Press Release

11th ZEISS Women Award 2021 – a plea for more women in the digital sector

The prize was awarded to three informatics students from all over Germany

19 October 2021

Dresden, Germany | 19 October 2021 | ZEISS Group

Yesterday, the eleventh ZEISS Women Award was awarded in Dresden. This prize honors outstanding female informatics students who are about to graduate. The award was offered throughout Germany and serves as a platform to publicly recognize successful young women in the digital sector and to encourage more women to consider a career in the field.

The 2021 award winners are three accomplished young informatics students who engage with social issues alongside their studies and have personalities that make them ideal role models. Corina Hampel took first place. She studies informatics in the master's program at the University of Aalen and has specialized in IT security. The runner-up is Houda El-Messari. She studied at the Technical University of Berlin and has completed her Master of Science in computational engineering science. Drishti Maharjan placed third. She originates from Nepal, studied at Jacobs University in Bremen and has just submitted her bachelor's thesis.

A special prize was also awarded to Sarah-Lee Mendenhall, Master of Science at the HTW Berlin. The young mother, who was brave enough to go down a completely new career path after training as a doctor's assistant, impressed the jury with her extraordinary résumé and her determination to succeed.

  • Corina Hampel won first place, second Houda El-Messari, and third place went to Drishti Maharjan. A special prize was also awarded to Sarah-Lee Mendenhall (f.l.t.r.: Houda El-Messari, Corina Hampel, Sarah-Lee Mendenhall, Drishti Maharjan© ZEISS)

    Corina Hampel won first place, second Houda El-Messari, and third place went to Drishti Maharjan. A special prize was also awarded to Sarah-Lee Mendenhall (f.l.t.r.: Houda El-Messari, Corina Hampel, Sarah-Lee Mendenhall, Drishti Maharjan© ZEISS)

The digital sector offers an underestimated diversity of job profiles and career opportunities

The ZEISS Women Award is ZEISS' effort to focus on diverse career opportunities for women working in computer science. Currently, the proportion of women employed by the global tech company is between 30 and 35 percent, depending on the country. This reflects the general trend among female STEM graduates. ZEISS has therefore set itself the goal of promoting women in the company by operating an organized, family-friendly personnel policy. It aims to do this externally as well by cooperating with universities to ensure that more girls and women are encouraged to take an interest in STEM professions and thus also in IT.

"The ZEISS Women Award is an important platform that draws attention to talented women in computer science, thus creating role models for the next generation. With events like these as well as other activities to promote STEM, we at ZEISS want to do our part to spark children's and young people's curiosity in the STEM subjects," says Matthias Gohl, Head of ZEISS Digital Partners.

The ZEISS Women Award was first launched in 2011 as the "Woman Award" by Dresden-based IT company Saxonia Systems AG, whichtoday belongs to the ZEISS Group. Initiator Viola Klein was concerned about the then very low number of women pursuing IT degrees at universities in Saxony and wanted to encourage young women to consider a career in IT.

Sponsor Elke Büdenbender plays an active role in making talented women in IT visible

The Women Award is sponsored by Elke Büdenbender, wife of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The lawyer explains in her video message: "Even if the image of the nerdy IT guy still prevails in people's minds, talented women in IT do exist! We have to make them visible, and the Women Award is an important tool to do this. It is always a pleasure for me to show the world the wonderful careers of the award winners, which I hope will inspire young women to choose a career in IT."

Record: 98 applications from all over Germany were received ‒ twice as many as the year before

The ZEISS Women Award prize was available throughou Germany. Women studying IT, business informatics or a similar degree program were eligible to apply, regardless of whether they are working on their bachelor's, master's or "Diplom" degree. To qualify, the students needed to have very good grades (German grade average of ≤2.0) and either be working on their thesis or have just completed it. The female students' commitment to society and their local community such as via membership of a club or their educational institution, was also part of the assessment. This year's 98 applications from all over Germany was a record compared to last year's 42.

The jury honored three strong personalities and presented a special award

An 8-member jury composed of successful women from the worlds of science and business selected the award winners. "It was a very tough decision," explains Dr. Julia Freudenberg, CEO of the Hacker School, on behalf of the jury. "There were such great applications. So it was a real challenge to rate everyone. For me, each of these young women is an amazing role model." This prompted the jury to award a special prize.

The first place of the ZEISS Women Award comes with an award and prize money totaling 2,000 euros. Second- and third-place winners, and the special prize, also include prize money. Further information on the concept of the ZEISS Women Award, the jury, etc.:

More information about the award winner Corina Hampel

Corina Hampel is studying for her master's in informatics at the University of Aalen and has specialized in IT security. In her master's thesis she created a framework – a programming framework – that makes it easier for software developers to effectively detect security risks when programming their digital solutions. She also volunteers as a computer scientist, for example as an instructor at the Aalen Children's University. According to the 27-year-old, a series of coincidences are what led her to pursue an IT degree in the first place. She believes that the image of a computer scientist and the prerequisites are still incorrectly communicated and fraught with prejudice. "There's no longer simply a need for math whizzes," says Corina Hampel, "but people who are team players, who are excited by new technologies and who want creative solutions." Even career counselors are often unaware of the diversity of professions and fields where computer science is in demand. That's why she advocates raising awareness among girls, especially those aged between 12 and 16, for the wide range of possibilities out there.

Press contact Sarah Hailer

Corporate Brand and Communications

Other contact for press on ZEISS Women Award Sabine Mutschke

PR and Marketing


ZEISS is an internationally leading technology enterprise operating in the optics and optoelectronics industries. In the previous fiscal year, the ZEISS Group generated annual revenue totaling 6.3 billion euros in its four segments Industrial Quality & Research, Medical Technology, Consumer Markets and Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology (updated: 30 September 2020).

For its customers, ZEISS develops, produces, and distributes highly innovative solutions for industrial metrology and quality assurance, microscopy solutions for the life sciences and materials research, as well as medical technology solutions for diagnostics and treatment in ophthalmology and microsurgery. The name ZEISS is also synonymous with the world's leading lithography optics, which are used by the chip industry to manufacture semiconductor components. There is global demand for trendsetting ZEISS brand products such as eyeglass lenses, camera lenses and binoculars.

With a portfolio aligned with future growth areas like digitalization, healthcare and Smart Production and a strong brand, ZEISS is shaping the future of technology and constantly advancing the world of optics and related fields with its solutions. The company's significant, sustainable investments in research and development lay the foundation for the success and continued expansion of ZEISS' technology and market leadership. ZEISS invests 12% of its revenue in research and development work – ZEISS has a long tradition of high expenditure in these areas. This also represents the company's investment in the future.

With over 34,000 employees, ZEISS is active globally in almost 50 countries with around 30 production sites, 60 sales and service companies and 27 research and development facilities. Founded in 1846 in Jena, the company is headquartered in Oberkochen, Germany. The Carl Zeiss Foundation, one of the largest foundations in Germany committed to the promotion of science, is the sole owner of the holding company Carl Zeiss AG (updated: 31 March 2021).

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