...but hit 'cement wall' objections as ad favours female applicants

July 4, 2003

A row has broken out in Denmark between government ministers over positive discrimination in an advertisement for professorships, writes Michael de Laine in Køge.

The advertisement is for posts in the humanities, where women are heavily underrepresented. It says the positions "should be filled by women as far as possible".

Denmark's minister of science, technology and innovation, Helge Sander, characterised it as "a cement wall against male applicants". He asked the Research Council for the Humanities to recast it "within the framework of the law".

But the minister for equality, Henriette Kjr said: "In legal terms, the advertisement holds water. But Mr Sander is within his rights to demand changes if he believes the wording means some men won't apply."

She added that government policy was to attract more women to leading posts at universities. "There are very few women professors, and it is important that we have more of them so we can attract both genders to higher education and research. I believe we should be sending a clear signal that we want women in these posts."

Council chairman Poul Holm said the fact that only one professor out of ten in the humanities was a woman indicated a structural imbalance in researcher recruitment. "It also means we're wasting talent," he said.

He added that the professorships would be advertised in two international journals.

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