Executive Board: “Goals Irène Curie Fellowship program still achievable”

The Executive Board expects that women will still make up thirty percent of TU/e’s academic staff by 2024 thanks to the Irène Curie Fellowship (ICF) program, which resumes on May 1, despite the fact that it has been modified. Looking at the current percentages of female scientists, the departments of Electrical Engineering, Applied Physics, Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics & Computer Science will have to take some serious steps to achieve this.

photo Zoram Zeremski / Shutterstock

In the summer of 2019, TU/e launched its ICF program. From that moment on, the university opened up scientific vacancies exclusively to women in the first six months of recruitment. The aim was to create more gender equality on the scientific staff. The program was shut down in May 2020 after the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights (CRM) ruled that TU/e’s decision to open up vacancies exclusively to women was not proportional.

Target figure

The ICF program will resume on May 1. It was discussed yesterday during the University Council meeting. Prior to the meeting, the U-council had asked the Executive Board whether the target figure of thirty percent female scientists in 2024 is still achievable now that the program has been modified. The Executive Board believes that this percentage can indeed still be achieved and refers to the figures of the past two years. By the end of 2020, the percentage of female scientists was 26, an increase of 3 percent compared to 2019. In the past, the number of female scientists at TU/e increased with only 1 percent annually, the Executive Board says.

‘The goal to have at least thirty percent of female scientists at every department within five years (starting in July 2019, ed.), is achievable,’ the Executive Board writes. That percentage has already been obtained on a departmental level at Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences (41.8 percent), Industrial Design (33.6 percent) and Built Environment (35.5 percent). The departments of Biomedical Engineering (29.2 percent) and Chemical Engineering & Chemistry (24.4 percent) are well on the way to attaining thirty percent, according to the Executive Board.

However, serious steps still need to be taken by the departments of Electrical Engineering (13.9 percent), Applied Physics (16.6 percent), Mechanical Engineering (17 percent) and Mathematics & Computer Science (17.3 percent).


How exactly has the ICF program been modified? As of May 1, the existing gender ratio per job category at each department will be taken into account. A vacancy at these departments can only fall within the ICF program when the percentage of women in a certain job category is under 35 percent. Currently, however, there are only four job categories – assistant professors at three departments and full professors at one department – where the percentage of female scientists is higher than 35.

In addition, only thirty to fifty percent of the job categories for TU/e’s permanent scientific staff will fall within the ICF program from now on. In its original form, the ICF applied to all job categories. Each year, the Executive Board and the departmental boards make agreements during the fall meeting on the exact numbers of vacancies. Professor Kees Storm of the department of Applied Physics said in early March, when it was announced that the CRM had approved the modified ICF program, that he expected some wrangling over whether or not a new vacancy should be in that 30-50% group. Storm: “I hope, and expect, that our administrative bodies will monitor the situation and ensure that the university will also recruit a reasonable number of women for vacancies that do not fall within the ICF program.”


Antidiscrimination agency RADAR, which had received fifty complaints over the ICF program in 2019, causing the CRM to look into the program, is very satisfied with the new policy. “We certainly don’t oppose more women on the scientific staff,” spokesperson Mark Kivit says. “We applaud that. But something like that needs to be done following the equal treatment law. TU/e still has an ambitious target and we think that’s great.”

The Dutch Network of Women Professors (LNVH) worked closely with TU/e during the CRM trial, LNVH managing director Lidwien Poorthuis says in an interview with Feminer. “Naturally, we supported the initiative, and we applaud the leadership displayed by the Executive Board. It was a very important ruling in which the CRM actually acknowledged the fact that women are underrepresented in science.”

Fellows within the ICF program can still expect an additional research budget of 100,000 euros, and an annual assessment will be made per job category at each department of the percentage of women on September 1. The university placed a video online today in which professor Evangelia Demerouti explains the new rules and in which two fellows talk about their experiences. As of May 1, all vacancies within the ICF program will be published online again. The program runs until at least 2024 and will be evaluated annually.

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