An integrated approach to diversity and inclusion: The Erasmian Way

Semiha Denktas en Rutger Engels
Fotograaf: Wilma van de Hel (foto: Semiha Denktaş)

Interview with Professor Semiha Denktaş and Professor Rutger Engels

The national network of female professors has recently released the annual monitor again. What is the position of Erasmus University Rotterdam?

Semiha Denktaş: "We have achieved a substantial increase in the proportion of female professors at Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR). For several years we were bottom of the rankings, but since 2017 we have increased our proportion of female professors from 14% to 21% at the end of 2019 to 25% this year. With this, we have reached our target for 2025, five years ahead of schedule. We achieved this thanks to the support of the Executive Board, the deans, and our academic and professional staff. Not to mention our faculty diversity officers and the students who also contributed to this achievement. We see this as an encouragement to continue with the integrated approach that we have followed. We will continue to implement a Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) policy that focuses on all dimensions of diversity and inclusivity from ethnic and cultural background, socio-economic background, sexual orientation, age, visible and invisible disabilities, etc."

"We will continue to implement a Diversity & Inclusion policy that focuses on all dimensions of diversity and inclusivity" - Semiha Denktaş

What more can the EUR do to further accelerate this process?

Semiha Denktaş: "Our Academic Leadership training focuses on inclusive leadership and we also offer training for "Women in Academia". Investment has been made in promoting social safety by attracting an expert in the field to improve our knowledge, as well as providing more dialogue sessions, more confidants, furthermore, also EUR is piloting an ombudsperson. After pregnancy, women are relieved from teaching or research tasks and, to support gender balance, EUR offers 100% pay for additional parental leave for partners. We have completed our new professorship policy, which places emphasis on reflecting on and monitoring of visible and invisible diversity as part of all relevant (work) processes."

Rutger Engels: "Work is also being done on the national file "Recognition and Appreciation", which will lead to more variation and recognition, and remuneration of, career paths. In education, we have started an extensive programme, supported by the vice deans of education, aimed at promoting inclusive education. During our Dies Natalis, we presented the FAME Athena Prize, which recognises female talent at EUR, and has become an annual fixture in our awards calendar. Furthermore, a dashboard is currently under construction to monitor and provide a structured overview of diversity and inclusion within the university and faculties. Finally, we have ensured that diversity and inclusion is forms a key part of our BILO consultations between the Executive Board and faculty boards."

What are the success factors of the Rotterdam approach?

Rutger Engels: "The EUR was one of the few universities to have special professors as career prospects. Due to updated personnel policy, our special professors were converted into ordinary professors until the end of 2018. A considerable proportion of these professors were women. Although this was not a long-term initiative, it accelerated us towards our targets and moreover, gave women more recognition and a stronger position within our institution. The number of female academics increased overall in 2019 and, moreover, the proportion of top female professors has not fallen. Of course, the differences between faculties and therefore disciplines are still large, even for the EUR, but there is an increase in female professors in almost all faculties."

Semiha Denktaş: "The launch of our 25/25 policy measure at EUR in November 2019 has had an impact, as previously mentioned. It provides support for female talent at the lecturer and associate professor levels. It has put women in the pipeline where, in addition to workshops and mentoring, they can receive an assessment of their portfolio from an independent committee of internal and external professors. From this they have gained insight into where they stand in their career development so that they do not remain in the same position unnecessarily. We are about to evaluate our pilot round from this year, and we plan a second round for 2022/2023. This is important because we need to continue the momentum and not slow down the growths we have made."

"The number of female academics increased overall" - Rutger Engels

The House of Representatives recently clashed hard over diversity in science. How have you looked at this discussion?

Rutger Engels: "Let's not forget that we have to work hard every day to create a culture where there is more room for women, a 'group' that makes up half the world's population. We will continue to work for all the talents among our students and in our city, for those who historically have not found the path to higher education or an academic career easy. Resistance to these goals must be overcome every day. In 2020, there are still many young people who have not studied and who, despite their talent and motivation, do not reach university and, if they do start there, face obstacles in their studies. We have to change this, and EUR have organised a budget and mandate for this purpose."

Semiha Denktaş: "As a centre of expertise, the D&I Office fulfils an activating, coordinating, and connecting role in which the Chief Diversity Officer and Rector Magnificus work side by side to achieve our objectives. Our D&I Office keeps close ties with key areas such education, research policy, quality assurance. But it also ensures coordination and cooperation with our strategic programmes and with external stakeholders, this has enabled us to make knowledge-based interventions.”

Rutger Engels: "At the 100-year anniversary of Erasmus University in 2013, eight male honorary professors took the stage. Sometimes a confrontation is needed to realise that things must be done differently. We have made great strides since then and we will continue our efforts to make the EUR more inclusive. We believe that only an integrated approach can achieve this."


Prof.dr. R.C.M.E. Engels

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