News - September 27, 2012

Wageningen still a male bastion

Proportion of women still stuck at 9 percent. 'Finding woman candidates for niche areas is difficult.'

There are few women professors in Wageningen. Only 9 percent of the established chairs in Wageningen are occupied by women, while the average in other universities is 20 percent. 'This is worrying,' says Frances Brazier, chair of the Dutch Network of Women Professors, and professor of Systems Engineering in Delft. 'The number of women professors will not increase of its own accord; it takes real policy to achieve that.' She spoke this month with Wageningen rector Martin Kropff.
The proportion of women students in Wageningen is over 50 percent and the male-female ratio among PhD candidates and postdocs is 50-50 too. 'But that is as far as it goes,' says Brazier. She believes this is largely to do with cultural differences. And for this reason she feels there should always be two woman professors on an appointment committee. And more effort should be made to find suitable candidates from abroad if no suitably qualified woman can be found in the Netherlands. Rector Martin Kropff acknowledges the problem. 'It is hard to find candidates who fit the profiles for our chairs. In Wageningen we are often dealing with niche areas and there the talent pool is small, and that goes for women too.'
Yet the rector is optimistic. 'We already have many women among the professors with personal or endowed chairs. And we have a tenure track policy, through which we offer talented researchers a career path leading to a personal chair. That is going very well and more than half of these talents are women.' Kropff expects that these measures will ensure that more talented women can move on to regular chairs in due course.