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All honorary doctorates to women this year

VUB honorary doctorates 2013

Rector Paul De Knop about the decision to give out all honorary doctorates to women: “These are five outstanding winners – four from academia and one from sport – who have all reached the very top of their profession, and who are all women.” The Vrije Universiteit Brussel is endeavouring to achieve a better balance of women and men in the academic world, and adopts an active gender policy. “We are making efforts in this area now, and will continue to do so in the future. For example, there will be an equal number of men and women among future candidates for honorary doctorates.”

Prof. Cecilia Jarlskog (Lund University, Sweden)

Cecilia Jarlskog is a Swedish theoretical physicist who works mainly on elementary particle physics. Jarlskog graduated with a PhD in theoretical particle physics in 1970 and worked for CERN until 1972. In 1976 she became a professor in Bergen (Norway), from 1985 she assumed that role at the University of Stockholm (Sweden) and since 1994 she has been a professor at Lund University.

Since 1984 Jarlskog has been a member of the Swedish Academy of Sciences and since 1997 a member of the Norwegian Academy. From 1989 to 2000 she was one of the five members of the Swedish Nobel Prize Committee for Physics and since 1996 she has been a member on the Board of Trustees of the Nobel Foundation. From 1998 to 2004 she was the contact person with participating countries for CERN. In addition, she is chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the Norwegian Institute for Theoretical Physics and chairwoman of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics.

Prof. Londa Schiebinger (Stanford University, United States)

Londa Schiebinger is a scientific historian specialising in research into the relationship between gender and science. She holds a considerable number of academic positions, including John L. Hinds Professor of History of Science, and Barbara D. Finberg Director of the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University.

She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in English in 1974 from the University of Nebraska and her Master’s in History from Harvard University in 1977, where she also got her PhD in 1984.

In her scientific work Londa has shown how gender analysis, applied to science and technology, creates new opportunities for future research. The global interest in her work is illustrated by the role she has played in stimulating research into the nature of science from the perspective of gender. Her work has led, amongst other things, to UN resolutions Gender, Science and Technology in March 2011.

Prof. Carol Gilligan (New York University, United States)

Carol Gilligan is a professor at Harvard University. In 1982 she wrote 'In a different voice. Psychological Theory and Women's Development’. Her book criticises former mentor Lawrence Kohlberg as well as Jean Piaget and Sigmund Freud. According to Gilligan, they regarded women as a dark continent psychologically and as such attributed them with a less developed morality than men. Gilligan concluded that women and men do indeed reason differently for the most part; women focus more on maintaining relationships (care ethics) while men reason on the basis of a sort of ethics of justice. She has conducted groundbreaking and influential research into gender issues. Professor Gilligan has already received numerous scientific prizes.

Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (International Criminal Court, the Netherlands)

Fatou Bom Bensouda is a Gambian lawyer and former politician. She was Minister of Justice in Gambia and has been Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court since 15 June 2012. She worked there as deputy prosecutor since September 2004.

Bensouda has received various awards and honours for her legal work, the most important being the International Jurists Prize from the International Committee of Jurists (in 2009). In 2010 the magazine ‘Jeune Afrique’ ranked her 4th on the list of the most influential Africans.

She is regarded as a leading voice in the attempt to incite governments to implement justice, especially in Africa. Her efforts to fight gender crimes and prosecute those committing crimes against children have made Fatou Bensouda an exceptional role model.

Tennis champion Kim Clijsters (Belgium)

Kim Antonie Lode Clijsters is a world-famous Belgian (former) tennis champion. She was the first Belgian player to reach the finals of a Grand Slam; she has won 4 Grand Slams, 41 WTA singles titles and 11 WTA doubles titles. Kim Clijsters was the world number one seed for a total of 20 weeks. When she was number 1 in 2011, she was the first mother ever to have reached that position in women’s tennis. Kim Clijsters has received many awards during her sporting career, including 8 times Belgian Sportswoman of the Year, Belgian Sports Personality of the Year (2003) and the Grand Cross in the Order of the Crown.

With this honorary doctorate Kim Clijsters is rewarded for the role she has played as ambassador for the sport and for the way in which she has combined a top sporting career with a family. She is an example for many talented women who are forced to choose between work and family. She is also engaged in social projects, with a firm commitment to SOS-Kinderdorpen. With her engaging personality she has become one of the greatest sporting ambassadors our country has ever known.

The honorary doctorate for Kim Clijsters is awarded in the context of the 25 years of Top-Class Sport and Study at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.