A university in the Netherlands is taking serious measures to recruit more women employees.
The Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) announced on June 18 that as part of a new fellowship program, it will only accept applications from women for permanent academic jobs for at least 18 months. Effective July 1, if no suitable applicants are found in the first six months, men can apply.
Experts say the five-year program is a move in the right direction but addressing the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) will require a continuous effort.
TU/e’s program “might move the needle,” Gabriela Mueller, leadership coach and author of How to Be a Smart Woman in STEM, told Global Citizen.
About 150 jobs are expected to open up during the five years. Fellows of the new program will also be eligible to receive a €100,000 research grant (about $113,000 USD) to spend on their mentoring and research. If there are job vacancies at the university after the first 18-month period, the program will be adapted to reflect its success rate, according to the Guardian.
TU/e aims for at least 35% of its staff to be women. Currently, 16% of full professors, 15% of associate professors, and 29% of assistant professors are women, Ivo Jongsma, science information officer at TU/e, told the Telegraph. The university's hiring committee will still have to nominate at least one candidate of each gender at the end of the period.
To achieve a better gender balance we will be opening up all vacancies for permanent academic staff exclusively to women in the first six months of recruitment. 👩🎓👩🔬👩🏫https://t.co/dMFIt6fLF2pic.twitter.com/HdDEObtrM6— TU Eindhoven (@TUeindhoven) June 18, 2019
“We attach great importance to equal respect and opportunities for women and men,” Rector Frank Baaijens of TU/e said in a statement. “It has long been known that a diverse workforce performs better. It leads to better strategies, more creative ideas, and faster innovation.”
Less than 30% of the world’s researchers working in science are women, according to the United Institute for Statistics, and in the Netherlands, nearly 38% of engineers and scientists are women. The university made previous attempts to increase the number of women who work at the university but they haven’t met their targets.
Some have criticized TU/e’s latest move and questioned if it’s legal, but the university ensured the program complies with the law. The EU allows the targeting of recruitment from underrepresented groups.
Mueller said TU/e’s hiring plan isn’t a standalone solution. For a program like this to work, it’s essential to offer support from many angles. Women must be mentored, sponsored, and empowered to have self-confidence. Men and recruiting staff need to receive ongoing unconscious bias training, she explained.
Any company seeking to increase the level of women within the STEM field needs to reconsider its job posting descriptions, according to Mueller. Research shows women are more likely to apply to STEM positions when they cover 100% of the requirements defined, which they see as must-haves, whereas men apply even if they only meet 60% of the requirements, which they view as suggestions, she said.
The work to empower women in the STEM workplace isn’t done once they’re hired. To thrive, once women are accepted into programs like TU/e they must feel accepted.
“Women who get in a program like this need to experience true inclusion because diversity is to earn them this right, inclusion is to make sure that they actually blend in,” Mueller said. ”This is a job for everyone else in the company.”