Who was your role model during your youth?
“I didn’t have a role model, but I did receive important values from my parents and family: that you should be honest, tolerant, not materialistic, look towards the future, and don’t take yourself too seriously. I grew up in the GDR, the former East Germany, where the majority of women had full-time jobs, all mothers worked, mine too. She was a teacher at a secondary school and taught Russian and German. Maybe they were my role models, without me realising it. Working, having one’s own career and working full-time, that was normal.” She laughs: “No, I didn’t have a role model while working my way towards a career in academics either. I really liked doing research and I soon knew: this is what I want. Nobody is going to stop me. I also never felt like I couldn’t do it.”
What is the worst advice you have ever had from a man or a woman?
“Every time someone starts talking to me by saying: ‘As an older man or woman may I tell you …’ That is when I stop listening. I think that is so arrogant. It is like they are saying: you are still young; you are a woman so you won’t know.”
What advice would you give to students who are going out into the world?
“Never lose your confidence, you are going to find that job that you are looking for so passionately. Of course, you will come across obstacles, but don’t let that daunt you. Keep alive that beautiful dancing star inside you. That is a statement by Nietzsche. He is saying: don’t forget the child inside you, cherish your youthfulness.”
In how many years’ time can we cancel International Women’s Day?
“I don’t think that will ever happen. Human rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, minority rights, even in a democracy you have to appreciate, cherish and defend fundamental rights each and every day. They are vulnerable. I hope that someday, 8 March will become a worldwide day of celebration, when we celebrate that there is no war, no discrimination and no more fear.”