More female professors after Westerdijk Anniversary

At Utrecht University (including UMC Utrecht), 39 female professors were appointed during the Johanna Westerdijk Anniversary (10 February 2017 - 10 February 2018). In that same period 34 men were appointed as professor. The percentage of female professors rose in the Westerdijk Anniversary from 21.9% to 24.2%. The target of 27% in 2020 is thus a bit closer.

Infographic: for the first time more female professors than male professors were appointed within a year.


Percentage of women in science within Utrecht University

Graduated master students

65% (2016-2017)

PhD Candidates

48,3% (2017) - 49,9% (2018)

Assistant Professors

47,5% (2017) - 47,7% (2018)

Associate Professors

33,9% (2017) - 34,2% (2018)


21,9% (2017) - 24,2% (2018)

Source: Utrecht University, 31 Januari 2017 and Utrecht University, 31 Januari 2018.
Numbers of the UMC Utrecht have not been taken into account.



“I think that it is the first time in the 381-year-old history of the university that more women than men have been appointed as professor in a year", says Rector Magnificus Bert van der Zwaan. "That is the pinnacle of the Westerdijk Anniversary, and at the same time it is sad that it did not happen before. Because what a talent!

“In part, these women already worked at our own university as Associate Professor. That therefore immediately raises the question of how we can ensure that talented women structurally move on better. It is important that we keep our focus on this subject.”

More to wish for

The university is proud of the growth in the number of female professors and aims for further growth, at least 27% in 2020 and ultimately 50%. Based on the average growth in the past decade, the Dutch Network of Women Professors predicts that universities in the Netherlands will achieve an equal gender balance in 2054. Utrecht University intends to reach this balance before that.

How to guarantee the transfer of women to higher positions?

In order to achieve the university objectives, it is important to look at the numbers of female Associate Professors and Assistant Professors in order to continue guaranteeing the transfer. The university is working on this in various ways.

University wide, for example, with the talent programme "Mentoring and Coaching female Assistant Professors" to help bridge the gap between the Assistant Professor and Associate Professor function group. Faculties have in many places also sharpened their attention for the transfer of women. For example, the Faculty of Science rewards creative methods with the Westerdijk Award since 2017.

Westerdijk Talent Scheme

The university has nominated twenty of the 39 new female professors for the Westerdijk Talent Scheme. On 8 March 2018, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science announced that the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) will be awarding 19 grants to Utrecht University, as part of the Westerdijk Talent Scheme. NWO invited Utrecht University to submit seventeen applications. The university did this and has applied for three extra grants.

Westerdijk Anniversary

On 10 February 2017, it was 100 years ago that Johanna Westerdijk held her inaugural address at Utrecht University. That was the start of the Johanna Westerdijk Anniversary. Westerdijk was the first female professor in the Netherlands. She was a Professor of Phytopathology (Plant Pathology) and also director of the CBS-KNAW Fungal Biodiversity Centre.

De portretten van 122 vrouwelijke hoogleraren worden opgehangen in zaal 1636. Foto Anne-Marie van Gijtenbeek
Portait gallery of female professors at the University Hall. Photo: Anne-Marie van Gijtenbeek.

The Diversity Task Force of Utrecht University (started in 2016) encourages discussion about diversity, stimulates diversity policy and supports initiatives that positively affect diversity and inclusion. An example is the Johanna Westerdijk Anniversary. During this year, attention was demanded for women in science in many ways.

A portrait gallery in the University Hall shows all female professors from Utrecht University and UMC Utrecht, Meet the Professor revolved around Johanna Westerdijk and 100 years of female professors, in the University Museum various exhibitions and a fungus counter were present, several lunchtime lectures were organised and at the procession during the Opening of the Academic Year the female professors were at the front of all professors.