UT steps towards bigger diversity

| Michaela Nesvarova

The UT strives to provide a diverse and inclusive working environment. As part of its diversity policy, the university has therefore introduced several measures including a ‘gender bias training’ and an ‘inclusive selection training’, both currently available to the Faculty Boards and selection committees.

Michelle de Boer, HR Policy Advisor on Diversity, explains why the UT has ‘an active diversity policy’: ‘Since about 2007, we have focused on gender diversity. This started because there was a disproportion of female employees, which is not desirable. Research shows that companies with diverse group of employees have bigger innovative power because there are more perspectives on solving problems. Moreover, we want our staff to be a fair representation of our student population.’

Open recruitment

Apart from setting the ‘20% female professors by 2020’ mark, the UT has not set any specific targets regarding diversity yet. Regardless, it aims to increase the number of women among (especially scientific) staff. Several measures were therefore put into place. On top of the Hypatia chairs for female professors, the university is now paying attention to ‘gender neutral recruitment and selection’, says Mette Strubbe, the HR Policy Advisor on Recruitment & Internationalization.  

 'People tend to apply the “like me principle”'

‘The natural recruitment in academia happens through personal networks,’ says Strubbe. ‘That can be a good way to find suitable and talented researchers, but people also tend to apply the “like me principle”, meaning that you naturally surround yourself with people that are similar to you. It makes you comfortable, but it does not lead to a diverse working environment. Which is why we would like to also have open recruitment, giving everyone a chance to apply for a position.’


To make job openings attractive for a variety of candidates, including women, the UT is using the tool ‘Textio’. ‘It is an online tool that allows you to optimize your recruitment text,’ explains Strubbe. ‘It helps you to change the tone to more feminine or masculine. Women are more sensitive to the language, certain words or phrases can discourage them from applying. For example, the word “stakeholder” has a masculine connotation, but we can easily replace it with the word “partner”, which makes the text appealing to both genders.’

Inclusive selection training

To provide equal chances during the selection procedure, the university introduced two trainings for the Faculty Boards and selection committees last year: gender bias training and inclusive selection training. ‘The first tackles personal prejudice and aims to make you aware of your biases, it “corrects mind bugs” so to speak,’ says Michelle de Boer. ‘The inclusive selection training is more practical. It uses actors that play a role of a candidate during an interview and afterwards give feedback to the committee on how their questions and attitude made them feel. Our plan is to continue with this training for now and evaluate after the summer.’

New diversity policy

Based on input from within the university, the HR department is currently working on a new diversity policy document. ‘We want to include a broader aspect of diversity, meaning diversity of gender, age, nationalities, sexuality and so on,’ says De Boer. ‘We try to include as many people as possible to think with us before we finalize the new policy proposal, we use the bottom-up approach. We hope the new policy will be ready later this year.’  

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