harassment, although this issue is an ongoing taboo. The SUB survey of 2017 showed that one in ten students at the University of Bern has experienced behaviour that falls under sexual harassment. The SUB fights all forms of discrimination and is committed to the protection and integrity of all. Individual boundaries must be respected and adhered to.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is defined as any behaviour with a sexual connotation that is perceived by the affected person as unwanted and transgressive. It is important to highlight that sexual harassment is characterized not by the intention of the acting person, but rather by the way the targeted person perceives, receives or feels about this behavior. It can occur in words, gestures or deeds. Sexual harassment often involves the exercise of power and dominance. The sexual dimension comes to the fore because victims are particularly vulnerable in this area. Therefore, it is often difficult for the affected persons to defend themselves. Here, you will find more information about this topic.

What is the SUB doing against sexual harasment?

The SUB takes every report seriously and decides on the further course of action in each individual case. Since we do not have counselling competences in cases of sexual harassment, we have a triage function and provide information about the official contact points. If the person concerned wants us to, we accompany them in this process. 

As part of the national day of action against sexual harassment at universities on 25 March, the SUB raised awareness of the issue of sexual harassment at university with various activities. For example, the SUB organised an awareness workshop for students. The awareness concept raises our sensitivity to social power structures and takes concrete action against transgressions of all kinds - but especially sexualised assaults. AWARENESS is also implemented at the Campus Festival.

Where can I get help?

As a member of the University of Bern, there are various contact points in the event of sexual harassment. All counselling centres offer free advice and support. Reporting sexual harassment is important to set an example and make these incidents visible. Because: Every incident of sexual harassment is one too many!

Counselling Centre Universities of Bern

The counselling centre is the University of Bern's external contact point for students and staff. The contact persons are subject to an absolute duty of confidentiality and only initiate further steps if this is explicitly requested. The counselling centre provides information about possible courses of action and accompanies discussions with those involved. The contact person is Pia Thormann, specialist psychologist for psychotherapy FSP.

University of Bern

Within the University of Bern, managers and the official internal contact points are subject to the duty to act. This means that incidents must be reported and action must be taken. Amongst others, the Office for Gender Equality is responsible for prevention and advice on how to proceed.

More useful links

Vertical segregation

What is vertical segregation?

At the University of Bern, a pattern of vertical segregation is apparent in the distribution of gender shares. The proportion of women* decreases with increasing academic degrees. While 58% of students are female, only 28% of professorships are held by women*. The Faculty of Humanities shows a more extreme picture: 72% of Bachelor's students are female, at the level of professorship only 32%. The gradual exit of women in the course of the academic stages and the associated increasing underrepresentation in the science system is referred to as the leaky pipeline. This phenomenon can be observed not only at the University of Bern, but throughout Switzerland.

Gender proportions at the University of Bern
Gender proportions at the University of Bern

Causes of vertical segregation

The causes of the leaky pipeline are manifold. The culture and structures of university organisations are not gender neutral and prevent equality in the careers of women* and men* (see structural sexism). An important cause of women's poorer integration and career opportunities is inequality of opportunity in access to networks. Good integration into the scientific community is essential for professional success and scientific performance. A large scientific network of junior staff enables privileged access to important information as well as the expansion of scientific and university positions of power. Furthermore, women* are less promoted than men* due to the "old boys networks". This describes a phenomenon in which men* who are already in science primarily promote young male researchers. Due to the underrepresentation of women in science, there is also a lack of female* role models who can act as a point of orientation and source of motivation for young female researchers. Especially in questions of compatibility, female* role models play a crucial role. The prevailing image of the male scientist who devotes his whole life to science and is always present and visible can be broken through these role models.

Consequences of vertical segregation

The fact that women* are underrepresented in science is an indication of unequal opportunities for women*'s academic careers. Our aim is to achieve real equality of opportunity by removing structural barriers. Furthermore, science as a male-dominated domain reflects a one-sided perspective on the world. All perspectives should be taken into account in the production and transfer of knowledge. This requires adequate representation of women* in research and teaching.

What can we do?

Promoting young academics is key to sustainably securing the quota of women*, and thus equality in science. With the mentoring programme womentoring, the SUB is committed to promoting women in science. Female* master's students who are interested in an academic career are individually accompanied by mentors from the same or a similar discipline for two semesters.

You can find more information about womentoring at:
Mentoring M4W by the University of Bern for medicine students

COMET Career Programme - Coaching, mentoring, and training for female researchers:

Horizontal segregation

What is horizontal segregation?

Horizontal segregation describes the unequal distribution of genders across different disciplines. More than half of the students at the University of Bern are women*. Within the various degree programmes, however, there is a strong imbalance in terms of the proportions of men and women*. It can therefore be concluded that the choice of studies is strongly influenced by gender.

At the University of Bern, for example, 81% of the students at the Vetsuisse Faculty are women*, whereas the proportion of women* at the WISO Faculty is only 39%. The discrepancy is even more apparent in other disciplines: The gender gap is most evident in the so-called exact sciences and natural sciences. For example, the proportion of women* at Bachelor level in computer science is only 22%. In contrast, women* are much more strongly represented than men* in educational science, with a share of 72%. The inequalities caused by horizontal segregation at universities are also evident to a similar extent at national and international level.

Causes of horizontal segregation

The causes of horizontal segregation are manifold and various theories and studies exist to explain the phenomenon. Some of them go back to Becker's (1975) human capital theory, which states that the choice of field of study depends primarily on the expected labour market opportunities after graduation. According to this theory, women* would increasingly choose professions that are, for example, compatible with family-related career interruptions and offer good re-entry opportunities.

According to Akerlof (1997), the social costs of the social distance between the milieu of origin and the new social milieu created by the educational decision increase. The decision of women in favour of male-dominated fields of study could be associated with higher social costs for them. Due to the expansion of education, more individuals from educationally disadvantaged families of origin are entering universities. Different educational aspirations, as well as less support, can promote horizontal segregation.

Other approaches see socialisation as the cause for the gender-specific preference of fields of study. Social, economic, political, and cultural contexts as well as prevailing social norms and structures shape the results of individual decisions such as the choice of studies. Gender stereotypes and traditional gender roles significantly influence horizontal segregation and have a major impact on society. Stereotypes are simplified ideas about people who are assigned to certain groups on the basis of characteristics and who are associated with certain attributes.Stereotypes are used to simplify and help people orientate themselves in a complex, changing world. However, they contribute to the consolidation and reproduction of dominant socio-cultural values that are associated with privileges and disadvantages.

Consequences of horizontal segregation

If women* and men* are represented differently in different study programmes, certain subjects will be dominated by the respective gender. The concentration of women* or men* in certain degree programmes has negative consequences with regard to equal opportunities and promotes disadvantages and inequalities in various forms (e.g. in the form of wage inequality, vertical segregation, etc.) It thus limits genuine freedom of choice regarding a degree programme and existing gender relations are reproduced.

What can we do?

The University of Bern is committed to breaking down stereotypes and reducing horizontal segregation with activities such as the National Future Day, the taster day for female secondary school students. However, simply raising young people's awareness of the issue is not enough. Horizontal segregation does not only affect young people in their choice of studies or careers. Breaking down social structures and challenging common stereotypes are equally important. In order to counteract horizontal segregation, there is a need for greater public awareness on the level of the federal government, the cantons, the universities, and student bodies.


The compatibility of studies, job, and family is essential for equal opportunities in education. After the birth of a child, the parent increasingly takes care of the child's upbringing, which can result in a delay or at best the discontinuation of studies. Student parents experience additional obstacles to reconciling family and studies due to the strict structuring of studies. This disadvantage affects women in particular, who continue to take on the majority of parenting tasks.

The SUB is committed to improving the compatibility of studies and family. There is a need for more flexible study options, tolerance when parents are absent, and an expanded infrastructure at the university.

Legal basis

Article 16 of the Regulations for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men of the University of Bern regulates how to deal with (expecting) student parents. If you have problems with compulsory attendance, participation in exams, or other concerns, you can refer to this article with the responsible lecturers.

Article 16 of the Regulations for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men of the University of Bern
Article 16 of the Regulations for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men of the University of Bern


The KIHOB Bern University Childcare Foundation (Stiftung Kinderbetreuungsangebot Hochschulraum Bern) promotes and ensures supplementary family care and support for children of members of the University of Bern and the PHBern and other persons from the university-related environment:


The roadmap provides a compilation of all family-friendly places at the University of Bern, including breastfeeding and baby-changing facilities.

Baby chairs for toddlers: Tripp Trapps for toddlers are available at the following locations

  • SUB-Hüsli
  • Canteen at Gesellschaftsstrasse
  • Canteen and Cafeteria vonRoll
  • UNIESS Bistrot Bar Lounge
  • Canteen Unitobler

Parent-child rooms: There are already parent-child rooms in the vonRoll (room B002), the main building (room 012), and in the Mittelstrasse (room -111), which serve as a work and play room in the event of childcare bottlenecks, as a meeting room or as a quiet room. These are accessible to students and staff of the PHBern and the University of Bern as well as to visitors.

You can find quiet facilities for breastfeeding and pumping milk here:

  • vonRoll building: Room A015
  • Unitobler: Muesmattstr. 45, room D411 (incl. fridge). For a key, please contact the Dean's Office of the Phil.-hist. Faculty, for questions contact 
  • GIUB: Hallerstr. 12, room 306Registration:
  • In the buildings Unitobler, UniS, Uni Hauptgebäude, Uni H6, ExWi, Bühlplatzareal and Uni Engehalde in the respective sanitary rooms. Please contact the Office for Gender Equality before using them for the first time: 
  • Inselareal: IFIK, MEM

Changing tables are available in all wheelchair-friendly toilets and in the following rooms: 

  • UniS: In the cubus of the entrance hall (WC-D).
  • Unitobler: Room D411 or WC 1st floor
  • H6: First-aid room on the 1st floor
  • ExWi: First-aid room on the ground floor

SUB Box: In the SUB-Hüsli (inner courtyard Unitobler) and in the foyer of the UniS you can borrow the SUB toy box. It contains toys and a blanket for crawling and is available from the office during the opening hours of the SUB.

Financial support

The SUB Social Fund supports SUB, MVUB members, and mobility students who find themselves in acute financial emergencies. In order to tackle these financial difficulties, the Social Fund Commission can raise up to CHF 5000 in form of a support contribution or loan. The loans are generally interest-free. You can find all information on the social fund here. Further information on financial support can be found here.

Need help? We got you!

Do you already know the SUB KiStE - Child, Study, Parenthood? The SUB KiStE is the network for student parents or those who (want to) become parents. The parents' network meets once a semester to network and exchange tips and tricks.

You can find more information about the SUB KiStE and the general compatibility of studies and family life here. All information about compatibility at the University of Bern can be found here.

Structural sexism

What is structural sexism?

The term sexism refers to discrimination based on gender - i.e. unequal treatment, discrimination or devaluation and the ideology behind it. Sexism exists both on the interactional level (between persons) and on the structural level (structures in our society; between person and institution/society). Sexism is institutionally anchored and reflects social power relations.

Structural sexism at universities means that women are discriminated against, disadvantaged, devalued because of their gender by the structures according to which the university is organised and functions.

How does structural sexism show up at universities? One example:

Although the proportion female students has steadily increased, a corresponding development at higher levels has not yet occurred (see vertical segregation). The under-representation of women in university teaching is the result of an academic system that has long been standardized and dominated by men. The argument that women simply do not want to, or that there are simply no women for these positions, is sexist and misguided.

There are numerous barriers for women* who want to pursue an academic career: not only of a structural nature due to the multiple burdens of work, childcare, and household chores, but also due to a lack of social self-image in dealing with female academics and a lack of female role models.

In our society, young women* are unilaterally confronted with the problem of having to combine family and career. For women*, the career phase and the family phase often take place at the same time. As a result, even young female students are more ambivalent about academic careers. These obstacles are further exacerbated by the organizational forms and performance expectations of universities. A lack of childcare options, discriminatory mentalities, few part-time opportunities, and a steep hierarchy worsen women*'s chances of successfully pursuing science and careers.

Social structures and the organizational form of science reinforce each other. Female scientists, who tend to be less competitive than male scientists for structural reasons, are less able to distinguish themselves and thus lose competitiveness.

The promotion of women* is, therefore, a misleading term since it is not about promoting women as scientists, but about organizing science and research funding in such a way that they do not exclude women* from scientific careers.

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