Progress more important than percentages in Irène Curie Fellowship program

The Irène Curie Fellowship (ICF) program, which was first introduced in July 2019, resumed on the 1st of May 2021, albeit in a modified form. The aim was to achieve a greater balance between men and women on TU/e’s academic staff. The measure was met with complaints of discrimination, after which the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights (CRM) ruled that the program had to be modified in certain respects. Although there is some concern that the modifications will lead to fewer vacancies within the ICF program, it’s ‘the progress’ instead of percentages that matters most, those involved say.

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“I wouldn’t have been hired if the program had applied in its present form,” says Marloes Hendrickx, assistant professor Innovation Sciences and Irène Curie Fellow. Hendrickx works at the Eindhoven School of Education, which doesn’t fall within the ICF program because it performs ‘too successfully’ according to the modified guidelines. A vacancy can only fall within the ICF program when the percentage of women in a certain job category is under 30 percent. Percentage at the department where Hendrickx works are well above that number.

Growing recognition of the problem

“My department performs well, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take further steps.” Hendrickx doesn’t worry that the increase in the number of women will come to a halt as a result of the modifications. “What’s of much greater importance is the progress, and the fact that the serious gender imbalance in academia compared to the rest of society is finally being recognized.” Noortje Bax, project officer at the Center for Care and Cure Technology Eindhoven (C3Te), fully agrees with that. “In the end, you have to do something to bring about change. It’s still too early to say anything about the actual results of the program, but what matters most is that steps are being taken.”

Bax doubts whether the other modification, which states that only thirty to fifty percent of the job categories for TU/e’s permanent scientific staff will fall within the ICF program, will actually lead to much debate. Professor Kees Storm told Cursor earlier that he expected some wrangling over whether or not a new vacancy should be in that 30-50% group. “But the original program was much clearer on that issue,” Bax says.


Regina Luttge, associate professor at the department of Mechanical Engineering and a member of the recruitment committee at her department, follows the program closely. “I think of the modifications more as organizational changes. It’s about closing the gap and about a continuing debate on that gap.” Luttge expresses her amazement, as she had done earlier, about the fact that it took such a long time before the Fellowship was launched. “I truly don’t understand why anyone would take this up with the Institute for Human Rights.” She regrets the negative connotations and misconceptions that the ICF program acquired as a consequence. “The program is surrounded with a certain negativity, but these women are the cream of the crop. It should be presented as an award instead as something extra, which it isn’t.”

Hendrickx understands Luttge’s reasoning, but she never experienced it as something ‘extra.’ “I don’t really feel that stigma. I even know fellows who added the program to their email signatures, but that seems rather boastful to me!”

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