Dutch university told to stop offering women-only job vacancies

Eindhoven University has the least female scientists out of all European universities.
Eindhoven University has the least female scientists out of all European universities. Photo credit: Getty Images

A Dutch engineering university has been told to stop posting women-only job ads in an effort to attract more females. 

Eindhoven University only advertised scientific vacancies to women to improve the gender ratio in permanent staff in July 2019.

If a job isn't filled within six months, men are eligible to apply. 

New female staff also receive a $172,000 research fund and special mentoring programme.

An anti-discrimination bureau took the university to the Human Rights Council after receiving 50 complaints.

A Board of Human Rights ruled Eindhoven University "in conflict" with Dutch equal treatment legislation on July 3.

While giving preference to one sex isn't against Dutch law, it is only viable under strict legal conditions.

The Board ruled the "drastic means" of excluding male applicants is "not permitted" because the disadvantage of women is not the same in every faculty. 

The Council's ruling is not legally binding but can be used as evidence in a court case.

Eindhoven University has the smallest percentage of female scientists of all Dutch and European universities. In 2018, only 14 percent of professors, 13 percent of associate professors, and 24 percent of assistant professors were women.

"This imbalance is not only unfair to women, but it also hurts science," the university said in a statement on July 3. 

Despite the Council's findings, Eindhoven University said they remain devoted to improving gender balance, hiring 48 new female staff since the initiative began in 2019.

University President Robert-Jan Smits said the university is still committed to achieving 30 percent female faculty members in five years. 

"At that percentage a minority stops being a minority and has the position and influence it deserves," he said in a statement.

The Human Rights Council advised Eindhoven University to consider less drastic measures, including:

  • Training selection committees about unconscious prejudice
  • Apply gender-neutral terms in job descriptions
  • Operate career development programmes for female staff
  • Set aside money to train and fund research by female scientists

Eindhoven University is currently studying the findings of the Human Rights Board.