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Vrije Universiteit Brussel presents its gender action plan

Genderactieplan VUBOn Friday, 7 March 2014, one day before the International Woman’s Day, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) presented its approach for achieving gender equality across its activities. The so-called Gender Action Plan (GAP) combines objectives at faculty level with measures designed to ensure a sustainable culture change.

Having more women among the academic corps and one-third of directors and of selection and promotion committees of the opposite sex, are just two of the key goals of the VUB Gender Action Plan.

The VUB as front runner

In the past, the VUB has always led the way in gender-related issues. The University was, for instance, the first to have a woman rector. One-third of members of the Education Council and Research Council have, for some while, been women. Two of the current four deputy rectors are women, and all the honorary doctorates were awarded to women last year.

Still much to be done

The current Gender Action Plan has not come a moment too soon, however. Even at the VUB, the higher up the academic ladder, the fewer the number of women, and this is despite the fact that the majority of students are women.

Key bottlenecks include the transition from post-doctoral level to lecturer and the progression of women lecturers to the rank of professor. There are also major differences between faculties. Just 13% of independent academic staff in the Faculty of Science and Bio Engineering Science are women. In the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences this is 49%. This is why each faculty has set out in the GAP its own realistic goals for dealing with its own bottlenecks

Sustainable changes in culture

In addition to the objective of having one-third of members of management bodies who are women, the GAP also sets out a number of other action points: improvements to policy on academic staff, the coaching of academic staff during their career development, setting up training sessions on gender and diversity for both men and women, proactively seeking women candidates when there is new recruitment and support for doctoral students through mentoring.

Work-life balance

Finally, the VUB wants to ensure a good work-life balance. In assessing an academic file, account will therefore be taken of periods of absence due to illness, pregnancy and parental leave, and a special fund has been established for replacing professors on pregnancy leave. Another important point is that family friendly meeting hours are being introduced. All these measures will make life easier for both men and women.