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New SBE dean: women are not jumping at the chance

MAASTRICHT. Of the approximately fifty regular professors at the School of Business and Economics (SBE), only five are female. At this moment, the faculty (or rather, an external headhunting agency commissioned by the Executive Board) is searching for a new dean, both within and outside the UM. Will it be a woman? It is going to be exciting.

The fact that it should be a woman, is the explicit preference of the Executive Board and specifically that of rector Rianne Letschert. Within the framework of her diversity policy, she is strongly advocating the appointment of women to higher positions. Letschert is also chairperson of the Appointments Advisory Committee for the new SBE dean.

Although in general terms, the ratio is far from equal, this doesn't apply to the deans: of them, the majority is female, four out of six. This is about to change at the Faculty of Law, where Jan Smits will take over from Hildegard Schneider on 1 December, bringing the percentage of female deans down from 66 to 50 per cent in one go. That is to say, if the SBE male stronghold remains as it has always been.

Women are few and far between in this faculty, and enthusiasm among the five female professors eligible for the position, is not great either. None of them applied in the first general recruitment round. A few of them are holding on to that decision, including Gaby Odekerken (“not available”), Marielle Heijltjes, and Ann Vanstraelen. The latter two are on the Appointments Advisory Committee and are therefore automatically excluded from candidacy. Vanstraelen thinks that the deanship wouldn't fit into her life at this stage. She still has “a young child at home, with whom I want to spend time,” she says. Heijltjes was a serious candidate for the rectorship last year, but she refused that as well, just like she now does with the deanship. At the time, the reason was that she was too caught up in the postgraduate education - being the director - and that is no different now; Heijltjes doesn't want to comment, so as not to interfere with “the on-going procedure”.  

Mien Segers doesn't want to speak out of turn either, for the same reason. The only thing she would like to say is that “discussions are still taking place” and that she “won't say in advance” that she “absolutely won't do it”. Lastly, there have been no talks with Rachel Pownall, but she also says she is prepared to consider the job: “I would happily throw my hat in the ring.” In other words, if they were to ask me, I would participate. Although she would prefer to be department chairperson for a while first. Pownall is a great advocate of more women in academic positions, but “that should start with assistant professors. We haven't got a single female assistant professor in the department of Finance. It is reasonably balanced among the deans at the UM, so there is less of a priority there as far as I'm concerned.”

If all goes well, there will be a new candidate before Christmas. The search is still continuing along two lines, both internally and externally. The question is whether a dean from outside is a good idea at the moment. Someone like professor Piet Eichholtz believes it is not, and former dean Jos Lemmink agrees with him. The reason is that the faculty has recently decided on tremendous organisational changes and these all need to be implemented. Eichholtz: "This concerns serious choices, so you need someone who is respected within the faculty and who knows how things are run here. Someone who is not going to be like a bull in a china shop. Normally, having an external dean wouldn't be a problem, we also have a rector from outside, but it is not wise at this point.”

Both are also advocates of a female dean, but if she cannot be found within the university? Lemmink: “Then I would not look elsewhere, but look at a good male candidate from our own ranks.”

Member of the Appointments Advisory Committee Ann Vanstraelen can reassure them: “It doesn’t necessarily have to be a woman, it is about the best candidate.”

Eichholtz: “In that case, I know of someone. Andries de Grip would do an excellent job.”

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