Prof. Agnes Koopman, the first female professor at the UT

Prof. Agnes Koopman, the first female professor at the UT

Currently (2023) 21% of professors at the University of Twente are women. And it's hard to imagine, but it wasn't until February 1, 1991 that the UT got its first female full-time professor. It was the then 40-year-old Dr. Agnes Koopman-Iwema. She was appointed professor of Social Management at the Faculty of Business Administration.

Koopman studied Work and Organizational Psychology at the University of Groningen and obtained her PhD in Social Sciences from the University of Amsterdam in 1980 on 'Power, Motivation, Participation'. During her scientific career at the Catholic University of Nijmegen, she did a lot of consultancy work for companies and institutions. In 1988 she became director of the Dutch Center of Directors and Commissioners (NCD).

Her research in Groningen and Amsterdam focused, among other things, on the 'hire-and-fire' behavior that was evident in large organizations at the time. What was its influence on the culture, collaboration patterns and management style within those organizations. Another area of research that interested her was the ongoing struggle of companies with flexibilization: the need for organizations to continually and rapidly adapt to changing environmental demands.

At the UT she became interested in research into the growing group of female entrepreneurs, their successes, but especially into the factors that hinder success. Koopman also identified an important shift in thinking about social management. Previously, personnel policy was seen as something from the 'human resources' department. Managers often did not feel directly responsible themselves. This changed in the late 1980s and responsibility for personnel management fell to the line managers. That is why, Koopman indicated, it is necessary to also teach people with a vocational education, such as those trained at the UT, some social management.

Preferential policy

The application procedure with Koopman had already started before the Faculty of Business Administration had developed any priority policy for women. “If I had not been appointed solely on the basis of my qualities, I would resign immediately,” says Koopman. “Selection must be based on suitability. If a woman is pushed into a position through a priority policy and it does not work out, you make it extra difficult for other women.” According to her, the increased influx of women is not always the result of a conscious choice by companies for women, but simply an economic necessity, because they cannot find men.

What immediately appealed to her during the conversations with the application committee was that “no non-binding education and research is carried out at the UT. People look at the market. Research should not be a personal hobby: society should benefit from it.” She also liked the UT's attempts to become independent of government policy. In February 1991, Professor Agnes Koopman became the first female professor at the UT.

(taken from article in UT News of November 22, 1990)

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