Organisation - October 8, 2009

Always have two women in appointment committees for professorships

The number of female professors at Wageningen University is below the Dutch average.

Ten percent of Wageningen professors are female
The 2009 Monitor of Female Professors shows the Netherlands is lagging far behind the rest of Europe. Belgium, Cyprus, Luxemburg and Malta are the only countries with a smaller proportion of female professors than the Netherlands. The top performer in Europe is Ireland, where 35 percent of the professors are women.
The universities with the most female professors in the Netherlands are Leiden (16.3 percent) and Nijmegen (16.7 percent). Eindhoven has the least - a mere 1.6 percent. The universities of Delft and Twente have 7 percent and 5.8 percent respectively, and Wageningen University is just below the university average of 12 percent. It is true that all the universities have seen an increase in the proportion of female professors compared with 2003, but that increase was only 0.5 percent per annum. What is more, female professors earn less on average than their male equivalents.
The step from university lecturer to professor is the most difficult move for women on their career ladder. That is a difficult step anyway because there are far fewer professors than lecturers. Another factor affecting women's careers is that they are more likely to have a part‑time job. Taking university lecturers as a group, 64 percent of the men work full time as opposed to 43 percent of the women.
The authors of the Monitor advocate legislation stipulating that appointment committees for professorships should contain at least two women. This is because research shows that an appointment committee consisting of only men will rarely appoint a woman - that happens in 7.5 percent of the cases only. If there are two women in the committee then a woman is chosen in 24 percent of the cases.
The rector magnificus, Martin Kropff, says that Wageningen has already implemented this. 'These days we always have two female professors in the appointment committees for professorships. It takes up quite a bit of their time because we don't have so many of them, but we are taking this issue seriously.'
There are just as many women as men studying for a doctorate in Wageningen but after that there is a big drop in the proportion of women. How can you increase the number of female post-docs and lecturers? 'Women are in a complex situation between the ages of 25 and 35 because they have children, for example', says the rector. 'If you've taken time out from the scientific world, it's very difficult to get back in again. We need to come up with a career path that gives women with talent plenty of room during that period.' / HOP /AS