The search for a new university president will start shortly. And it’s not just the Higher Education and Research Act that is asking us to strive to find a balance between men and women on the board, this need is also keenly felt and supported by our university community. After four hundred years of men, shouldn’t our new university president be a woman? And wouldn’t it be even better if not just the president, but the future rector magnificus were a woman as well?
Inclusive processes depend wholly on the selection committee deciding on the new president being inclusive. Several departments within the university and the UMCG have expressed their concerns about the lack of female representation in the proposed committee, which consists of four men and one woman. Initiators were several women (the Sleutelvrouwen) who are actively trying to promote diversity at the top of our particular institute.
The Sleutelvrouwen have gathered a large group of ambassadors, both men and women who work in various departments across the university, trying to put equal opportunities for men and women on the agenda. Together, we strive to have more women in key positions in our university.
Much rests on the choice of a new university president. The selection committee needs to choose the best candidate for this position, but that doesn’t mean that this should get in the way of the pursuit of diversity. Quality and diversity are not opposites.
In fact, they can boost each other. Therefore, we would like to argue recruitment according to the ‘Mandatory Merging’ strategy (used by the UMCG to fill key positions), where the male candidate shortlist is merged with the female candidate shortlist to come to a gender-balanced choice for the next step in the process.
In December of last year, the ambassadors provided their vision of the desired profile of the new president. This vision was translated into an artist’s impression (see illustration) and offered to the university Supervisory Council, which is responsible for putting together the selection committee that has to fill the position.
Valentine’s Day campaign
The campaign the Sleutelvrouwen started on Valentine’s Day to change the committee’s make-up has had a great response. In addition to the Sleutelvrouwen and their ambassadors, deans, portfolio managers, services directors and the Young Academy Groningen, approximately two hundred professors at the university and the UMCG sent a letter to the Supervisory Council and the University Council. This is impressive. It shows the enormous commitment staff and managers have for the way our university is run.
As a result of this campaign, the intended make-up of the selection committee has been re-evaluated. The University Council’s Personnel Faction has now also nominated a woman for this committee, which means the Council will be represented by a man and a woman, rather than just two men.
This is good news, but as far as we’re concerned, it’s only a first step. Creating equal opportunities for men and women in a nomination procedure demands a procedure that is transparent, using gender neutral language to describe the necessary competences for the position of president. Moreover, we feel that any nomination committee tasked with filling this position should properly reflect the university community, representing the higher departments (professors, university managers, etc.) as well.
We therefore asked the Supervisory Council to provide us with further information about the procedure and the competences demanded of the new president, as well as the recruitment procedure (which will hopefully comply with the previously successful Mandatory Merging procedure), and to publish the profile on the university’s website. We also asked the Supervisory Council to consider adding another professor or university manager to the selection committee.
We eagerly await the Supervisory Council’s response and promise to keep everyone who supported us in our recent campaigns informed.
Sleutelvrouwen Hanny Elzinga, Annemieke Galema, Ingrid Molema, Marjolein Nieboer, Gerry Wakker, Greetje van der Werf and Marjolein Nieboer