This week, the best read article on Innovations Origins was the article about the TU Eindhoven’s measure to hire only female scientists for the next eighteen months.
That’s why we took a closer look at the subject by asking an expert for her opinion: Inge Bleijenbergh, an associate professor in methodology at Radboud University, Nijmegen. She specializes in the role of gender in organizations. What does she think of this measure taken by the Eindhoven University of Technology? It’s a good idea, isn’t it?
What do you think of TU Eindhoven’s decision to hire only women over the next year and a half?
It is quite a radical measure taken by the Executive Board of the Eindhoven University of Technology. But if you consider that for the past eight years, they have not been able to attract and retain a considerable number of women, it is justified. Otherwise, the organization will systematically miss out on the scientifically talented women among the pool of graduates and PhDs.
On Twitter, people criticized the decision because they felt it discriminated young men.
It is temporary, positive discrimination within a specific target group. But in this case, it is permitted under European law because women have been extremely underrepresented within the TU’s organization for such a long time. The measure’s intention is to improve the organizational culture through a better balance between male and female values. Young men will also benefit from this when they apply for a job at the TU at the end of the eighteen month period when only women are hired. This means they will end up in a much nicer organization.
Why has TU Eindhoven failed in the past eight years to attract enough women for vacancies in the science department?
Research has shown that there is a masculine culture at universities of technology. It is more focused on ‘things’ rather than ‘relationships’. This is often the case in organizations where many STEMs work. Women frequently feel less at home there. Therefore, the TU’s problem is not only that too few women are hired for science jobs, but also that the women who do work there are more likely to leave. For example, to work in private enterprise. In order to keep them, you have to break this one-sided culture.
Do you think that this step to hire only women for a year and a half will work?
Yes, for a number of years, they have been regularly opening up ten vacancies per year for only women at the Delft University of Technology. As a result, they have received far more applications from women than usual. Women applied in large numbers because they knew they would be considered as serious candidates. Thus, TU Delft was able to see a large pool of talent that was previously invisible. This allowed them to fill vacancies that were hard to fill before. The organization has also improved in this respect.
The TU Eindhoven’s approach is more radical than that of TU Delft, because for a year and a half they will not hire any men, only women. Why?
By hiring only women for a year and a half, you drastically change the structure of the group in a short period of time. Therefore, the effect is greater than if you take a step-by-step approach.
Isn’t there a risk of resistance from men who work there and disagree with it?
It is important that the management explains why the measure is being implemented: to improve the functioning of the organization and to be able to make better use of all the technical talent that is available. As a result, men will also benefit if the organization has a more diverse structure. That’s how you encourage support.
In what way will the organization improve if more women work there than at present?
The more diverse the group, the more employees have to explain to each other what they mean. Among other thigs, this means that the thinking behind innovative product development will be better. Because different people ask different kinds of questions.