News - January 17, 2013

Graduates share concern: too few women at the top

Women alumni want targets.
Increasing pressure on rector.

It is not just the employees' council and female researchers who are concerned about the underrepresentation of women in top academic posts. The network of female alumni is bothered by it too. In a report called Opportunities for talented women, the women's network makes eight recommendations, including the introduction of target figures, the creation of gender-neutral job descriptions and support for talented female researchers.
The report, which came out yesterday, cites female Wageningen scientists (anonymously) on the specific barriers and problems underlying the figures. They include women's greater modesty, science groups that discourage flexible working hours and the lack of role models at Wageningen. Interesting reading matter for Wageningen policy makers in the report that otherwise leans heavily of previous research and known statistics. The main aim of the publication is to push policymakers into action.
Good timing by the network.
Since last autumn, rector magnificus Martin Kropff has been working on a new 'diversity policy', the objectives of which include the number of female professors (now at 9 percent). In November, Kropff met with 60 women scientist to discuss ways of increasing diversity in Wageningen UR. This led to an action plan being drawn up by a group of active women researchers led by personal professor of Soil Fertility Ellis Hoffland. The group asked for better appointments committees and a mentor programme, as well as for concrete goals such as target figures or quota for female academics.

No targets
It should soon become clear whether Kropff is going to include such targets in his policy plan. In 2008 the board rejected the same recommendation from the Career Policy for Women sounding-board group, arguing that quality should never be secondary to targets. Last December, Esther Veen of the WUR Council repeated the request to the board for 'a clear level of ambition and a timescale to go with it.' The board reiterated its view that quota, and even levels of ambition, were undesirable.
A pamphlet was published alongside the report, giving practical tips for female academics to help them give their careers a boost.