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Minister at odds with Rector on gender issue

Minister of Science believes a university plan to hire more women is discriminatory, but Rector disagrees. The hiring process should merely encourage women to apply, he says

Should the university be favouring female professor applicants over male applicants? On this question, Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Charlotte Sahl-Madsen and University Rector Ralf Hemmingsen disagree.

Sahl-Madsen has criticised the rector’s position on a university gender equality plan, which rewards faculties for hiring women rather than men for professor jobs.

In the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende she states that to favour women in the hiring process is discriminatory, and that she is, »by no means in favour« of the plan.

In a recent press release, the rector responded by stating that the university is simply enacting new plans to attract more women to apply for professor and lecturer positions.

Gender imbalance

As a result of low numbers of newly hired female professors, the university introduced its Gender Equality Plan in the spring of 2008. The plan includes a mentoring program for female researchers and pre-leader courses for women research candidates.

More controversially, faculties also receive financial rewards and the right to hire extra professors, if they hire a greater percentage of women.

The university has been granted dispensation from the Danish laws on discrimination, in order to actively favour female applicants for professor jobs.

Critics state that this suggests that the university hires women on the basis of a gender quota, and implies that the university would only hire women for positions because of their gender, rather than their abilities, they claim.

Minister vs. Rector

Sahl-Madsen would prefer to see women hired for their merits, and feels that the way to fight discrimination is to create better conditions and encourage female researchers.

»I am a great supporter of equality. That is why I do not think it is right to give dispensations so that faculties are given economic compensation when they hire women rather than men,« said Sahl Madsen in a response to a parliamentary question on the subject.

»If the percentage of newly-hired female professors increases because the amount of talented women increases, and because it is a more attrictive prospect for both men and women to reach the highest level of qualification, then we can talk about a positive development,« she said.

Rector Ralf Hemmingsen rejects the implications of the Minister’s criticism.

»It is not only wrong, it’s also an entirely unfair criticism of the academically talented female researchers who have been hired after the plan was adopted,« he says.

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