Eindhoven university of technology
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Stephane Gaudry

Dutch university asked to justify “women only” recruitment policy

Eindhoven University of Technology is being investigated by the Dutch Institute for Human Rights over gender discrimination, after they implemented a policy where only women may apply for posts in the faculty in the first six months they are advertised.

The university rector, Frank Baaijens, said that a third of his staff were opposed to this new policy, but he is intent on increasing representation among his staff.

“We will have to see if we have to adjust the programme, but I think all in all people are positive and we are making the change that we are looking for,” Mr Baaijens said.

Mr Baaijens added that alternative methods had been trialled previously. However, these proved to be unsuccessful in increasing representation at the university.

Mr Baaijens said: “We feel that we can become a better university if we have a better representation of scientists in the university. We have had all sorts of measures over 10 to 15 years, but they don’t seem to have been particularly successful because the growth rate was very small.

“We had a growth rate of about 1% a year in our faculty, so it would take a long time to get something appropriate.”

We feel that we can become a better university if we have a better representation of
scientists

– Mr Baaijens

Mr Baaijens also warned that there is an “implicit gender bias in science” and that a “male-dominated environment” puts women off from applying to certain positions.

The Netherlands has the lowest proportion of female professors in the EU, and the university has had the lowest proportion out of all universities in the country.

The university hopes to practice this policy over the next five years, and aims for 30% of tenured academic staff to be female. There is a debate over whether positive discrimination in employment is fair.

While some argue positive discrimination is justifiable as it promotes diversity and ensures historically-underrepresented groups are present in the workforce, others claim that it can be harmful for individuals negatively affected and that employers should hire individuals based on merit alone.

In an article he wrote for The Spectator, Matthew Paris said: “I am a firm believer in positive discrimination.” He suggested it should be used on the basis of gender, race, and class since it circumvents unconscious bias and a lack of confidence during the hiring process.

Alternately, a secret aid worker writing for The Guardian claimed that positive discrimination has a lasting impact of those discriminated against because they do not fit the quota.

Often, they are not told the reasons they did not get the position, and are led to believe that they are not up for the job.

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