Tuesday 04 October 2022

Eindhoven University loses sex discrimination case over women-only job ads

Part of Eindhoven University. Photo: Michiel1972 via Wikimedia Commons

Eindhoven University’s decision to restrict job vacancies to women in an effort to boost the proportion of female academics in its workforce contravenes the law on equal treatment, the Dutch human rights council College voor de Rechten van de Mens said on Friday.

Eindhoven said a year ago that for 18 months, all academic jobs would be open to female candidates only in an effort to improve the balance between men and women on the permanent staff.

If a vacancy fails to attract suitable candidates within six months, it is opened up to men. Female newcomers are also given an extra starter package, including €100,000 which they can use for their own research and a special mentoring programme.

The university was taken to the human rights council by anti-discrimination bureau Radar which said it had received over 50 complaints.

While giving preference to one sex over another is not illegal in itself, it is only possible under strict conditions, the human rights council said in its ruling.

‘And that means you have to weigh up all interests, including those of men,’ spokeswoman Adriana van Dooijeweert told broadcaster NOS. ‘You have to show that you have tried every possible other measure before you go for a women-only policy.’


In addition, the council said the university had failed to make it clear why the policy should apply to all academic functions, because women are not disadvantaged equally in every department.

‘Our commitment to this very important cause is unchanged,’ university president Robert-Jan Smits said in a statement. ‘We have hired 48 talented new female faculty members since the start of the programme, from all over the world.’

The university remains committed to its target of 30% female faculty members within five years ‘because at that percentage a minority stops being a minority and has the position and influence it deserves,’ he said.

Before the policy was introduced, 16% of full professors, 15% of associate professors and 29% of assistant professors at the university were female


An earlier decision by Delft University to open 10 jobs to women only in 2012 was approved by the council because other jobs were open to men and the university had explained why such preferential treatment was necessary for these specific functions.

The council’s ruling is not legally binding but can be used as evidence in any eventual court case.

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