The foundation of the ETH Women Professors Forum
was laid in 2011 when a group of senior women professors at ETH Zurich gathered to discuss the idea of creating a forum.

The central tenet for building the forum was to bring together the women professors at ETH Zurich: to create a community, to share scientific research, improve the visibility of women scientists, to act as role models for younger women scientists and to contribute to ETH Zurich’s goals to attract more women into science at every level. The initiative originated from the advancement of women program of the National Competence Center in Research for Molecular-Ultrafast Technology (NCCR MUST).

In the first months the Forum took inspiration from the Women Faculty Forum of Yale University. The initiative progressed as the first consultation lunches with female professors were organized, a strategy document and statutes of association were written. From 2011 to 2013 it was given momentum by the NCCR MUST director Ursula Keller, and coordinated by the NCCR MUST Outreach Officer (Anna Garry, ETH Zurich). The Forum also received administrative support from the EAWAG director Janet Hering from 2012.

On 7 March 2012
the first general assembly founded the ETH WPF as an association (“Verein”), and soon after the association’s Executive Board met for the first time. Executive Board member Professor Silvia Dorn designed and implemented the Scientific Lunch program as the central platform to exchange and connect, and in autumn, the Rector of ETH Zurich financially supported the forum with a substantial amount, enabling the further development of the organization.

In December 2012
the Executive Board met with the President of ETH Zurich to discuss its vision and the issues of women professors. ETH WPF had already achieved 70% membership amongst all women professors.

From 2013 to 2014
In Spring 2013, the ETH WPF gathered for the 2nd general assembly and organized a retreat to discuss issues about recruitment and retention of women professors, which the ETH WPF Board Members later presented before the Executive Board of ETH Zurich (“Schulleitung”). In Autumn 2013, the ETH WPF President and Vice-President presented the retreat recommendations at the Conference for the Department Heads of ETH Zurich.

In May 2014 the ETH WPF members met for the 3rd general assembly, followed by a workshop to discuss input on the “Gender Action Plan” of ETH Zurich. Soon after, the ETH WPF Board presented the members’ feedback and recommendations to the Executive Board of ETH Zurich (“Schulleitung”).

Expansion from 2016 to 2017
In 2016 the membership was expanded to include women professors at EPF Lausanne.  This allowed the sharing of experiences and strengthening the network across the two institutions. The ETH WPF includes, as ex officio members, representatives of Equal Opportunity Offices at EPFL and ETHZ. In 2017 the membership was expanded once more to include women scientists at the Research Institutes of the ETH Domain who hold professorial titles at a Swiss University. In this way, all women professors in the ETH Domain are included as potential members of ETH WPF. 

In 2019
a survey of women professors at all ETH Domain institutions was performed and resulted in a report: Survey of Issues Important to Women Professors at EPFL and ETHZ. This report evidenced the challenges faced by women professors and highlighted the similarities between the two institutions.

In 2020
on the basis of the 2019 report, the EPFL leadership agreed to commission a study of the status of women professors at EPFL and the report provided a series of eighteen pragmatic recommendations to tackle the issues. In the same year, the ETH WPF statutes were updated to limit the term of the Chair and co-chair to one year and to allow the renewal of the co-chair position once. This change was designed to provide leadership opportunities to many women professors and to have a dynamic association with new ideas brought in by new chairs.