Klaartje Houben, Aletta Kraneveld, Merel Soons, Pien van Leengoed, Marijn van Huis, Remco Veltkamp, Gjalt Prins
From left to right: Klaartje Houben, Aletta Kraneveld, Merel Soons, Pien van Leengoed, Marijn van Huis, Remco Veltkamp, Gjalt Prins

Diversity creates an environment in which talent can flourish. Organisations with more diverse management perform better on average, are often more effective and innovative - and more profitable. Greater diversity in higher academic positions gives the university a competitive advantage. Moreover, diversity ensures that the organisation makes the best use of the available intellectual capital. Talent is by definition scarce, and becomes even more scarce as the population ages. So it is vital that we as an organisation make the best use of our available talent. The Faculty of Science recognises the importance of a diverse organisation staff, and has therefore drawn up a faculty diversity policy. A focused diversity policy will eventually result in an academic staff that is more diverse, and therefore of higher quality.

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At the moment, the primary focus of the Faculty of Science’s diversity committee is to improve gender diversity, but in the future, the committee will eventually expand its focus to other aspects, such as culture. The appointment of more female researchers is not a goal in and of itself; the purpose of the diversity policy is to create a better organisation that makes optimal use of the (intellectual) capital available. Gender diversity creates an environment in which talent can flourish. Plus, employers that have both men and women in top positions are more attractive places to work for both men and women, which helps to develop and retain talent.

Purpose

As a result of the signature of the ‘Talent at the Top’ charter by former Board President Yvonne van Rooij, the Faculty of Science has set a goal to increase the percentage of female professors to 20% by 2020. However, over the past five years, the number of female professors appointed has barely increased, and is currently around 10%. Without policy measures, it will take decades before we reach a balanced ratio of men to women. So the Gender Diversity Policy project group was formed and assigned four sub-projects. A separate Diversity Committee has also been formed as an impartial body to supervise this process and other diversity issues. The committee deals with issues related to diversity policy, and provides the Dean with advice at his request or on its own initiative.

Sub-projects

Four sub-projects have been set up since the end of 2014. The sub-projects are in various stages of development. 

1. Recruitment and selection policy

All departments have to develop targeted recruitment plans for any new and future vacancies in the next two to five years. In this way, the departments are doing their best to attract female academic talent. The recruitment plans will be submitted for review to the Diversity Committee and then to the Dean for approval. Job openings can only be posted when a recruitment plan has been approved. This policy applies to all vacancies for professors, associate professors, career track positions, and tenure track positions.

2. Westerdijk Fellowship

The Westerdijk Fellowship is a tenure track position for talented female researchers, founded to attract talented women with leadership potential. The fellowship position is awarded for a term of three years. The departments with the most disproportionate number of men to women are invited to compete for the fellowship, after which the Dean awards it to one department that receives assistance in drawing up the advertisement for the opening. After the selection committee is formed, the committee members are trained to recognise unconscious biases, or ‘mindbugs’.

In 2015, the first Westerdijk Fellowship was granted to the Department of Mathematics. The department then instituted a second fellowship on its own initiative, and with its own funds. Approximately 45 candidates replied to the Westerdijk opening, most of which more than satisfied the requirements for the position. After the successful application procedures in December 2015, the first Westerdijk Fellows were appointed at the Department of Mathematics as of 1 August 2016.

3. Academic career after maternity leave

The Faculty of Science offers female researchers four months of full-time assistance in getting their academic career back ‘on the rails’ when they return from maternity leave. The researcher can choose which area she wishes to focus on full-time during this four-month period, which can be scheduled at any time during the year after she returns from maternity leave. Her research group also receives financial compensation to appoint a replacement to take over part of the researcher’s duties.

4. Awareness

Everyone has their own unconscious biases, but it is possible to become aware of these biases, to accept that they exist and to anticipate them. As part of this sub-project, the committee has initiated a number of activities to raise awareness of gender biases among the staff of the Faculty of Science. In late 2015 and early 2016, the Diversity Committee organised a series of awareness workshops for the department’s professors and staff. In the spring of 2016, a pilot project was set up to give awareness training courses to the evaluation and advisory committees before they draw up an opening for professorship positions. The awareness project is closely tied to all of the other committee sub-projects. The common theme of all of the activities is: how can we make the staff of the Faculty of Science aware of the importance of gender diversity, and how can we encourage them to act accordingly?