Women continue to be less likely to become professors, and if they do manage that feat, they tend to get paid less than their male colleagues, according to figures published on Thursday in the Female Professor Monitor, detailing the number of female professors working at Dutch universities.

Expressed as FTE staff, 17 percent of professors were women in 2014, up a mere 2.2 percent from 2012. At this rate, the Monitor stated, it will take the Netherlands another forty years to get as many female professors as it has male professors.

EUR at bottom of ranking

According to the Monitor, women are less likely to be promoted at each rung of their career ladder. The glass ceiling is still intact. Along with Wageningen University and Eindhoven University of Technology, Erasmus University is at the bottom of the ranking. In 2014, 9.5 percent of EUR professors were female. This number does not include the staff at Erasmus Medical Centre. If Erasmus MC’s staff are included, the number comes to 15.5 percent, according to the university’s own annual report.

Gender pay gap

In addition, female professors tend to earn less than their male counterparts, according to the Monitor. This situation has not improved since the previous survey. A commonly raised argument is that women are more inclined to work part time than their male colleagues, but this is not necessarily true for professors, with female professors almost as likely to work full time as their male counterparts (68 percent versus 71 percent). When it comes to associate professors, 65 percent of female associate professors hold a 1 FTE position, versus 79 percent of male associate professors.

“We’re not quite sure what to make of this gender pay gap,” said Marise Born, a Professor of Personnel Psychology (Faculty of Social Sciences) and also Chairwoman of the Dutch Network of Women Professors, who pointed out that the gap is the subject of a study currently being carried out. “It may have something to do with the way in which women negotiate, or it may have something to do with their age. I just hope that women who find out that they’re earning less will stand up and say, ‘Hold on, this is not fair,’” said Born.


“Thorn in our side”

Nearly all other European countries have greater equality when it comes to professor positions. “It’s a thorn in our side,” Born said. “It’s easy to say we’re making progress, but the fact is that we’re still at the bottom of the European ranking.”

And it’s not because there is a dearth of female talent. “Generally speaking, there is a potential female replacement for every professor who retires,” Born told us. “This report knocks the bottom out of the oft-made argument that it can be hard to find female candidates.”


Gender quotas are a rough remedy

Born is not in favour of enforcing binding gender quotas to increase the number of female professors, percentage-wise. “My suggestion would be to use the Dutch love for discussion and negotiation to come to a solution together. Not just to have more female professors appointed, but to get more professors from other underrepresented minorities. I think we need men to make that happen. Quotas really are a rough remedy.”

Born prefers tackling the subconscious mechanisms which put minorities at a disadvantage. “For instance, I think we should train and select chairpersons of selection committees, and appoint a chief diversity officer. VU University Amsterdam and Erasmus University have done so quite successfully.”

‘Be smarter’

Born also said women themselves could stand to be a little smarter. “Some women dislike being given an opportunity just because they’re female, for instance in cases where women are hired in the event of equal-quality candidates. I’d advise taking a pragmatic approach to that sort of thing. Just grab the opportunity you’re being given.”

Critical mass

The move towards more female professors is like a snowball. It is subject to critical-mass effects: once 30 percent of a given university’s professors are female, that percentage will suddenly increase quite dramatically. Said Born, “Leiden University’s number of female professors is heading towards thirty percent [ed: 23 percent]. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Leiden is where a number of critical professors have united and established Athena’s Angels.”

Born’s point? It’s easier to express criticism when there are others who understand what you are saying. “If you’re joined by others, you’re in a better position. That’s not just true for women, but for minorities in general.”