Being #EachforEqual through lasting change

International Women's Day is a day to celebrate the contribution of women to our society. For EUR, its an opportunity to honour the talented women who as alumni or academics, have built our history. Who as students and staff, make up the majority of our community today, and who will be the integral part of EUR’s tomorrow.

Over the years we have celebrated this day, we at EUR have come to realise that honouring it properly means more than lauding the achievements of assorted women for a single day. It means engaging every day with the social challenges that face women. Challenges that are within our horizon as an organisation and within our distance to influence.

Simply, challenges where we can have impact

Consequently, as we at EUR embrace our role as an institution that delivers societal impact. This is indivisible with addressing the social problems of gender inequality and inequity.

So, lets be clear about the 'societal impact' that needs to happen. As many have said before :

  • We need to accept and reinforce that, a world of equality is an enabled world.
  • We need to accept and reinforce that the rise of women does not mean the fall of men.
  • We need to accept and reinforce that gender balance is not a women’s issue but an economic issue, as well as a moral one.

And above all, we must accept that we, as an institution and crucially, as individuals, have an active role in promoting and defending these principles.

These apply to EUR as they do to any other socially responsible institution. We can fulfil these principles through our research, through our advocacy, and through the mindset that we bring to the world as people.

It is for this reason that we at EUR have re-affirmed our institutional commitment to these very principles by signing up to the UN Millennium Goals, of which gender equality is a cornerstone.

Making the extraordinary- ordinary

Nevertheless, in our quest to produce societal impact outside the academy, it remains that our most significant impacts can be made at home.

Despite the extraordinary contribution of female staff and researchers within the academy, what sadly remains ordinary is the pay gap between women and their male counterparts.

Despite extraordinary efforts by women in our institution, it still remains ordinary that our top ranks are overwhelmingly male.

What is clear that solely empowering some women to be extraordinary, is not enough to produce fair opportunities nor equitable outcomes for all women in our academic community.

So instead, our efforts, ordinary or otherwise must be married with extraordinary efforts by all to produce fundamental systemic change.

It does not take a league table to know that we at EUR can and must do better; and we must remain frank with ourselves about the steps we must take to deliver a socially responsible, equitable and innovative community.

One that achieves the promise of women, past and present, famed or unknown, who have not been afforded the opportunities they are owed- by right.

Making change at EUR

Nonetheless, in recognising this historical debt and the challenges we still face in bringing gender equity to EUR, we can be quietly encouraged by the efforts we have made in the last year.

For example, our 25/25 initiative, marks a concrete step by our institution and its faculties to ensure fairness and transparency regarding our academic promotions, giving women at EUR a fair shot in the progression of their careers.

We all benefit by placing fairness in the heart of our systems and our community, and importantly it challenges us to reflect on the continuing barriers that remain in ensuring social equity for all.

For it is a fact that gender inequity alone is not the sole barrier to the progression of women at EUR, but sadly, also systemic barriers related to disability, ethnicity and sexual expression to name a few.

As such, it is encouraging that dedicated groups at EUR, such as our diversity and inclusion office, have also redoubled their efforts in the past year to tear down these barriers.  This has been through tireless advocacy and smart network building with willing partners all across EUR.

In addition, our research as well as our researchers are also taking a leading position in promoting gender equality.

For example, researchers such as Prof. Dianne Bevelander of ECWO, working alongside our Diversity and Inclusion Office were integral to EUR winning a Horizon 2020 grant for the project: EQUAL4Europe.

This far-reaching project will develop gender-equality plans for European research and higher education institutions to apply in their management strategies and diversity plans.

It is a perfect example of when; our expertise and our desire for impact, when targeted upon a clear social problem, can result in true societal impact.

These examples show that while the academy can do much more to make gender equity a reality; there is no institution in society that possesses the wealth of resources in which to make it so.

This is from our blessings of having the finest minds of our generation within our walls, to our unshakable moral cause to bring truth and enlightenment to our society. As such, we at Erasmus University Rotterdam have it in our hands to make change happen in and around us.

We still have much work to do to bring that future of a gender-equal society to fruition; and it is our duty that in each of us being for equal, that we make it happen. Together.