From then on, Maren Heinzerling had to be brave: When she went to the student evening for mechanical engineering students, the colleagues there start whistling. They wanted to see if their young fellow student would be able to endure it. “And I said to myself then, don’t turn around now, you have to get through it.” The young woman fought her way forward and specialized in the field of rail vehicles. After graduating, she first took a ten-year “family break” and raised her two children. Afterwards she worked part-time as an engineer at the locomotive company Kraus-Maffei.
But Maren Heinzerling found the engineering profession far too exciting, versatile and important to leave it to men alone. That’s why she wanted to encourage women to take up a technical profession. “At the time, as there were mostly men there and therefore to survive you had to have perseverance, we demanded from girls that they be able to endure a lot by having a certain defiant attitude – an ‘I will show you’ frame of mind,” said Maren Heinzerling.
In the late eighties she founded the working group “Women in Science and Technology”, and in 1990 she founded the 1st Munich Girls’ Technology Day, the forerunner of today’s Girls’ Day. Here she also met the student Andrea Bör and gave her the decisive impulse for her career choice. For me, Ms Heinzerling is a great woman who has managed to handle both career and family. This fascinated me so much that I decided to study Electrical Engineering at TUM,” says Andrea Bör. After completing her engineering studies, she made an impressive career for herself and is now Chancellor of the Free University in Berlin.
Having the right profession is a wonderful thing – is something like having a good a friend or even more like a good companion for life,” said Maren Heinzerling with enthusiasm. A technical profession is also an extremely interesting life companion: “One that offers many opportunities, one that grants economic independence, which may even lead to the turmoil of battle, but – and this is my conviction – is the most reliable companion you can have”.
This is something Maren Heinzerling knew what she was talking about: In 1993 – just recently divorced – she was offered a position as Sales Manager for China, Australia and Africa at AEG Schienenfahrzeuge GmbH in Berlin. She was honored to be offered the position and fascinated by the idea of changing her whole life, finally being able to travel and taking on more responsibility. “But my lack of English language skills made me uncomfortable, after all, awarding overall rail systems involves three-digit million-dollar sums and more.” But Maren Heinzerling also mastered this challenge by going to Berlin, listens to English radio news only, and by reading English books and magazines. “I had no idea what German cultural life was like, but my English improved.” She never regretted this move. “It was a wonderful task, but I needed courage again and again.”
An inspiration and a pioneer
Until the end of her life, Maren Heinzerling infected others with her enthusiasm. Since she retired in 2000, her interest had increasingly focused on supporting junior school children in the natural sciences. She was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for her project “Magical Physics”. In 2016 the project was modified again, so that it can now also be used in refugee classes. Maren Heinzerling was awarded with the German Citizens’ Prize for her life’s work. “She inspires young and old alike, playfully and tirelessly. She is an inspiration and a pioneer to bring more women to the natural sciences,” the jury said.
Degree in Mechanical Engineering, 1964
Maren Heinzerling studied Mechanical Engineering at the Technical University of Munich in the early sixties – as the only woman among 300 men. She worked as a railway engineer at Krauss-Maffei, MBB and AEG Schienenfahrzeuge, among others. Since the mid-1980s, she has been passionately committed to getting women enthusiastic about technical professions.
She was awarded the German Federal Cross of Merit for her commitment to the project “Magical Physics at Elementary Schools” (www.zauberhafte-physik.net) among others. In November 2017, she was awarded the German Citizens’ Prize for her life’s work.
Maren Heinzerling is the mother of two children and grandmother of three grandchildren. She passed away in April 2021 at the age of 82.