Organisation - July 4, 2019

Women first

Guido Camps

This proud father of two lovely daughters will always seek to give them opportunities in life. But no doubt the same goes for the parents of little boys.

Guido Camps (35) is a vet and a postdoc at the Human Nutrition department. He enjoys baking, beekeeping and unusual animals.

So I am shocked by the news from the University of Eindhoven: ‘Women researchers get priority at TU/e from now on’. Newly appointed women academics get 100,000 euros for their own research, plus a special mentoring programme. What a fabulous offer! If my daughters were not one and four years old, I would be taking them to Eindhoven today so they could apply.

There are only two possible explanations for the shortage of women academics in Eindhoven: either there are too few women in the sciences, or women applicants are being systematically kept out by appointments committees. Rector Frank Baaijens assumes the latter: ‘We are progressing too slowly. We are aware that we are dealing with an implicit gender bias.’

What the rector is saying really is: our professors and deans are so discriminatory in their appointments policy that the only solution is to only let them interview women candidates, so they don’t get any chance to appoint a man.

Dear Executive Board at TU/e, if your problem lies in a gender bias among your staff, sack all staff with a gender bias1 and appoint a more diverse group of staff instead. After all, you have said yourselves that they are the problem, and not all the young male academics who are to be kept out of Eindhoven for the foreseeable future.

1 But surely you are not allowed to sack someone just like that in the Netherlands? True, but a university that is not afraid of Article One of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Dutch constitution won’t lose sleep about labour laws either. 

Re:actions 1

  • KF

    While I agree with the sentiment about getting rid of those who are biased, it gets wobbily on two fronts.

    The first being unconscious bias of administrations and hiring committees, regardless of their own gender, to disadvantage women and others (see Reuben, Sapienza, and Zingales 2014, PNAS). It doesn't matter if you somehow get rid of all of the biased staff, it will still occur. Change needs to occur on multiple fronts, not only in addressing the outlook of hiring committees, but getting more women and other under-represented minorities into positions so that they can stand a chance, fulfill their potential, and become a part of these leadership structures.

    The second is the rather stale argument in your footnote. The lawyers at TU/e have already been over the legality of the situation, see the official statement from TU/e: Quote, "The measure has been checked against European legislation. It allows to target recruitment from among underrepresented groups."

    This is a bold move from TU/e, and while fortune favours the bold, we'll have to see how things go in the long-term. But something is better than nothing.