Column of the Diversity Officer: Gender diversity and intersectionality

Column of the Diversity Officer: Gender diversity and intersectionality

At Leiden University, the share of female professors reached 30.2% in 2020 (up from 14.1% in 2005), an important milestone. Leiden’s ambition is to reach 35% of female professors by 2025. What can we learn from this trajectory of women in Dutch academia? And what’s next?

Monitoring and numbers

On December 9,th 2021, the National Network of Female Professors (Landelijke Netwerk Vrouwelijke Hoogleraren/LNVH) published its latest Women Professors Monitor 2021, which indicated that in 2020, 25.7% of full professors at Dutch Universities were female. This is an increase of 9.9% from 2005. The LNVH is a network and lobby group which aims to promote equal representation of women in academia. Its annual monitor has become a major event, which this year also featured in the national news. She Figures is an annual report of the European Commission, which monitors not only representation, but also how women feature in research performance on a European level, from PhDs to employment and decision making positions. Both the LNVH monitor as well as She Figures have, over the years, increased awareness, visibility, and made a striving toward a gender balance much more taken for granted. There has been a sea of change over the years as female professors are no longer an exception and are of course, with the appointment of Hester Bijl and Annetje Ottow to the Executive Board strongly represented in top administrative positions at Leiden University as well.

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Gender policies and Gender Equality Plans

Monitoring of course does not stand on its own: we monitor the gender balance among PhDs and staff, hiring committees, career progression and salary gaps because there are gender policies and we need to monitor in order to assess the progress of these policies. Also the European Commission has a strong commitment toward the improvement of gender equality at national and institutional levels. Starting in 2022, all research institutions wishing to apply for funding from Horizon Europe need to demonstrate that they have a Gender Equality Plan in order to remain eligible; Gender Equality Plans need to include dedicated resources, capacity, implicit bias trainings, monitoring and a commitment by the Executive Board toward gender equality. Leiden just published its Gender Equality Plan, which draws from our existing Diversity and Inclusion workplan. This means that researchers who wish to apply can do so and check this box. A plan, of course also requires action: next year, we will be reporting on our progress, and it takes the commitment of the community as a whole to ensure we can achieve the goals we have set ourselves.


A Gender Equality Plan, however important, of course also raises the question of why equality is approached from a singular dimension. Leiden University Policy is not limited to gender and our policies focus on diversity and inclusion in a broad sense. When it comes to data, privacy legislation is of course one of the reasons for limited data collection beyond officially registered data (age, nationality, legal sex) but does actually not stand in the way of monitoring for the purpose of addressing inequities. Interestingly, although our anti-discrimination policy does mention multiple dimensions of diversity, we do not have the data on all these dimensions. Data-driven policies in other countries, such as the Athena Swan and Race Equality Charter in the UK, demonstrate the importance and impact of intersectional data, that is, data and analysis which examine more than one dimension at the time. Intersectional data highlight the realities behind aggregated data and averages: differences in hiring, salary and career progression exist not only along gender lines. There are also differences among men and women depending on their nationality, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and other aspects. The gender imbalance is not the same for all nationalities. Which women make it to the top? What other factors beyond gender shape opportunities and careers?

Join us at the upcoming D&I symposium on January 13th 2022 for an update where we stand, our ambitions and plans, as well as workshops, lectures, and panels on a broad range of topics in the area of diversity and inclusion.


Leiden University News: Percentage of female professors rises to over 30%

Universiteiten van Nederland: Nieuwe streefcijfers universiteiten

LNVH Monitor 2021

NOS on LNVH Monitor

Leiden University Gender Equality Plan

European Commission annual report She Figures 2021