Evaluation: TU/e recruitment policy results in substantially more female researchers

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The policy TU/e started in 2019 to attract more female scientists has delivered results, the evaluation shows. Over the past five years, the female-male ratio in terms of intake has been about 50-50, where it used to be 30-70. The initial primary goal of this Irène Curie Fellowship program (ICF) has been achieved, with nearly 30 percent of TU/e permanent academic staff (faculty) now women. The university is continuing the program to ensure that all of its departments separately will also hit this percentage.

Over the past five years, the number of women on TU/e’s permanent academic staff has increased from 134 to 208, which means that the percentage of women in that staff, consisting of professors, associate professors and assistant professors, has risen from 22 to 29 percent.

The main feature of the ICF program is that for designated academic vacancies, only women can apply during the first six months of recruitment. This caused a stir internationally when it was introduced. The goal is not only to promote equal appreciation and opportunities for women and men, but also to enhance the quality of teaching and research. In fact, scientific research shows that a diverse workforce leads to better strategies, more creative ideas and faster innovation.

Robert-Jan Smits, Executive Board President: “This program has enabled us to attract a lot of top female talent from all over the world, we have been able to take a big step in terms of gender balance, and the culture around diversity is changing noticeably. We are proud of that, and it has inspired other institutions to also come up with innovative plans. However, we are not going to rest on our laurels: we want every department to achieve at least thirty percent. We are going to work hard on that over the next five years.”

The goal is to reach the percentage of 30 percent in all departments in the coming years. It has been shown that at that percentage a minority is no longer a minority, but has a fully-fledged position and influence. To make that happen, TU/e will continue to offer Irène Curie vacancies at departments that do not yet have enough women on the permanent academic staff.

In addition, in the coming years, all female startups in these departments will receive a startup package of €100k, where previously this was reserved for participants in the ICF program. The goal is to help launch their research in order to remove the disadvantage they face as a minority and contribute to their success.

This will be reinforced by the existing Irène Curie network and by giving newcomers an ‘Irène Curie friend’ from now on, an experienced Irène Curie scientist who can show them the way within TU/e and the Dutch academic landscape.

Furthermore, the university is going to focus extra attention on retaining female talent, as more women tend to leave than men. TU/e therefore plans to do more to change the culture and offer better facilities along with career advancement opportunities.

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