Professor Bekker: “Tilburg University has to do more against gender inequality”

Professor Bekker: “Tilburg University has to do more against gender inequality”

It is time for drastic measures, according to professor Marrie Bekker. When it comes to gender inequality at universities, we have a lot of work to do. And we should do this quickly. “The situation is embarrassing.”Marrie Bekker is professor clinical psychology at Tilburg University. Besides that, she has been fighting against gender inequality at universities for years. Last week, the Monitor Women Professors 2015 was issued, and the numbers again were deplorable. Bekker thinks it is time for a giant leap forward.

The number of female professors in the Netherlands lies at 17 percent. With the current growth, the gender equality will not disappear until 2055. Why are there still so few female professors and why is there barely any progression here?

“A lot of people are bewildered and ask themselves that very question. Research pointed out that we can think of all kinds of reasons, but one thing is clear now: it is not the lack of availability. There are enough competent, suitable women for a professorship. Excuses like ‘women just do not want to’, are simply untrue.”

The Netherlands are scoring badly compared to the rest of Europe. We are dangling somewhere at the end of the list.

“That makes this percentage even more embarrassing, and the conclusion that we have to do something quickly more inescapable.”

Are quotas for women the solution?

“You should not just do that, because of possible negative side effects. The idea that this measure leads to incapable women on high positions, is obstinate en stays alive. But if the percentage of women at the top stays low, despite incentive measures, we can consider a temporary quota for women. As an heroic remedy.”

With 13 percent female professors, Tilburg Universities is far below the average. What about a quota here?

“Research shows that if a university has 30 percent female professors, it reaches a tipping point and gets a more female friendly, egalitarian organisation structure. Tilburg University is now aiming at 25 percent in 2017, so it should try a little harder.”

The target should be higher?

“Yes. And not just for female professors, but also for women in the top of the organisation, and in nomination and advice committees. What is going to help, is the implementation of the fellowship: creating more assistant professors and professor positions for women. Besides that, I claim we should have additional strategies. For example, minister Bussemaker’s and Hans de Boer’s recently launched roadmap for appointments. Furthermore: make top men ambassadors for this case and trade the formation principle for the career principle, so researchers can get promoted based on quality, instead of vacancies.”

Is it also harder for women to stay on top, once they got there?

“At my own school, quite some women left or got sick. All kinds of factors can cause that, but it is striking. We should analyse their exit conversations on gender aspects, so that maybe, we can change something in the future. This way, the university can learn from possible mistakes. Read the stories of women on the website Athena’s Angels. It’s not pretty, but it is enlightning.”

Is a woman who makes it to the top still discriminated?

“Often not on purpose; most people are not aware of it. But there is a lot of implicit exclusion and discrimination. That’s why those responsible at the university need more knowledge and awareness. Not only women, but everybody at the university benefits from a diverse, inclusive and cohesive climate.”

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