More women at the top!

James Gathany Content Providers(s)
James Gathany Content Providers(s)

A hundred female professors extra at Dutch universities at the end of this year. That’s what minister Jet Bussemaker (education, culture & science) wants, and is prepared to spend 5 million euros on. Her decision is part of the long and complex discussion about quota for women at top positions. Here’s what two of our top Erasmus women think about quota.

You can’t be what you can’t see. Those are the words of Dianne Bevelander, professor of Management Education, specialized in Women Management (Rotterdam School of Management). The more female role models, the more women are encouraged to follow in their footsteps. Quota can help with that, she argues.

‘I’m so tired of the argument that quota would put the wrong people in certain top positions. Look around you. Are the top positions always filled by the right people? I don’t think so. It’s not about competence, but about network, whether you belong to the dominant group.’ But women are just as intelligent, just as competent. And because women tend to underestimate themselves, says Bevelander, they should be searched for, encouraged. ‘Of course, women should think about why the big differences exists. But it’s not the women that need to be fixed, it’s the system.’

More diversity

Saskia Krijger, EUR Holding adviser and winner of the Athena Award that’s given to EUR-employees who work to support diversity at the university, agrees with the arguments that Bevelander gives. But she's not a fan of quota. ‘Even if you could have made it to the top without help, you’ll always be seen as someone who needed a quota to reach your position.'  

There’s many reasons why there are little women at the top segment, and so there’s a combination of solutions necessary, including awareness and empowerment of women. ‘And I think that’s what mrs. Bevelander is saying, too’.

Furthermore, a quota could endanger the EUR-women who are currently working on a scientific career, explains Krijger. The EUR promised that a quarter of all professors in 2025 is female. But the route to becoming a professor is a very long one, it can take up to 18 years. ‘If you start to fill that quota from the outside, there will be no room for the people who are now in the process of becoming a professor.’

Most importantly, Krijger thinks that in addressing diversity, we should be very aware of the fact that this is more than just gender diversity. ‘If we don’t do anything with the broader definition of diversity, and I don’t mean buying a Chinese professor, but recruiting people with a migrant background, that will be the next gap.’

Sources: Erasmus Magazine, Volkskrant.nl