'We need every single leader within TU/e to aim for a diverse group'

Today, at February 11, it's International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Actually, every day should be a women and girls day in science, according to prof.dr. Evangelia Demerouti, Chief Diversity Officer at TU/e. 'As this is not the case, we need such a special day. A day to reflect on what women and girls contribute to science or what they could contribute if the system would facilitate their contributions', writes Demerouti in this blog.

'My daughter recently attended an information session at school about possible course packages, and how these packages relate to future studies. She heard there that the beta/technical package is difficult - you need high grades and you cannot simply choose it. Although she is good at mathematics and physics she started to doubt.

The teachers did however a good job to motivate her to choose the courses she likes: it became a beta profile. But the doubting does not end there. Having been the supervisor of many bachelor and master students, I often find myself in the situation that I have to motivate my female students to dare to conduct the study that they like. My male students need to learn to work hard.'

Same capacities, different approach

'The result is the same as both female and male students have the same capacities and good ideas. The women need to be stimulated to trust themselves and to dare to investigate the things they are interested in. We know from research that although the level of ambition is the same for male and female first-year students, in the third year of their studies, female students report a lower level of ambition than male students.

What do we do wrong as educators? Don’t we challenge female students enough? Don’t we motivate them to show their potential, to say what they would like to say to the society and to practice what they stand for? I see female colleagues struggling with the fact that they are always different from those who are in power. Being constantly a minority group makes you wonder whether you fit in the context. This is destructive and hinders these women from focusing on their true purpose.'

Commitment

'My role as Chief Diversity Officer is to advise the university on how it can become a place where women, men, girls and boys are encouraged and feel supported to make their contributions to our society. I believe that we can achieve this by empowering all individuals and by providing them the resources they need to excel. My discipline, organizational psychology, can provide the know-how on how to facilitate the success of women and girls in science. However, I also need the courage of everyone involved to make this happen.

We need the commitment of the university board to manage diversity (the numbers) and inclusion (the behaviors) within TU/e. We need every single leader within TU/e to aim for a diverse group and to support these diverse employees. We also need every TU/e employee to value and support women, girls, or any other person with some characteristic. When my daughter, your daughter and all daughters can freely choose the study that they want to pursue and are supported to use their potential then we are in a good way. My dream is that the number of female students within TU/e increases and that, at least, the same high proportion of females (as the female students) can be found throughout the university ladder. This would indicate that they are fairly treated and motivated to use their potential.'