"Everyone is unique and different"


Diversity, equality, inclusion: Learning to see differences as a complement to one's own abilities

In 2020, a cross-departmental working group was formed at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre to anchor diversity more firmly in the centre’s culture. An interview with Severine Müller, member of the group, about differences and uniqueness.

Why does the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) have a Diversity Team? Severine Müller: For a long time, there has been a loose group of colleagues dealing with diversity issues and promoting campaigns such as Girl's Day or discussing topics such as gender equality and internationality at the LRZ. In 2020, this issue gained momentum again. As a funding criterion for research projects, the participating institutions were required to have a gender equality plan (GEP) aimed at promoting the careers of female scientists and taking appropriate action. At the same time, there werediscussions about using gender-inclusive language in the German public service. This was introduced at the LRZ that very same year. And so we established this group as the LRZ’s Diversity Team.

Who is on the team? Müller: The Diversity Team consists of 18 people, some of whom are involved because they have been personally affected, others are part of the group out of interest and solidarity.. In other institutions or organisations, diversity is often an exclusive matter for and of women; that is not the case here. From a gender equality perspective, we have a fairly even number of colleagues coming from different nations and cultural backgrounds, we have older as well as younger members, and of course many areas of the LRZ are represented - we are quite a colourful bunch and we made the conscious decision  that no one should in charge of the group, and that we should organise ourselves in an open and flexible way. It works very well.

How often does the Diversity Team meet and what goals have been set ? Müller: We meet once a month, or more often if there are activities, presentations or events planned. Basically, we want to anchor diversity more firmly in the LRZ in future – and we are also in exchange with the LRZ’s staff council and the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities (BAdW) as well as its institutes, such as the Walther Meissner Institute, the Bavarian Research Institute for Digital Transformation or the Comission for Bavarian History. We want to create awareness and highlight the opportunities that diversity offers both for individuals and for the LRZ as a whole. Diversity is not just about women , but also aboutinclusion, age, cultural background and ethics. Basically, anyone can be excluded and discriminated against because of their characteristics. In other words, everyone is unique and different. The challenge is to recognise diversity, to see otherness as a complement to one's own experience and knowledge. At the LRZ nobody should feel excluded, we want to use diversity in a positive way and build on it.

Do you feel that you are able to make a difference wthin the LRZ? Müller: The issue is very important to most colleagues, so far there has been no negative feedback, although the use of gender-inclusive language has been discussed critically here. Prejudice and discrimination can affect anyone, and we are working to prevent it. Of course we are making a difference in the LRZ - the fact that there is a diversity team at all is generally seen as a very positive thing. We have beenin discussion with the management board and pointed out the need for action. We organised the diversity workshop and a diversity quiz for the Xmas party. We are now planning coffee mornings and other activities to keep diversity awareness alive and to encourage employees to recognise differences and reflect on their own behaviour.

Is the Diversity Team also a point of contact for people who feel excluded or discriminated against? Müller: No, we can't do that. Anyone who feels excluded and treated unfairly should first bring this to the attention of their superiors or involve the LRZ’s staff council. However, one of the goals of the Diversity Team is to set up an external, neutral contact point for discrimination matters, for example by collecting the addresses of various contact points and making them available to employees. (vs)

More about Diversity

Many years ago, the LRZ signed the Diversity Charter and thus committed itself to cultivating a culture based on mutual respect and appreciation. The European Union also focuses on diversity and, among other things, wants to enforce gender equality in technology, research and innovation areas. This also affects research projects: Organisations applying for funding and participating in projects must present a gender equality plan and describe what they are doing to achieve a balanced ratio of women and men in the team.


Severine Mueller is involved in the diversity team
and executive assistant for the LRZ's board of directors