The number of female professors at the EUR has risen sharply in recent years. “We were at the very bottom of the list at first, but we have made an historic leap since then,’ says Denktaş. Hanneke Takkenberg, chair of the Dutch Network of Women Professors (LNVH) and professor of Clinical Decision-Making in Cardiovascular Interventions at Erasmus MC, is also pleased with the EUR statistics and praises the hard work that has been done to achieve this result. “I’m really enthusiastic about the cooperation between the faculties at the university. Denktaş has brought faculties together and is making sure that they get to share their experiences with each other. These are the first steps.”

 

Long way to go

Nationwide, however, the rate of increase is slowing down, something that Takkenberg calls disappointing. “This shows that specific actions outside the regular appointment process are needed in order to speed things up. We still have a long way ahead of us as far as parity is concerned.” The number of female professors is not expected to reach the same level as their male counterparts until 2041. “We still have a long way to go.” Denktaş also warns that we must not waver in our efforts. “We have to keep highlighting this issue and work towards an inclusive culture. It is a continuous process that you should never abandon.”

Retitled tenured professors

The rise in female professors within the EUR is partly due to the fact that endowed professors were retitled tenured professors as a consequence of the university’s human resources policy. A large proportion of these professors are women. Although this is not regarded as a long-term tactic, it is seen as a good start. “It really is worthwhile,” says Takkenberg. “It may be a one-off, but the title switch does offer endowed professors more recognition.”
According to Denktaş, this measure was not the only factor behind the increase. “We definitely are seeing a trend. We have worked hard to achieve this, come up with integral programmes and pushed the issue very hard amongst the deans and the rest of the organisation. That also plays a role for sure.”

 

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The EUR 25/25 Policy measure was launched last January. This measure helps female academics to prepare themselves for the next step in their professional careers. For example, female assistant professors who want to become head lecturers within two to three years can take advantage of this measure. According to Denktaş, this project underlines how important the EUR considers gender equality to be and, as such, is also invested in it. “This is how we are making sure that women don’t fall by the wayside.”

Male emeritus professors

Other new opportunities are opening up. Over the coming years, it is expected that a large number of male professors will retire. A few women will also be leaving, but the majority will be men. “That offers enormous potential to get more women into those positions,” Takkenberg avows. “There is capacity for filling up to three quarters with women professors.” But in reality, things can turn out differently. “The culture is extremely stubborn. Whatever happens, I am hoping things will speed up.”

A female rector?

Earlier it was announced that Rutger Engels will resign after 2 ½ years as Rector Magnificus of the EUR. Both Takkenberg and Denktaş are keen to see a female successor in his place. “We need more female role models. That’s something I would support wholeheartedly,” Denktaş states. “There are only a few female deans and rectors at the moment.”
Yet when it comes to diversity, Takkenberg acknowledges that Engels has done a good job. “He really is a supporter on this issue,” says Takkenberg, who used to be Chief Diversity Officer at the university. Nevertheless, she would still like to see a female successor. “A woman with a heart for this issue. Someone who really wants to change the system.”

‘Society isn't ready for this yet’

Various initiatives are being launched by the political establishment to promote gender equality in universities. Yet in Takkenberg’s opinion, it is mainly up to the universities themselves to change things. “You don’t want things to be imposed on the basis of the government’s own deliberations. Universities must act on an intrinsic premise. Otherwise, it will always be something that they are forced to do. Then these become measures that you don’t take to heart.”
As it turns out, the national action plan for more diversity and inclusion in academic education and research was rejected by the Dutch House of Representatives last week. “Society is not ready for this yet,” Takkenberg states. “Which is why universities need to take the lead.”