Twelve of the fourteen universities in the Netherlands reported an increase in the percentage of women among their full professors. The number of women professors only decreased at Leiden University and the University of Amsterdam. The LNVH expressed happiness at the fact that the numbers have kept rising, but was sad to see that the increase has been minimal. The report showed considerable growth stagnation across the country – 1.1 per cent growth, down from 2.2 per cent last year.

However, at EUR the number has increased significantly. “First we were completely at the bottom of the ranking, but we’ve made a huge jump in the rankings, from 13 per cent in 2017 to 21 per cent at year-end 2019. And it won’t stop there. In mid-November of this year, we were at 25 per cent (not including the Erasmus MC). We’re really happy with that,” said Chief Diversity Officer Semiha Denktaş. “We’re definitely on the way up.” The increase is mainly due to the fact that a lot of professors holding endowed chairs – many of whom are female – were given a promotion and were made regular full professors.

Growth stagnation

At other Dutch universities, the trend has been less hope-inspiring. “This year’s growth rate has been disappointing,” said Hanneke Takkenberg, the chair of the LNVH. “Last year we noted a strong increase, but that seems to have been a fluke.” Last year’s growth was largely due to the so-called ‘Westerdijk Talent Incentive Scheme’, under which funding was awarded to all Dutch universities for the appointment of one hundred additional female professors.

According to the LNVH, this shows that special actions are needed on top of the regular selection-and-appointment procedure to expedite growth, and that we need to continue focusing on raising the share of women professors in the overall number of professors via the regular selection-and-appointment procedure.

Fewer women on each rung of the career ladder

To this day, the higher the academic rank, the lower the number of women in it. For instance, more than half the students who graduate from Dutch universities are women. However, women make up less than half of all PhD students and assistant professors, and less than one-third of all associate professors. Once we get to the full-professor level, women only make up 24 per cent of the workforce.

Ambitious targets

Despite stagnating growth, Takkenberg is not entirely pessimistic about the next few years. “I’ve noticed that all universities have drawn up ambitious targets. So just because we’re seeing growth stagnation doesn’t mean that the universities are twiddling their thumbs. Quite the contrary.”

The national target is to ensure that by 2025, one-third of all full professors will be female. “But reaching actual equality will take a long time,” says Takkenberg. According to prognoses included in the report, we will not see an equal male/female distribution at the full-professor level until 2041 at the earliest.