Women in academia still earn less than their male counterparts, and no, that is not because they are more likely to work part time. It is time we made some high demands, says the Dutch Network of Women Professors.

Female academics tend to climb the career ladder less quickly than males. Moreover, they tend to get paid less as well. On average, male academics earn €390 more per month than their female contemporaries, because men tend to become associate or full professors at a younger age. On top of that, they earn more in these positions than their female counterparts, and they are also more likely to receive an allowance for things such as being on a committee.

Slide for men versus climbing wall for women

It is not because the female academics make less of an effort. Women are hardly more likely to work part time than men, according to a report on income gaps published by the Dutch Network of Women Professors. In other words, gender bias, i.e., sexism, must be to blame.

“For men, an academic career is like a slide, whereas for women it’s more like a climbing wall,” says Dutch Network of Women Professors President Ingrid Molema, a professor of life science in Groningen. “Since the 1990s we have had truckloads of female students. Isn’t it about time we saw that reflected in the make-up of academic staff?”

Consequences for funding

The position of women in academia is improving somewhat, but despite all the good intentions and plans, Molema feels the changes are too long in the making. She suggests that perhaps universities should experience the problem for themselves through their level of funding.

“Provide universities with less funding if they are not doing well,” says Molema. “All these plans and targets looked great when they were first drawn up, but if we are not making significant progress now, we are basically acknowledging defeat.” As far as she is concerned, the level of government funding should be partially determined by the way in which universities treat their female academics.

Minister will come back to it

“Men and women are equally smart, equally competent,” she posits. “Even so, the majority of high-ranking positions are held by males, which means that less competent men are occupying positions which could have been held by more competent women.”

Yesterday Molema handed the report to Minister Jet Bussemaker of Education, Culture and Science at the official opening of the academic year at Amsterdam VU University. The Minister stated that she considered the subject important and that she was not ruling out entering into target agreements with the universities regarding equal treatment of men and women. She will get back to this later.

Large part to be played by workplace diversity officers

Molema believes workplace diversity officers will play a large part in this process. “Maybe it’s a little scary for some men that so many smart women are knocking on the gate, but then again, discrimination of women is often done on a subconscious level. Among other things, diversity officers can keep an eye on whether there are enough women on the selection committees, and whether the best female candidates are being invited to job interviews.”