Female academics not breaking Dutch glass ceiling

Report bemoans ‘ruthlessly thick’ glass ceiling on route to professorships

January 4, 2017
Dutch tulip field

Fewer than one in five professors at Dutch universities are women, a study on the Netherlands’ “ruthlessly thick” glass ceiling has revealed.

While women account for 43 per cent of PhD students and 39 per cent of university lecturers in the Netherlands, just 18 per cent of professors are female, according to a report, titled Monitor Women Professors 2016, which was published by the Dutch Network of Women Professors last month.

That level is significantly lower than in the UK, where 23 per cent of professors are women, latest official data for 2014-15 show.

Leiden University has the highest proportion of female professors (24 per cent) in the Netherlands, while Erasmus University Rotterdam had the lowest (less than 10 per cent).

Several technical universities also have relatively few female professors, though, for the first time, the percentage of professors who are women at Eindhoven University of Technology, Delft University of Technology and the University of Twente topped 10 per cent in 2016 (10.1 per cent, 11.5 per cent and 12.9 per cent respectively).

Wageningen University, one of the country’s top-ranked universities in 2016-17, has significantly improved its gender diversity in recent years, although just 12 per cent of its professors were women in 2016, the report says.

According to a summary of the report published by the Dutch Network of Women Professors, the statistics show that “not only do female academics earn less, they are also systematically awarded lower job levels”.

“There is a ruthlessly thick glass ceiling between job levels,” it adds, saying the barrier stopping women progressing from a grade 1 professor to a grade 2 professor is “sky-high”.

The gap between the numbers of women at senior lecturer level (26 per cent) and professors (18 per cent) is also very stark, it adds.

Unless female promotion rates rapidly increased in the next few years, eight of the country’s 14 universities would miss their 2020 targets for gender diversity agreed with the government in 2015, the report adds. Gender parity at professorial levels would not be achieved until 2054 based on the current rate of promotion, it concludes.

In a statement, Leiden said it was “taking the appointment of women to tenured academic staff seriously” and the new figures “indicate that the university is on the right path”.

It added: “All seven faculties set clear goals, monitor progress towards these goals and...scout for female talent within and outside the university, and have a diversity expert in appointment committees or offer mentoring to women scientists who may be able to progress to the top of their field."


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