Organisation - June 17, 2015

Column: Men quota

Stijn van Gils

I’m in favour of a minimum percentage of men in top academic jobs. Am I scared of a tidal wave of women taking over now that Louise Fresco is at the helm? Not at all.

The Netherlands is at a low ebb when it comes to women professors and within the country Wageningen brings up the rear. This year again, most of the Wageningen Vidi and Vici grants went to men. In practical terms the men quota won’t change a thing. It’s a matter of principle.

Men have certain personality traits which are important for science. Like egoism, narcissism and dominance. Sorry to say so, but women do fall a bit short in these areas.

I recently got a lot of help with an experiment from a woman post-doc. And honestly, she didn’t even suggest co-authorship. Women colleagues far more often ask me how I am, too - and take the time to listen to an honest answer. Shame. In fact, a downright waste of research funding: they could have been spending that time on their own publications. And I haven’t even started on the subject of their worries about the children’s aches and pains. Men are a lot more disciplined about that sort of thing.

They tell you in the morning that they will work late again today. ‘It helps because then I get home later and I don’t have to put the kids to bed.’ Now, that’s good for science.

If we install a men quota we can defend these masculine qualities, should they ever come under threat in future. Of course, women can be good at science too. So we’ll bring in a woman quota right away too.

Stijn van Gils (28) is doing doctoral research on ecosystem services in agriculture. Every month he describes his struggles with the scientific system.