Shattering glass ceilings (article UT nieuws)

In principle, women have the same chances as men these days. Yet at successively higher levels of education, the female component diminishes. Nowhere is this trend more evident than in universities, where women represent a minority among faculty members. The causes for this lagging behind are institutional, cultural and individual.

Female Faculty Network Twente (FFNT) is a platform where female faculty members from the University of Twente as well as other female academics in Twente meet and discuss their ideas regarding this dilemma. `Many women professors agree that there is not a sufficient percentage of women staff presented at the UT in top positions,' comments Mieke Boon (Associate Professor in Philosophy of Science and Technology), the chairman of the Network. The FFNT emerged last October at one of the lunch meetings organized by female professors. It currently has approximately 20 members. All female faculty members - including professors, UHDs, UDs, post-docs, and PhD candidates - may become join the FFNT. An executive committee that changes every year administrates the organization

The FFNT recognizes the fact that there are differences between male and female professional attitudes. Women are stereotyped as being cooperative, communicative, supportive, giving preference to a team atmosphere, and avoiding risk. Men, to the contrary, are stereotyped as being competitive, strategic, risk-taking, and giving preference to their own career. As a result of these differences - among other factors - women lag behind in reaching top academic positions. This is evident from the low percentage of women professorships at the university. FFNT wants to help women in dealing with these hidden obstacles of culturally grown, self-fulfilling social patterns.

Women in academia - like their male counterparts - make research proposals, go to conferences, and attend workshops. In order to be successful in academia, having knowledge and expertise of one's discipline is not sufficient. Many other skills such as networking, leadership, time-management, personal contact and proposal writing are also needed. These skills enable women to speak their mind, to handle criticism gracefully without taking it personally and, most important, to give criticism without feeling self-conscious.

The key objectives of the FFNT are to create a network where academic women can meet and exchange ideas and experiences; to provide female faculty members with professional training; to advise the UT Management Board about female faculty issues; to raise awareness about female faculty issues (among both women and men); and to monitor the implementation of female faculty-friendly measures.

The goal of the Female Faculty Network Twente is to further develop professionalism of women in academia by cultivating these necessary skills. According to Boon, `The Network aims to organize many activities such as lunch meetings, workshops, and social events. The network is planning workshops on professional issues such as personnel affectivity, providing leadership training for women, networking in the scientific world, politics in the sciences, career orientation, rhetoric in academia, and writing funding proposals. Also, the Network aims to have more monthly informal get-togethers.' On October 11, for example, the FFNT organized a coffee break lecture in the Vrijhof Amphitheater. Margaret Wertheim, an internationally renowned science writer and commentator, spoke on the theme of science and gender.

The Network also aims at a yearly event or conference with a specific theme. On Thursday, November 10, the first conference of the Female Faculty Network Twente will take place in the Drienerburght on the UT campus. The theme of the conference is `Professional Women.'

Participation in the activities is mostly free (for members as well as for non-members), although for some special activities registration is necessary and a small fee may be asked explicitly. The activities planned for the near future can be found at

Seema Sharma

six ladies from the FFNT

FFNT, from left tot right: Zivkovic, Tijana TNW/AMK, Rietman, Marjolein (PA&O, secretary FFNT), Stoffels, Genie CTW/THW, Boon, Mieke GW/WIJSB, Dierkes, Wilma TNW/RBT, Marincic, Jelena EWI/IS. Not at the picture: Wallinga- de Jong, Willemien EWI/BFD, Raesfeld Meijer, Ariane BBT/MSE.

Reference: UT nieuws donderdag 20 oktober 2005, jaargang 40, nr. 31.