“Diversity broadens the perspective of personnel.”

Maria Grever
Photo: Wout van Assendelft
Wout van Assendelft

Over the last 5 years the FAME Athena Award has been awarded to some of the leading professionals and academics at Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR). However, for the first time in this awards history, FAME Athena will look to recognise the important contributions of students also. Professor Maria Grever, Professor of Theory and Methodology of History and Director of the Center for Historical Culture, was the very first recipient of the FAME Athena Award. “It’s important that it’s not just female employees who encourage female talent.”

Why are talented women so important for organisations? And why is it important to EUR in particular?
“Diversity – especially in terms of gender, ethnicity and age – broadens the perspective of personnel and the scope of the ideas employees in the organisation exchange with each other. This is definitely the case at a university. When it comes to gender, research shows us that men and women in our society are socialised in specific ways. Authority is almost always automatically ascribed to men rather than women. This can lead to tunnel vision both in the interactions with personnel and in the development of high-quality education and research. Diversity in the workforce also enhances the feeling of safety in the workplace.”

What is it that drives you to encourage female talent?
“In my own research on how historiography developed into an academic discipline in the Netherlands (in the period covering 1850-1950), it emerged that female historians had far fewer opportunities in the academic world compared to male historians. To this day, this disadvantage is something that continues to affect the career development of female scholars, both in the Netherlands and internationally. It can also be seen in many other disciplines. That’s a democratic argument.

An epistemological argument is that diversity among academic personnel provides an impulse for asking adequate questions when conducting research. This can result in creative and innovative research and augment valorisation.

A didactical argument is that M/F students need to be given the opportunity to identify with male and female lecturers. Role models and exemplary behaviour remain important educative factors.

Women sometimes have the tendency to sell themselves short. It’s important to encourage them to rate themselves in line with their true worth. That’s why women sometimes need that little extra push and need to be actively encouraged to apply for a job.”

"Convene an appointments advisory committee that reflects diversity, with at least two female members. Then you’ll see that there’s plenty of female talent to be found.”

Maria Grever wins Athena Award

What’s needed to encourage more female talent? How can we all contribute to this?
“It’s important that it’s not just female employees who encourage female talent. Men need to feel a sense of responsibility for doing this as well. It’s pretty depressing when it’s always women who end up being the ones to point out – for example – that a conference programme has failed to include any female speakers at a conference.

It also helps if the Executive Board and the deans explicitly continue to support diversity policy, provided that the candidates always meet the criteria. For professorial appointments this would mean extensive experience in education and management, and a substantial output of peer-reviewed publications. But that goes without saying. And finally, have all managers and HR employees working at EUR read Marieke van den Brink’s book, Hoogleraarbenoemingen in Nederland (m/v). Mythen, feiten en aanbevelingen (‘Professorial appointments in the Netherlands (M/F). Myths, facts and recommendations’).”

What is your take on the remark that ‘there’s not enough female talent out there’ (at EUR and outside of the university)?
“That’s simply not true in most cases, but a few measures are still needed. First of all, make sure there is open recruitment for vacancies. Second, convene an appointments advisory committee that reflects diversity, with at least two female members. Then you’ll see that there’s plenty of female talent to be found.”

What do you think of the FAME Athena Award?
“I was surprised and very pleased to receive the award. But that’s mostly because it was my colleagues (M/F) at the History department who took the initiative to make that happen. It’s a fantastic gift, and I’ve also received a lot of positive feedback. The award was also covered in the press, such as the daily newspaper Trouw. Keep up the good work. It keeps EUR on its toes. I was also really pleased that the previous winner was a man: Werner Brouwer, who was dean of ESHPM at the time.”

More information

With the Athena Award, Female Academics Moving toward Equity (FAME) aims to celebrate staff members and students who stimulate and encourage female talent within the EUR community. Do you know someone within the EUR community who’s an example for others in this field? Nominate this person for the Athena Award 2019!

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