Very few women dare to pursue typically male professions. Yet that is slowly changing. Often their path begins with a trial internship – as in our example here.
There’s little doubt who wields the electric screwdriver in the Boran household: “Me!” laughs Gizem Boran. “My mom keeps a wide berth of it. She doesn’t even know how to use one.” Unlike her daughter. As soon as a set of shelves has to be assembled, the 19-year-old is on hand with her screwdriver. The vocational trainee is a pro with tools: after all, she works with much heavier machinery every day at work.
At 1.57 meters tall, Gizem repairs motors at the pump workshop of Bayer’s Bergkamen site. The prospective chemical production technician has been with the company for a year-and-a-half now – and the assignment at the pump workshop is part of her practical training. “Working at the plant is really fun,” she reports. “It’s very exciting to be involved in the product manufacturing process – and I learn something new every day.”
Yet Gizem originally wasn’t planning to pursue a scientific vocation at all. On the contrary, she had no idea what she wanted to do for a living – until she completed a brief schoolchildren’s internship at Bayer. “I really enjoyed it,” she says. That’s when it immediately became clear to her: “After that I was determined to undergo training here as a chemical production technician.”
We want to awaken young people’s enthusiasm for technical and scientific professions even at an early age. The idea is for them to get an impression of what it means to work for Bayer.
Gizem’s story is typical: for many trainees, the path to their profession begins with an internship. Bayer therefore enables students in grades 7 through 9 at High School to gain some initial insights into the broad range of occupational training courses offered by the company – through research days, guided laboratory tours, internships for schoolchildren or opportunities to explore occupational fields. “We want to awaken young people’s enthusiasm for technical and scientific professions already at an early age,” explains Georg Müller, head of Human Resources for Bayer in Germany. “The idea is for them to get an impression of what it means to work for Bayer in these areas.”
Yet girls are often outnumbered when it comes to applying for scientific and technical vocations. In order to also strengthen their interest in these vocational training branches, the company regularly participates in Girls’ Day: on this Germany-wide career orientation day, female school students in grades 5 and above can become acquainted with “typical male vocations.”
Maren Bergau was never planning to work alone among men either. Today she’s one of the few women working in an open-plan office for business informatics experts at Bayer Business Services in Leverkusen. There the 21-year-old has been undergoing a dual study of business informatics for two years now. “When I started, we first had to get used to each other, of course.”
The Leverkusen native is now about to receive her bachelor’s degree – and has had nothing but positive experiences in her work environment so far: “A woman can be a valuable addition to a team of men,” she says. “We approach problems differently, contribute new arguments and viewpoints, and have different ideas and suggestions – which can certainly be an advantage when you’re trying to solve a problem.”
For this very reason, therefore, Bayer consciously promotes a balance between cultures and genders in its teams: “We’re convinced that people with different backgrounds advance our business. That’s why we focus on this in our company,” says HR head Müller. “As an innovation company, there is one thing Bayer needs above all: inquisitive employees who question the status quo and want to make change happen.”
Like Gizem Boran, Maren Bergau decided on a vocational training course after participating in an internship while still being a High School student. She thinks it’s a shame that most of the employees in her profession are men. “My girlfriends at school all wanted to do ‘something involving animals’ or ‘something involving media’ instead – typical female professions,” she says. “I don’t think many even considered trying out a technical or scientific apprenticeship.” She can only guess as to why that might be, and shrugs her shoulders. “Maybe they’re turned off by the image of the gruff programmer sitting at a computer.” Yet this image is very much outdated, she says. “I have to be very communicative in my job. After all, I work at the interface between the customers and our programmers.”
Girls’ Day: That’s What Bayer Offers
On this Germany-wide career orientation day, female schoolchildren in grade 5 and above can become more familiar with technical and scientific vocations at plants and companies. Bayer takes part in the event with offers at the following sites.
In Bergkamen, 80 girls can become acquainted with various stations in the vocational training department and perform their first career-related tasks already under supervision.
The Grenzach site presents its vocational training branches – including pharmaceutical production technician, chemical laboratory technician, mechatronics technician, electronics technician, and machine and equipment operator – to between ten and twelve girls. Trainees in Grenzach can also complete their Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration. The girls get to take a look at production processes, learn their first manual tasks from current trainees and conduct experiments in the laboratory.
In Berlin, school groups of ten girls each can familiarize themselves with areas such as toxicology, structural biology, oncology, the resynthesis laboratory, medicinal chemistry and the supply center, and try out work processes such as microscopy, weighing and pipetting.
The 60 Girls’ Day participants in Leverkusen learn what a “business informatics expert” does: Bayer Business Services gives girls from grades 8 through 12 a look behind the scenes of information technology in the Bayer Group. The girls go on an expedition through the IT infrastructure and experience technical professions. In addition, 10 schoolgirls will have the opportunity to visit a physics laboratory as well as the technical center of the Engineering & Technology function.
Wuppertal gives twelve girls an insight into the profession of chemical laboratory assistant. The ten- to 14-year-old schoolgirls tour the vocational training center and observe the chemical laboratory assistant trainees at work in the lab. They also produce a keychain from a brass sheet.
In Bitterfeld, 20 girls in grade 7 and above learn how Aspirin is produced. Together with a trainee, the girls build an electric circuit with LED blink wiring and practice working with a “hot wire.”
A total of 60 girls can explore the departments of Crop Science in Monheim, including Substance Logistics, the Tropicarium and Fungicides Research. In the laboratory for schoolchildren, they can conduct experiments themselves and experience research at first hand under professional instruction. Furthermore, job profiles for future female scientists and engineers will be presented to raise their interest in studying these subjects.
She’s convinced that some day there will no longer be any typical male vocations. But until that day comes, she has a piece of advice for all young women: “Just don’t be shy,” she says. “If you approach people in an outgoing and friendly manner, you’ll be treated just the same way – regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman.”