News - December 10, 2015

Professors: ‘WU must work harder on diversity’

Rob Ramaker

Wageningen University must be more proactive in its efforts to become a diverse university, say 60 professors in a petition presented to the Executive Board on Thursday 10 December.

The petition is intended as ‘encouragement for the Executive Board to really go for it,’ says initiator Ellis Hoffland. The initiative was a response to disappointing figures for Wageningen University in the latest Monitor of women full professors. The number of women holding chairs at Wageningen has not gone up in 12 years. What is more, Wageningen University is trailing behind other Dutch universities. Hoffland wants to see this tackled with ‘an ambitious gender balance programme’. As well as moral support, this should be given systematic financial support.

Wageningen University drew up an action plan at the end of 2013. The project manager implementing this is paid, however, from NWO funding which ends in March. Hoffland wonders whether after that there will be sufficient built-in emphasis on – and therefore money for – gender policy. And she also hopes the university will aim at diversity in the wider sense, appointing more researchers from minorities and more professors from abroad.

On that last point the Executive Board wholeheartedly agrees, says spokesperson Simon Vink. ‘That is already in the Strategic Plan.’ And the board understands the impatience too. ‘The number of women chair-holders is only increasing slowly. That has to do with promotions.’ He does point out the progress that has been made, though. For example, the number of women associate professors is increasing, and thanks to tenure track there are now far more female personal professors.

Vink also wants to reassure everyone that efforts will not slacken after March. The current policy, including awareness-raising courses and a coaching programme, will be continued. It is not clear, however, whether this will be led by one staff member or will be organized differently. That decision will not be made yet, says Vink. The Executive Board wants to wait for Ingrid Lammerse, the new head of HRM who starts on 1 January.