Student - April 6, 2017

Column: Women only

Stijn van Gils

There was anger. At least, that is what I heard. Personally I was explicitly not invited. The 500 Women Scientists gathering in Wageningen was a women-only event. The initiators think it’s ridiculous that there is still discrimination against women, fewer of whom therefore get far up the academic ladder.

‘The plan now is to visit secondary schools, for instance, and show potential women scientists that women really can become professors, a woman friend tells me, who was willing to infiltrate for me.

I already feel sorry for all the boys in the class concerned. They will soon be told that more women are needed in the sciences, implying that they are implicated in a problem that has nothing to do with them. In fact, male secondary school students have some catching up to do on their female classmates. And incidentally there is absolutely no obstacle for women going into the sciences: in Wageningen there are currently more female than male PhD candidates.

Sure, I admit there is an inequality problem but I don’t think it lies in what was discussed at the meeting I couldn’t attend. I think it’s the postdoc phase that is dramatic: the moment when scientists have babies. It is still less accepted for men to take on a substantial share of the childcare. Can’t we do something about that? Why aren’t there any role model men who can set an example? And what about unconscious discrimination –  by women as well, incidentally? Can’t we have more workshops on this at the university?

Why aren’t there any role model men who can set an example?

I think inequality between men and women is terrible and I would love to help think up solutions. But alas, I am not allowed to join the discussion. Purely and simply because I happen to be a man.