CLMN | Hair, Gender and Trust7 April 2017
Back in 1980, Greece and the European Union (that was called the European Economic Community/EEC) at that time were conducting final talks that led to the admission of Greece to the EEC the year after. One of these talks took place in Athens in the Greek capital. The EEC-delegation headed by a top civil servant -a Danish woman- was welcomed at the airport by their Greek hosts. These were all older men with grey hair and a bit of a belly (what the Germans appropriately call Wohlstandsbauch). While trying to identify the head of the EEC-delegation, they were obviously looking for the older man, a peer like them in that group.
When the Danish woman introduced herself as the head of the delegation, the Greek men were not amused, and this resulted in the Danish woman also showing negative feelings. Both parties felt insulted: the Danish woman for obviously not being viewed as a full business partner, and the Greek men for having to deal with a younger woman, who from their point of view could not really be competent nor reliable to finalize admission talks. Their faces expressed a feeling best described as ‘are-we-not-important-enough-as-the-10th-member-joining-the-EEC-that-they-are-sending-us-a-woman-as-the-head-of the-delegation’?
Trust was at stake. For people in ascriptive and hierarchical cultures like Greece, affiliation and experience are a basis for trust, so older grey-haired men (eminence grise types) create trust, whereas younger people and possibly female negotiators cannot be seen as fully reliable. By contrast, people in more egalitarian and achievement-oriented cultures, like Denmark (or within the EEC-institutions -or at TU/e), see competence and expertise as the main factors to develop trust, regardless of age or gender. No doubt the Danish woman was an expert in EEC-matters and fully competent to finalize (technical) negotiations with the Greek officials. But not for the Greeks. Things have changed in Athens since then and this embarrassing scene would probably no longer occur.
TU/e also has an egalitarian and achievement-oriented culture, where competence and expertise are high on the agenda. Consequently, young academic and support staff are present at many levels, and many women are in key positions. But gender equality is not yet perfect, esp. in the academic order.
Back to politics, does grey hair always inspire trust? In many situations it is still the norm. Maybe with one exception: The Brexit operation is being conducted by T. May, the British Prime minister - a grey-haired woman. Depending on which side you stand, she inspires trust or disgust.
Finally, what about the so-called stupid blondes? A. Merkel as the main opponent to T. May is blonde but certainly not stupid, and one can think of a few more similar smart blondes. As a matter of fact, the stupid blondes are mainly men nowadays, don’t you think?
The quality of education seems to have slipped at TU/e. In the latest Dutch-language guide to universities (Keuzegids Universiteiten), Eindhoven's university has dropped from third place in the overall ranking to seventh place in the course of a year. "It's understandable but it's not good," says President of the Executive Board Jan Mengelers, "and it is all the more reason to push on with introducing an upper limit on student intake to our programs. This is a result of the strong growth in student numbers."
Eindhoven's iGEM team has arrived in Boston. In the coming days, the students will participate in the Giant Jamboree, competing with nearly three hundred teams from all over the world. Their competition entry is their project GUPPI, in which they propose encapsulating tumors in a gel to prevent them growing and spreading.
As well as professors, from now on associate professors (UHD-1) at TU/e may also confer doctoral degrees on PhD candidates. Sixty associate professors were awarded the right to confer doctoral degrees at the start of this academic year after the move was approved by the Upper House of Parliament in the Netherlands shortly before the summer recess. “We couldn't wait to introduce this here.”
Before you google yet another one of my invented diseases and subsequently begin to question the title of this story, let me tell you this. With a new academic year having begun and a shiny new batch of freshmen accompanying it, the university is full of people suffering from the so-called octopus syndrome.