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Comment: No 'gender inequality ocean' among Danish researchers

Targeting funding at women researchers is illegal and not meritocratic argues UCPH Professor in response to two Cosmology Professors claiming a "gender inequality ocean"

In Nature, vol. 519, 12 March, 2015, under the headline “Women’s grants lost in inequality ocean” Darach Watson and Jens Hjorth of Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, lament the demise of the YDUN program in Denmark that earmarked US $16 million for women researchers. [Editor’s note, the longer University Post version of Darach Watson and Jens Hjorth’s article is here.]

Their argument is, however, based on a number of misconceptions. First, in a meritocracy state funding for research is in any case not awarded to two gender collectives according to percentage-based rights but on the basis of individual talent. For instance, the DFF success rate in the category Top Researcher is twice as high for women as for men.

Second, earmarking research grants for women contravenes the Danish Equal Status Act as well as EU legislation. (See Bonde H. and Ravnkilde J., Nogle omgåelser af EU-retten i den positive særbehandling af kvindelige forskere, Ugeskrift for Retsvæsen, April, 2015, pp. 169-180).

Third, Hjort and Watson point out that the sum allocated to YDUN is “roughly the same as the shortfall in Danish grant money won by women compared with men every year over the past 10 years.” They conclude that even though YDUN levelled the playing field for one year women still had to struggle much harder to get an YDUN grant than men have to fight for an ordinary DFF. However, the increase in the number of applications was due solely to the fact that women in large numbers felt encouraged to apply because they knew that practically no men would. Consequently, the level of competition would have been much higher if men had been able to apply on equal terms.

Read More:
This comment is the second in a three-part debate series, where University of Copenhagen professors discuss the YDUN programme and funding targeted at women.

Read the original first comment Danish gender equity programme founders while men benefit.

Read the authors’ reply to critics:A genuine meritocracy supports qualified women.

Read the rejoinder to their reply: YDUN lowered the level of competition.

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