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About us Working at the University of Groningen Rosalind Franklin Fellowship

'Every researcher has a dream'

Sibrand Poppema, President of the Board of the University of Groningen, considers it the University’s task to ensure that it utilizes every ounce of academic talent. ‘When I studied Medicine, some forty percent of students were women. But did I meet them again when I became a professor? No. By then, I could count them on the fingers of one hand. We want female talent in our organization. We don’t have enough; the standard mechanisms are ineffective. This is why we use the Rosalind Franklin Fellowship programme as an auxiliary motor.

If we don't act now, we'll never achieve a healthy fifty-fifty balance.

As long we do not have enough women in our organization, we are wasting opportunities by not making one hundred percent use of the talent at our disposal. The number of female professors is growing by 1 percent per year. If we don’t act now, we’ll never achieve a healthy fifty-fifty balance.

This year was a marvellous opportunity to recruit at least 22 women from a variety of fields around the world. This is more than usual thanks to a European grant, and it will give the University of Groningen a welcome injection of talented new faces. At the same time, we are also safeguarding our future stock of female researchers and professors, who will serve as role models for up-and-coming researchers.

I cannot deny that this is a form of discrimination. We are appointing women and discouraging men from applying for these positions. But discrimination is allowed, as long as it works both ways. This is certainly true of our system. You only have to look at the number of male professors to see that. I think I can only be accused of discrimination if I continue recruiting only women after we have achieved a 50% balance.

As long as I have any say, we will continue the RFF programme. It involves making around EUR 20 million available for each recruitment round. We could divide this money among the Faculties, but we choose not to. We spend it on this instead, in the knowledge that it will eventually seep through to the Faculties anyway. The success rate is high. If we include the current crop, we have almost one hundred Rosalind Franklin Fellows.

Female students tend to think that things will work out in the end. This isn’t really surprising as they’ve been at the top of their game all through school and university. The figures prove it. But ten years down the line, they start wondering what went wrong. Being appointed on a tenure track is quite exceptional. Not many countries in Europe offer this facility. A lot of the women we appoint would undoubtedly have made superb researchers, but I don’t think all of them would have become professors. We give them an opportunity. They are also allocated a PhD student, which improves their chances of success even further.

Every researcher has a dream. Every researcher wants to be the first to find something out. A Rosalind Franklin Fellowship allows you to chase your dream. What could be better?

This is actually the reason I work at the University. I had this chance myself, and I want others to have it too. It’s about letting as many people as possible chase their dreams

You are not an excuse. You have been selected from a pool of the very best canditates

And finally, I would like to say this: be proud that you have come to the University of Groningen as a Rosalind Franklin Fellow. You are not an excuse. You have been selected from a pool of the very best candidates. Don’t just rest on your laurels, however; you will be expected to produce results, just like everyone else. Only then will we have a fair balance.’

Last modified:23 September 2020 11.28 a.m.
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