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Professor fights pro-woman policies at Copenhagen University

Intense, sharp exchange over a University of Copenhagen policy that rewards faculties to hire female professors.

They represent two opposing views on the University of Copenhagen’s gender policy: Anja C. Andersen, one of the architects of an affirmative action policy which favours the hiring of women, and Hans Bonde, one of the policy’s staunchest critics.

The University’s gender policy has been up for debate ever since Hans Bonde, Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports spoke out publicly against it, arguing that the gender of applicants should be immaterial..

Roughly 90 people turned up to hear and participate in the debate Monday. Defending University of Copenhagen policy was Anja C. Andersen, astrophysicist of the Dark Cosmology Centre. Against it: Hans Bonde of the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports.

See previous article outlining the issues: Professor fights pro-women plan

Criticizing feminism

There are more male than female professors and associate professors at UCPH.

Anja C. Andersen is a member of the task force that UCPH management commissioned to investigate the unequal gender composition and to suggest possible solutions. Based on the task force’s report, the management decided in 2008 to implement a reward system that economically rewards faculties when they hire women.

In a new book ‘Fordi du fortjener det’ [Because you’re worth it, red.], Hans Bonde criticises gender policies that favour women and the turn feminism has taken in general, favouring women rather than equalising them.

Bonde: People should be hired on merit

“When the reward system was implemented, it was like the Klondike: There was a gold rush atmosphere in faculty management. Times of tight budgets made managements greedy for money, and the reward system was an easy way of getting extra funds,” says Bonde.

Hiring people based on their gender is irrational, he says. But irrationality is not the only issue. Bonde sees the reward system as a threat to society in general.

“Our society is based on the principle of meritocracy – the best qualified person gets the job. When institutions start hiring people based on their gender rather than their competencies, the system of meritocracy is in danger”, Bonde argues.

Andersen: To get more female applicants

Andersen has a different take on the subject.

“The problem is that 50 per cent of all available professorships at UCPH only have one applicant. Who is, with no exceptions, male,” she explains.

“The reward system is thought to induce the faculties to post the available positions more broadly so there will be more female applicants, and as a natural consequence, more female professors”.

Goal is more diversity

However, “the reward system has failed its purpose as 50 per cent of the available professorships still only have one male applicant”, Andersen admits.

Studies from Sweden and USA show that women are generally judged harsher than men as applicants for a job.

“If women filled more important positions, the criteria on how we judge job applicants could change and lead to more diversity in managements. Which is the final goal”, Andersen says.

Wants to see the study

Bonde is critical of the studies that she refers to.

“I would like to see a study that is specific to Denmark and UCPH. We don’t know if there is discrimination against women applying for professorships at UCPH until we have a study like that”.

An eager listener pronounces that she would also be happy to make such a study. The atmosphere in the audience is intense, and it is obvious that both sides of the debate are represented.

Praises UCPH openness

Although there is disagreement on the issue of economically inducing the University to hire more women, there is also consensus between the two sides of the debate. It is generally agreed that the issue deserves more attention, and many in the audience express the opinion that the debate on the subject is important and long overdue.

On the panel, both sides called for a wider discussion on UCPH gender policy.

“I am happy that this debate takes place since there has not been much openness from the UCPH management about the gender distribution policy”, says Bonde.

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