One day Roeya Khlifi receives an email from another female student who is thinking about dropping out. In lectures and labs she sees almost exclusively male students and hardly any women. Khlifi says that this was not a new experience for her: “I had been there, too, as the only woman in tutorials with 30 male students.”
It’s moments like these that reaffirm Roeya Khlifi’s conviction that she is doing the right thing and that her commitment matters. They also remind her of the necessity of initiatives such as “Women in Computer Science @TUM”, which aims to support and encourage women and other underrepresented groups in their studies. And that diversity must be prioritised as a goal in its own right.
SAP-TUM Industry University Collaboration Team
Khlifi is working towards her bachelors degree in informatics – and is also striving to promote equality and diversity at her university. She is actively involved in diversity issues in her department and is working as a project manager in the forum “Women in Computer Science”.
Since October 2021, Khlifi has also been employed as a working student in the SAP-TUM Industry University Collaboration Team, where she works on the website and helps with the coordination of various research projects being carried out by TUM masters and Ph.D. students in cooperation with SAP. The goal of the partnership between TUM and SAP is to establish innovative and sustainable projects in the areas of research, knowledge exchange and co-innovation from which both sides can benefit.
Much-needed expertise in equality
Khlifi’s commitment has not gone unnoticed. The TUM student is now being contacted even by professors in other departments seeking her expertise and support with equality and diversity issues. But what makes her tick? What motivates her in her studies, her job and her volunteer work? Her answer is simple: “If you want to do something, just do it. But be passionate about it.” All it takes is effective time management.
She arrived at TUM in 2019. Looking back, she says: “The key factor for me was TUM’s reputation. Another reason was definitely the scenic beauty of the region.” Tunis, her home city, is located on the Mediterranean and has average summer temperatures of 30°C. So Khlifi was impressed at the beginning by Munich’s many green spaces and parks, especially the English Garden and the Olympic Park.
Women in Computer Science @TUM
Then the pandemic hit and the 2019/2020 winter semester was to be Khlifi’s only onsite semester to date. That prompted the new Munich resident to get involved in Women in Computer Science and her department’s diversity team in April 2020. To break out of the isolation of the pandemic – and spend time with people again.
The first months in Munich were especially difficult for Khlifi. “As a first semester student I had so many questions. I just had to find someone to talk to. And in the ‘Women in Computer Science’ community, we support one another,” she says.
Dealing with strong women
Today the 22-year-old student is the project manager of the forum established by Prof. Anne Brüggemann-Klein. With a 25-member core team, she develops workshops with software engineers and courses on balancing the demands of careers and studies, organizes podium discussions and guest talks. But above all she acts as a mentor for other students.
This sounds progressive, but it’s still not enough for her. Speaking of her own department, Khlifi says: “We’re still not where we want to be. We need to be better.” And: “This is 2022. It’s time for men to learn how to deal with strong women.”
BayFID – Bavaria’s Women in Digital Careers
In pursuit of these objectives, she is now obtaining input from outside the university, too. Since September 2021 she has been part of the talent program “BayFID – Bavaria’s Women in Digital Careers” under the auspices of minister of state Judith Gerlach. The Bavarian Ministry for Digital Affairs wants to see more women in the technology sector – and selects 50 women every year. Khlifi is one of them. She will now spend a year and a half gaining insights into partner companies of the program and into the research world – while expanding her network in the industry.
High-profile partners include Google, Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, BMW and MAN. Khlifi is in touch with top people. She sees so many of them as role models that she struggles to name just one off the top of her head. But then she comes up with one: “Melinda Gates. She’s a ‘woman in tech’. She has done a lot for Microsoft. And she does a lot of volunteer work.” That’s another thing that impresses Khlifi.
Sometimes she needs to get away from it all. Then she has to switch off and leave the big city behind. She likes to go to the many lakes south of Munich – into the mountains and away from her screen. Khlifi, who grew up in North Africa, says: “When it snows I’m so happy.”
- Roeya Khlifi is 22 years old. She spent her childhood and teens in Tunisia and moved to Germany in 2018 after graduating from an elite science high school in Tunis. She spent the first eight months in Münster, getting her German skills up to the C1 level. Then she relocated to the Bavarian capital in the fall of 2019.
- The forum „Women in Computer Science @TUM“ publishes a newsletter with regular event updates. To subscribe: Women in Computer Science @TUM newsletter
- Gender and Diversity at TUM
- The talent program „BayFID – Bayerns Frauen in Digitalberufen“ is open every year to applicants ranging from secondary school students to experienced professionals. The only requirements: 18-30 years of age, primary place of residence in Bavaria. Next application deadline: June 12, 2022.
- SAP@TUM Collaboration Lab