The 13th ZEISS Women Award was presented yesterday in Dresden in celebratory style. Head of Corporate Human Resources at the ZEISS Group and host, Georg von Erffa, celebrated with the winners, personalities from science, politics and business and ZEISS employees at the BÖRSE DRESDEN location in Dresden, Germany. Elke Büdenbender was once again patron of this year’s ZEISS Women Award.

The award presented by ZEISS recognizes promising young female graduates and students in Digital and IT and serves as a platform for encouraging more women to pursue a career in this field.
“Talent, determination and passion: the winners of this year’s ZEISS Women Award have these specific characteristics in abundance. I am proud that we can recognize these young female talents in IT and make their careers visible. They are strong role models for all young women keen on a future career in technology or natural sciences and engineering and face the challenges of society with a clear view. Our message is, make your own way and stay true to yourself,” said Georg von Erffa.

The award winners – strong personalities who act as role models

First place went to Jana Zeller who recently completed her bachelor’s degree in computer science at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. During her studies, she focused on various aspects of artificial intelligence. In her bachelor’s thesis, she developed a method that requires less data to predict molecular properties. This progress could facilitate an acceleration in the search for potential drugs in the future.

Jana Zeller is currently studying at the University of Oxford in the UK, where she is enhancing her expertise in computer science. When she was young Jana Zeller got involved as a mentor at Jugend hackt and at the Hacker School with the aim of giving other women and underrepresented groups more self-confidence in IT. “At the Hacker School, I supported the advancement of women, for example, as part of the Girls Hacker Schools, and I develop course concepts to get children in hotspot schools enthusiastic about IT with Hacker School@Your School,” said Zeller. “My objective is to encourage young women to discover their skills in technology and show them that they are welcome in the IT industry and can make valuable contributions.”

Anke Haas came in second place She completed her master’s degree in cognitive computing at Osnabrück University this year with distinction. In her master’s thesis, she dealt with the creation of a virtual voice assistant for a hospital. The aim was to train a virtual voice assistant in such a way that it can support doctors in hospitals or different medical facilities. Administrative tasks, such as the time-consuming documentation of disease histories, can be reduced through the use of the virtual assistant, leaving more time in the daily work routine for patients.

In the meantime, Anke Haas has embarked on her professional career at IBM Germany.
In addition to her work, she is involved in various women’s networks such as Woman in Tech, IBM programs, and as a freelance speaker at conferences and events. “I would like to use my presence at these events and also on LinkedIn to raise awareness about the bias in artificial intelligence, which discriminates against women and minorities in AI in particular. I would like to point out how AI can be better trained and make it my mission to make people aware that bias exists in AI and that every user can actively do something about it,” said Anke Haas.

Annika Rüll achieved third place She studied for a M.Sc. in computer science at the RWTH Aachen University (Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen). In her master’s thesis, she examined how AI, particularly neural networks, can become more secure. This involved identifying mathematical regions within a neural network that are prone to error. This theoretical approach to AI security was the culmination of a master’s degree in which she said she focused entirely on AI and its applications. She has been working at the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) since March 2023.

Annika Rüll is particularly interested in sharing knowledge gleaned about AI with a wider community. She imparts knowledge about AI to adults and children in various projects, for example with the Deutsches Museum Bonn or with IT4Kids e.V., a nationwide educational initiative that gives all children access to digital education. “”I would like to make AI understandable to a broader public with the AI exhibits I designed for the Deutsches Museum and help dispel unrealistic fears while raising awareness of the real dangers and limits of its applications,” said Annika Rüll. “This requires education at an early stage. The IT4Kids’ AI series at least allows me to make a small contribution.”

Bringing women into the Digital and IT industry spotlight

The ZEISS Woman Award is an important contribution to giving women visibility in the field of digital and IT and thus inspiring the next generation of girls and women to follow this path. And it is also a very good opportunity to network and exchange ideas.

The participants in the Teams of the Future panel discussed with Viola Klein how young talents can be supported in their search for a career and which paths to take to be successful as a woman in the digital and IT sector. She set up the award in 2011 to draw attention to the very low number of women pursuing degrees in IT at universities in Saxony at the time and wanted to encourage young women to consider a career in IT. That’s because the demand for their knowledge and skills on the labor market is high and they make an indispensable contribution to future entrepreneurial and social success.

During the panel discussion, a special prize was also awarded to Lydia Günther. After 10 years of service in the German Army (Bundeswehr), she seized the opportunity to begin a master’s degree in medical and health technology at the Zwickau University of Applied Sciences (Westsächsische Hochschule Zwickau). In addition to her determination to make a fresh start in her career, the jury was particularly impressed with how well she was able to juggle her demanding studies and a large family – and achieved outstanding academic results in the process. Her studies focused on seeing digitalization and information technology as an opportunity for inclusion and participation for many different communities and putting it into practice.

About the ZEISS Women Award

The ZEISS Women Award recognizes young women who are making a difference, are successful in their field – with a high level of expertise in IT and technology – but are also highly committed to key social issues and causes that deserve attention. They don’t fit the stereotype of the classic nerd, but are fully engaged in life and want to change things and set them in motion.

The ZEISS Women Award is open to entries throughout Germany and is presented annually. Women studying Digital and IT, regardless as to whether they are working on their bachelor’s, master’s, “Diplom” or doctoral thesis. To qualify, the students need to have very good grades and either be working on their thesis or have just completed it. The jury’s assessment also takes into account whether they show innovative ideas, initiative and a high level of commitment. Elke Büdenbender is patron of the ZEISS Women Award. The ZEISS Women Award first place includes an award and prize money totaling 8,000 euros. Second and third place winners are awarded 5,000 and 3,000 euros respectively.

Further information on the concept of the ZEISS Women Award, the jury, etc is available here ZEISS Women Award