Gender quota at Utrecht University

UPP has, since its founding, always supported inclusivity and diversity, such as gender diversity. Recently, UPP’s Lieke Schrijvers and Ashley van Driel of UUinActie came together to write a note proposing a gender quota for Utrecht University to the Executive Board. The proposal was supported by a vast majority of the council (22 out of 24) and has started a discussion within the Council, the Board, and online. You can read the full proposal here.

Although there has been increased attention for the representation by and of women, not every part of our academic community has an equal balance in gender. Currently, about 30% of associate professors are women, and this is an average of the whole university. Whereas some faculties have better numbers, others stay alarmingly behind. Target numbes are just that: Targets, without consequences, and dependent on the goodwill of leadership. Even with the target numbers, things are moving too slow, and in the current pace we’ll only reach equality in 2042. Furthermore, only looking at women in top positions is not enough, it is about time to fix the ‘leaky pipeline’, where the percentage of women decreases drastically along the academic career ladder.

This is why we propose a gender quota for Utrecht University, by which 40 per cent of all employees (measured in fts) should be a woman by 2030; in all academic and non-academic staff categories; and in each faculty (or management). Faculties will have five years, until 2025, to improve their numbers, and only with a negative prognosis for 2030, sanctions will follow.

A gender quota, as part of a broader culture shift in Utrecht University, is an proven effective means to ensure large improvements in the area of representation, genderequality in top positions, and to fix the ‘leaking pipeline’. We also argue that this is a better, and much needed, step than the installment of target numbers. First we would like to emphasise that a mere quota will not provide a full solution, the work environment desperately longs for a change in culture. We need an environment where everyone has equal opportunity; where recognition and appreciation are the central features of leadership; and where junior researchers and teachers find themselves represented by their employers. But, as has been shown, a work environment does not change by itself. That is why a gender quota is a necessary instrument, but not as an aim on its own. Introducing a quota has a dual aim. On short term, it corrects the unequal situation. At the same time, it is also the most effective way to ensure durable change to the status quo within the academic community and culture. We emphasise that the work of, amongst others, the Taskforce Diversity and Inclusion, and the Genderhub, continues to help with issues of social safety. However, without a powerful incentive to actually higher more women in a variety of positions, it will most likely take years before equality is achieved.

Since submitting the note, the discussion has started on- and offline. See articles in Algemeen Dagblad (in Dutch); Utrecht Nieuws (in Dutch); and on DUB (English).

Lieke Schrijvers