EM columnist Eefje Smeulders attempts to ignore the results of the American presidential elections for now and remains reasonably hopeful about what the future holds for women. “There are times when my 179th birthday seems closer than I thought.”

Two weeks ago it was announced that the Netherlands had dropped three places in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index. In addition to a 391-page report, a website was also published showing how long it would take to eliminate gender inequality: by the time I’m 179 years old, men and women in the Netherlands will be equal when it comes to health, finances, education and politics. That clearly shows these issues are developing at a snail’s pace in the Netherlands.

Unrealistic bodily proportions

Fortunately, over the past few weeks it appeared that various organisations are making efforts to improve the representation of women. The United Nations, for example, announced it had found a new ‘Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls’. This was met by protests from the organisation’s own employees as it seemed that the world had run out of real inspiring women, or one simply couldn’t be found, so DC Comics came to the rescue by offering superhero Wonder Woman. Now, it’s a virtually impossible task to find a woman who could be a symbol for 50% of the world’s population. But a fictional character with unrealistic bodily proportions wearing a bathing suit emblazoned with the American flag wouldn’t be my first choice. That’s no cause for concern for the DC Comics marketing department, though, as a new film with Wonder Woman in the lead role is scheduled for release in 2017.

Luckily, real people are also recognised for their hard work. Glamour’s ‘Women of the Year’ included Christine Lagarde (the first female Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund). Also on the list were the founders of the Black Lives Matter protest movement, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi.

And Bono, the lead singer of U2.

Apparently Great Britain had run out of inspiring women too, so the jury decided to choose a man. At least it resulted in international headlines such as ‘Bono is Glamour’s Woman of the Year’, with the article casually mentioning the other women in passing. After all, why should women be in the spotlight at the presentation of their own award?

Erasmus University Executive Board President Kristel Baele has a more effective approach: to ensure there are there are more female candidates for appointment to the position of endowed professor, the seed has to be planted early on by appointing more women to the position of assistant professor. Perhaps introducing a quota for female representation will also help. There are times when my 179th birthday seems closer than I thought.