📖 Course: Qualitative research through interviewing
📚 Programme: BA in the Liberal Arts and Sciences
This paper studies the main obstacles that women in academia face as they maintain and advance their professional careers, using the Erasmus University of Rotterdam (EUR) as a case study. It also describes how women react in the face of this adversity. This research is done through qualitative interviews of female faculty members at the EUR. Investigating what those challenges are will hopefully help in the solving of gender disparities in the workforce of EUR and simultaneously set an example for other Dutch universities struggling with this matter. The researchers speculated that gender stratification, role differentiation, the double burden and sexual harassment would be at the core of this issue. While being right on those aspects, they were surprised to discover that their interviewees were significantly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and its subsequent repercussions. The researchers conclude this paper by introducing three typographies that women revert to in the face of these challenges. These are the following: the fighter, the trudger, and the deserter. By keeping these typographies in mind, the EUR administration can properly address the difficulties that female faculty face at their institution.
In 2019, the Dutch Network of Women Professors (LNVH) published a statement estimating that the Netherlands will only reach a balance of having fifty percent female professors and fifty percent male professors by 2042. This statement sheds a stark light on the reality of gender inequality within Dutch academia: women are far from having equal footing to the men that have dominated this realm since the beginning of academia itself. While explicit sexism has declined in recent decades, implicit biases and discrimination are still commonplace. As the president of the Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR), Ed Brinksma explained in 2021: “It's more the subtle variety, where, you know, a male candidate would have gotten the benefit of the doubt, and this benefit would not have been available to a female candidate.” Leisyte & Hosch-Dayican (2014) report that the Netherlands is one of the lowest performers in Europe on the level of aggregate female representation in academia. It is precisely within this bleak national context that another statistic has been published: women occupy only twenty-three percent of professorships at EUR, which means less than one in four professors are women. Coming from a position at the very bottom of the list in 2019, the Erasmus University has since brought the percentage up to 25% in 2020. Though more and more female professors are getting employed in Dutch universities, as well as in Rotterdam, Erasmus University continues to have a stark ratio (Persbureau, 2019).
Operating from a larger feminist and constructivist theoretical framework, we aim to employ a wide range of studies that focus on gender inequality in academic environments to identify the types and factors of discrimination that female university faculty face. Informed by the theories of gender stratification, role differentiation, of the ‘double burden’ of mothers in the workplace, and others, we will examine the Erasmus University Rotterdam in relation to its significantly low levels of female representation in the academic workforce. More specifically, an answer is sought to the following question: What are the gendered challenges that female faculty experience in maintaining and advancing their professional careers within the Erasmus University Rotterdam, and how do they react in the face of their adversity?
In providing an answer to this question, the authors of this study hope to provide useful information to help remedy the specific phenomenon that contributes to the gender disparities in the workforce of Erasmus University Rotterdam. Ed Brinksma, for instance, revealed “it's especially a challenge for the School of Economics, and the medical school, but certainly not only these schools” that have to improve, and added, “I have discussed with our diversity and inclusion management, that we would set the new target at something like 40%.” This may hopefully also set an example for other Dutch universities struggling to achieve levels of gender equality.
This paper will aim to approach the research question by referencing relevant information and statistics of women in academia. Some of these publications are just a few of the applicable works that will be useful during this research process. This body of scholarly work will provide a useful framework through which to analyse the conducted interviews and further tackle the investigation.
Despite the remarkable advances that women have made towards equal treatment in society, women continue facing significant discrimination in the workplace. Researchers have investigated these shortcomings to gender equality and discovered key theories and phenomena that negatively affect women within institutions. The following will be an elaboration of these findings within the specific field of academia, as is the focus of this paper.
One of the many current obstacles facing women in academia is their representation in the field. Half a century ago, the number of women earning doctorates was significantly lower in Western countries (Light, 2009). Despite varying across the board, the overall representation of women pursuing higher education was negligible compared to their male counterparts. With societal progression, however, women are now receiving doctorates at a near-equal level of 50% in Western countries (Light). Naturally, the assumption is that with more females pursuing doctorates, an increase in the female professoriate will occur. This logic has emerged in the literature as a “pipeline” metaphor of greater flow [more female PhD’s] leading to an expected increase in female professors (Kulis, Sicotte, & Collins, 2002). Nonetheless, this logic has not yet manifested, and women are consistently receiving professorships at a lower rate than men (Light). This is especially surprising given the emphasis on objectivity and lack of bias within academia. Kulis, Sicotte and Collins have found that the faculty labour supply of women, or the number of qualified women for positions in university faculties, “vastly [outstrips] their resulting representation among faculty” (p. 659).
Additionally, there are three concepts relevant to women’s struggles in academia that will be elaborated upon here: Gender stratification, role differentiation, and the double burden.
The concept of gender stratification refers to the social ranking of genders, where men tend to inhabit positions of higher status than their female counterparts (Blumberg, 1984). One of the many reasons for this phenomenon is the lack of informal network ties that are available to women in academia (Nielsen, 2015). Within organizations with significant positions of hierarchy, connections are paramount to advancing and maintaining a career. These connections are made at the peer-level and are a necessity for any academic with a desire for promotion. Bagilhole and Goode (2001) argue that this lack of peer-recognition is not a coincidence, but rather an act of oppression from a patriarchal system that inherently promotes men while hegemonizing women. As mentioned earlier, the current number of female professors is disproportionate to that of female post-doctorates. Because most promotions at educational institutions happen in-house and are based on professorship, women are often last on the list to be promoted to leadership positions (Maki, 2015). This has led to a sharp contrast in the number of men in positions of power when compared to women.
Another discriminatory practice facing women in academia today is the concept of role differentiation. This follows the practice of women in academia being pushed into tasks and roles that have higher levels of emotional labour associated with them. Women academics often report that their roles have higher levels of “motherly” responsibilities (Crabtree & Shiel, 2019). Of course, these non-academic responsibilities are hardly ever recognized by institutions as work worthy of being compensated, but instead further commodify the modern academic woman (Darby, 2017). Unfortunately, the body of scholarly work in this regard is not extensive, but it is noteworthy that female academics across the board have reported these extra tasks, including the expectation of being emotionally available for their students and performing demeaning tasks that are not on par with the prestige that they deserve (Coffan, Exley, & Niederle, 2021). By and large, female academics delineate discrimination in hiring, job descriptions, and treatment due to their gender that can only be attributed to the categorization of tasks as either ‘male’ or ‘female’. The concept of role differentiation has been noted in institutions of higher education throughout the globe, including the Netherlands, ranging from advising and mentoring students, to filling the role of a confidant (Leisyte & Hosch-Dayican, 2014).
Additionally, women tend to be burdened with more domestic work and childcare when compared to their male counterparts. These extra responsibilities, often unequally balanced between partners, force women to dissipate their time and energy into various fields instead of solely focusing on their academic careers (Kay & Hagan, 1998). This disparity in workload inherently favours men because women are the typical caretakers of young children. This has led many women to report feeling that a career in academia and motherhood are inherently incompatible (Acker & Armenti, 2004). In fact, a common theme discovered in past research has been the pressure of the “double-clicking clock” (Ward & Wolf-Wendel, 2004). This phenomenon refers to the combination of the duress that the biological clock of fertility, combined with the pressure to produce research in the early years of a career can create. Unfortunately, research shows that employers often believe work-life balance to be significantly harder for women to achieve than men, even though both men and women report experiencing similar levels of difficulty in finding this stability (Ellemers, 2014). Women tend to feel these pressures at higher rates than men and frequently see having children as an impetus to achieving an ultimately successful academic career (Canetto, et. al, 2017). Altogether, these factors compose the theory of the double burden, where the overall workload is higher for women than for men, further inhibiting the ability for parity in academia (Acker & Armenti).
A final, but by no means negligible, handicap to women’s ability to maintain and advance a career in academia is sexual harassment. Although not innately directed towards women, sexual harassment has become a serious issue as women strive for equality in the workforce, but especially within academia (Roosmalen & McDaniel, 1999). In addition to having serious negative impacts on women’s overall well-being, sexual harassment has long influenced how women view their career aspirations in academia. As they themselves, or their fellow colleagues, suffer from this, women in higher education have felt this harassment consistently perpetuating the notion that they are not welcome in academia (NAS, 2018).
Thus, it is evident that although there are numerous factors that inhibit equality in academia, the main phenomena discovered in past research has been the theories of gender stratification, role differentiation, and the double burden.
For this research, it was decided to solely interview female faculty members of the EUR. As this research paper is conducted by students from the Erasmus University College, the researchers had little difficulty finding female faculty willing to be interviewed. Replying to an initial email inviting them to participate, six Dutch and five non-Dutch faculty members constitute the 11-person interview pool, with ages varying from 31 to 63 years old. Ten have a partner and nine are mothers, all occupying different positions from different departments, including full professors (5), associate professors (2), a senior lecturer, a PhD candidate, a policy advisor, and an administrator. To protect their anonymity, all interviewees have been given a pseudonym. These are: Mirjam, Manuella, Fatima, Luciana, Salomé, Sophia, Mia, Danielle, Priya, Jade, and Jouri. All prescribed names have absolutely nothing to do with the respondents and were of the researchers’ random choosing. Moreover, some information, deemed too specific, is simply attributed to an informant.
Trust and privacy are essential in interviews and qualitative research studies. Therefore, participants’ confidentiality and anonymity were a priority throughout the entire research process. The researchers verbally received informed consent by reading a script at the beginning of each interview to get the respondents verbal consent to record the meeting. The interviewer also added that participants could withdraw at any moment (without this affecting them in any way) and that the recording would only be kept until the transcript was made and deleted soon after.
Data Collection & Software
The interviews were conducted by both researchers in February and March of 2021, eight on the platform “Zoom” and three on “Microsoft Teams.” After the respondent agreed, the voice recording took place directly on the Zoom platform or on the interviewer’s phone. Two additional platforms were also used: “Otter.ai” was used to transcribe the recordings and “Atlas Cloud,” for the coding procedure. The transcripts and coding processes were shared between the researchers and then double-checked to ensure no errors were committed.
Role of the researchers
The researchers of this paper conducted a qualitative research project through interviews, which allowed them to gather empirical data to use as content for their analysis. This paper’s practical use is for applied research. Indeed, the aim is to gather enough information and knowledge to hopefully suggest policy changes and improve women’s working conditions and remove the obstacles they face through policy initiatives (Boeije, 2010).
Memos are a useful and important way to monitor a research project. As a team, the researchers scheduled time after each round of data collection to write a memo, each with a small summary of the key findings and an evaluation of that day’s session. Additionally, they shared a document on which all useful information was stored to ensure clarity.
The researchers began designing their questions based on initial knowledge of the topic. Once past literature was read, more questions were added to this list (see Appendix A for the total list of questions). Furthermore, throughout the entire data collection process, flexibility was given to the supplemental questions that were asked depending on the details provided by the interviewee. This enriched the data and allowed for a better picture to be painted for the investigators. Nonetheless, the standardization of questions facilitated a systematic approach to the study.
The process of “open coding” was used as the starting point for the coding process. All elements were compared and grouped into different categories on the same topic and marked with a particular code. These codes are recurring themes that have been identified throughout the interviews. The categories stem from the questions which were asked to the participants and the topics that were touched upon during the interviews, as well as from the wording and terminology of the interviewees. These are known as “in vivo” codes or “field-related codes” since they can be identified directly in the collected data (Boeije, 2010). Other codes were derived from the literature, social theories, and concepts that were found on this topic.
Later, the researchers moved to “axial coding”, also known as “focused coding.” It is the process of putting data back together and forming new connections between the categories. This process is also referred to as first and second-order coding by Gioia et. al (2013). The researchers were always aimed at full consistency in the coding procedure to ensure reliability. They continued this process until “saturation” was met, meaning until no new codes could be found (Boeije, 2010). After that, a coding tree was made (see Appendix B for the data structure figure) as well as a visual map (see Appendix C) to understand the research process and goal, give meaning to it, and continue the” right track. This series of steps took approximately six weeks in total and did not procure any monetary costs.
The primary purpose of this study was to investigate the obstacles female faculty experience in maintaining and advancing their professional careers within the EUR. The participants’ experiences on this matter helped answering the research question presented in this paper. By listening to and analysing their answers, valuable information was obtained about those obstacles.
Basic information about the participants’ work life was gathered, ranging from the type of work that they do to their hiring process, their relationships with colleagues and supervisors. In general, interviewees reported that they felt overworked, with some even reporting working up to 80 hours per week, while feeling underpaid (Jade). Overall, while relevant, the information of the respondents gathered during this portion of the interview is relevant to the researchers for overall understanding, but not useful in answering the research question.
Every respondent agreed that mothers who balance work life with parenting are some of the most disparaged individuals in academia, with similar obstacles being noted across the board (see Appendix D, table 4). As Salomé put it, “... it's very, very difficult to combine having a family with an academic career that demands six days a week of work.” Most of the interviewees emphasized that this extra workload severely limits women’s abilities to conduct research. Jouri argued that expectations within the academic world are unforgiving, stating that, “... we will never make up for the punishing publication numbers that are expected of us.” Additionally, the lack of an exhaustive maternity support system was identified, with Mirjam explaining that in a Nordic country she had, “... a whole year of maternity leave to raise my son. [...] At [EUR], I got three months in total.”
Causes for Gender Ratio
As presented in the visual map (see Appendix D), the causes for gender ratio are thought to initially come from women’s work-life and the phenomenon of the double burden (see Appendix D, table 2).
Many respondents shared that managers only “... hire copies of themselves” (Sophia). These women found that implicit biases may play a role in the hiring process, such as Mirjam, who explained that “... people like to hire people that look like them.” Fatima went further, suggesting that “... the environment is created for and by white males.” These responses show how women believe that academic institutions in the Netherlands inherently favour white, Dutch individuals, and men in particular.
Networks are another common theme amongst responders. The interviewees reported these informal connections are a source for the gender ratio, causing women to be unconsidered for higher positions for instance. With the informal nature of these networks, their origins have been found in coffee corner talks (Manuella), and social drinks (Mia) with an emphasis on the fact that they are crucial to advancement, and especially difficult for women to join.
There was also a common sense of sexism within Dutch society: Fatima explained that in the Netherlands, “... we have connected successful traits more to males than to females,” whereas Mia questioned why women are expected to start a career early in life in the Netherlands and don’t have the liberty to join academia later. One respondent drew a comparison to her time in Southern Europe and in Nordic countries, reporting she found more sexism in the Netherlands. A little closer to home, Fatima disclosed that she also feels like “... EUR is highly traditional,” alluding to archaic discriminatory practices.
Nonetheless, the most significant response encountered when investigating the causes for the faculty imbalance is the distribution of professorships. Salomé explained that in terms of gender reform, “... at the professorial level, it moves way too slowly.” Regarding gender distribution among faculty, a high number of women are needed and, as Jouri puts it, “... there are just simply not enough women getting to assistant professor.” Jade agreed, pointing out that “... you can see that the number of professors and associate professors is really low for females.” Ultimately, women see their underrepresentation in the professoriate as a massive hurdle to tackle before reaching equality.
Among the codes created to account for discrimination, the ones that were the most recurrent were rudeness, equality, and relevant departments (see Appendix D, table 3). Some shocking anecdotes were reported, including Danielle’s statement that she was called a Dutch slur, to which her supervisor brushed off saying "Ohhh, you know him. He's just like that." Jade emphasized that “... discrimination based on being a female is really present at Erasmus University,” which corresponds with other interviewees as well. Regarding equality, Mirjam pointed out that the setups of the EUR, “... are not very encouraging in terms of giving equal opportunities for male and female professors in career progression.” Mia explained that women are often given “projects that have a bigger risk of failure.” Sophia was adamant that across academia, “There is sexism, [and] there is a sh*t ton of racism. It's very exclusionary.”
Among faculty, there appears to be a consensus that certain departments are significantly worse than others, with one participant reporting that “... the philosophy department is a nightmare for young women” and “... economics is horrible.” Others added that the Rotterdam School of Management and the Medical Centre were particularly nefarious for their discriminatory cultures. Several respondents cited the fact that half a decade ago, the Minister of Education offered money to the economics department to hire additional women, “And what they did ... they gave it back” (Sophia).
The category of gender stratification investigated the notion that men typically inhibit positions of power (see Appendix D, table 5). Unsurprisingly, most of the interviewees reported that most senior positions were occupied by men. Manuella argued that power positions within the university are “... disproportionately taken up by men,” while Jade underlined the fact that that “... the status of men at EUR is higher.” Indeed, most of the interviewees declared that nearly all deans at the EUR are male, with Danielle saying that among the deans “it’s very male” and Jouri pointing out that “... there's never been a female rector.”
Because of this gender stratification, Priya reported that women are aware of how they are unable to reach the top management team and that only men can have access to it. She particularly noticed that in the “... bigger faculties like RSM, economics, even the medical school ... the gender stratification is more visible.”
The participants said that female faculty members were mainly seen as caring and emotional (see Appendix D, table 6). Fatima mentioned women are associated with being calmer and more reserved, while Jouri insisted women are not compensated for these extra tasks: “Women are doing all this additional emotional labour ... things that are not included in the contract time, and we are nonetheless expected to do [them] for free?” Furthermore, the respondents explained how they are given different duties because of their gender, such as “... [being] expected to take … more nurturing tasks” as Manuella revealed. In fact, there was often an expectation for women to act like waitresses, with Jade reporting that men consistently ask “... the female in the room to bring coffee,” despite being of equal or lower standing.
Interviewee passages concerning sexual harassment were classified by the comfortability of the respondent to respond, and the experiences that these women had. The most frequent response (at nine) was that the interviewees had not experienced sexual harassment themselves. These individuals reported other forms of inappropriate advances that left them feeling uncomfortable and unwelcome, and more than half disclosed that these experiences were commonplace amongst their colleagues (Appendix D, table 7). Mia reported that “... men approach [me] because they want intimacy,” while Luciana mentioned recurring sexual jokes that left her feeling uncomfortable. Fortunately, Fatima had not experienced any sexual harassment, but shared that she has “... heard horror stories.” Nearly all the interviewees reported that when sexual harassment occurs, most perpetrators are men, with the survivors being women.
Solutions for gender ratio
Finally, the various obstacles to maintaining and advancing women’s career led to the discussion of possible solutions for the gender ratio category (see Appendix D, table 8). The most common themes discovered in the interviews were to hire women and place more females in positions of power. In general, respondents were adamant that a culture change is needed, and that training could improve the situation. Sophia was quick to remark that she has “... no faith whatsoever in diversity workshops,” in large part because the ‘white men’ who need this education more than anyone do not attend. She also went to the core of the issue to report that, “... the hiring committees also just have no realization of how bad it is.” Perhaps, as Salomé puts it, this is because “... most selection committees consist of a majority of ... white males.” With regards to quotas, and when referencing the disproportionate standings as they are today, Danielle suggested that statistical figures need to be published and circulated, while Priya stressed the need for, “... more transparency in decision making and more accountability.”
As was the goal of this research, the investigators aimed to pursue the question: What are the gendered challenges that female faculty experience in maintaining and advancing their professional careers within the Erasmus University Rotterdam, and how do they react in the face of their adversity? The results from the conducted interviews indicated many similarities found in the existing literature. As previously mentioned, many of the respondents shared that informal networks are a significant cause for the lack of promotion amongst female faculty, matching the findings of Nielsen (2015). Several respondents also referred to the hypothesis of an academic pipeline, just as Kulis, Sicotte, and Collins (2002) suggest, where a greater number of women entering academia is expected to balance the professoriate. Salomé mentioned, “And so either women drop off the pipeline … [or] manage at the Associate Professor level but not anymore,” referring to the fact that women in academia are often unable to rise the academic ladder, matching the figures at the Erasmus University (Persbureau, 2019). Crabtree and Shiel’s (2019) findings that women are often given more ‘motherly’ responsibility were also corroborated during the research process (Jouri, Manuella, Mia, Salomé, Sophia etc.). Finally, Ward & Wolf-Wendel’s (2004) phenomena of the ‘double-clicking clock’ was brought up in multiple interviews, with Fatima explaining that if a young female academic “... [doesn't] publish, there is an issue.”
An additional finding that was not expected given the initial literature surrounds the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to the recent historical development of this virus, little to no research has been conducted surrounding the impacts that this pandemic has had on female academics. Most of the respondents reported that the past year has had a severe setback on women’s advances in academia. Priya elaborated on the fact that Covid-19 has exposed the “... most explicit ways in which gender discrimination works,” and Jouri added that the “... pandemic has scuppered our chances of ever making it back up an already rigged game.” Unfortunately, it appears that women - and young mothers in particular - have been at the receiving end of more abuse, sexism, and institutional disrespect since the start of the pandemic, ultimately making decades of gendered progress null.
Now that the challenges that female faculty face have been clarified, the researchers would like to present three hypothesized typographies that result from the discrimination faced at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. These are as follows:
The ‘Fighter’: Sees structural discrimination and actively fights against it. Refuses to be silent.
The ‘Trudger’: Believes the obstacles women must overcome are so massive that part of a career in academia is simply weathering discrimination.
The ‘Deserter’: Has endured so much that she would rather abandon the institution (or academia as a whole) in search of better treatment/opportunities elsewhere.
As these ideal types are constructed from gathered research, it is relevant to see what the motivations behind forming these typographies were. With regards to the fighter, it was found that some women refuse to simply be categorized in a certain manner. Sophia, for instance, explained that she actively worked to, “... resist [the] sort of the mommy … mother frame” that was attributed to her once returning to work. Others actively worked to contest their abuses or that of their colleagues. At the time of interviewing, one of the interviewees shared that she was in the process of filing a complaint for sexual harassment (fighting), although she was unable to elaborate due to privacy concerns. The trudger, on the other hand, was significantly more pessimistic regarding gender discrimination in academia. Priya, for instance, explained that “… for me, advancing is not an incentive,” because she would ultimately face more discrimination and forced to be “... complicit with the system.” Mirjam also mentioned the concept of a ‘system’, stating that its setup, “... evaluation-wise, it's not that accommodating.” Deserters were the most resolute with their opinions. One of them shared that she left the University of Amsterdam, “... because it's a snake pit ... it's not a very pleasant place to work.” Amongst numerous other abuses, many deserters reported systematic underappreciation and under-compensation. Jouri reported that if a university is not ready to, “... pay me the real value of my work, I'm going to go work elsewhere.” Unfortunately, these abuses have led her to begin looking for an “... exit out of academia because of this structural discrimination.” Thus, when faced with adversity in their professional lives based on their gender, women at the EUR will often revert to one of three typographies: Either they will fight discrimination tooth and nail (fighter), they will weather this prejudice throughout their career (trudger), or they will decide that these obstacles are too wearisome, and that it is better to move on professionally (deserter).
It is thus relevant to investigate what is being done at the EUR to combat this discrimination and encourage parity in the workforce. EUR’s Diversity and Inclusivity (D&I) office has been hard at work in recent years to overcome these issues and increase opportunities for women. The number of female professors has increased from 15.5% to 25% in a matter of two years (Persbureau, 2019). Although nowhere near the desired mark, this increase in female faculty shows a sincere effort to balance the workforce. To quote the late Swedish statistician Hans Rosling, things can be “bad, but better.” This improvement can largely be attributed to the hard work of the D&I office. One of the many initiatives that the team has implemented is an Inclusive Recruitment & Selection Toolkit (n.d). This document outlines the different steps that can be taken to further ensure equal treatment during the hiring process and (hopefully) attack prejudices and internal biases at their roots. The four steps necessary to take are: preparation, inclusive recruitment, standardize the (pre-) selection process, and evaluation. By introducing these steps, the D&I office encourages hiring managers to write inclusive and attractive vacancy texts, diversify the avenues of applicant selection, reduce bias through anonymity and standardized interviews, and regularly evaluate the impacts of these efforts. As evidence shows, progress has been made thanks to various initiatives from EUR stakeholders – one being this toolkit. Nevertheless, EUR’s ultimate goal of a discrimination-free workplace has still not been achieved and there are further improvements that can be made.
While conducting interviews for this paper, the researchers inquired what solutions the respondents would like to see. These included hiring more women, placing more females in positions of power, a cultural change, as well as training hiring and selection committees. Although the previous paragraph elaborates on the D&I office’s attempts, it is evident that these efforts must be more public and aggressive. Furthermore, the percentages of female and male academics should be regularly published and circulated to ensure more transparency. Other ideas for remedying gender discrimination can be found in a 2019 paper by VSNU et. al. Some of the suggested implementations include, encouraging a redefinition of quality and “success stories,” supporting academic leadership, appreciating academic quality over quantity, and stimulating open science by sharing results with the public. Hopefully, by implementing these suggestions, the work of the D&I office can be expedited and the path towards equality at the EUR will be facilitated.
To conclude, this paper aimed to depict the challenges that female faculty at the EUR face in maintaining and advancing their professional careers. The obstacles discussed by the 11 respondents in the interviews, which were also present in the literature on this matter, are that of gender stratification, role differentiation, the concept of the double burden and sexual harassment, among others. Surprisingly, the interviewees explained the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly worsened the issue at hand. Additionally, this study disclosed how women react in face of this adversity. The three different typographies that were introduced to illustrate their response are “the fighter,” “the trudger,” and “the deserter.” The results of this study prove that a solution needs to be found and carried out to remedy the gender inequality occurring in the workforce of the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Any enacted policy might also set an example for other Dutch universities struggling with this issue. Therefore, if a member of the board of the Erasmus University Rotterdam reads this paper, the researchers of this study urgently recommend you act, or else, you risk losing the great competency of faculty women who will choose to desert academia instead of trudging or fighting through the obstacles. As Ed Brinksma announces it: “I think that if we want to redress the situation at all, we must be prepared to take some measures, and they can't all be nice and voluntary.”
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