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Leiden University Gender Equality Plan 2021

Diversity and inclusion are high on the agenda at Leiden University. The University introduced an institution-wide diversity policy in 2014 and has dedicated time and resources to promoting diversity among students and staff, and to enabling an inclusive learning and working environment for all. The president of Leiden University, Annetje Ottow, is responsible for diversity and inclusion policy and is supported by the Diversity Officer, Aya Ezawa, and her team in this effort. The University’s current goals and activities in the area of diversity and inclusion are outlined in the Diversity and Inclusion Work Plan.

This document provides an overview of how Leiden University’s diversity policy meets the European Commission’s requirements for gender equality with regard to the mandatory elements – dedicated resources, monitoring, training and capacity building – as well as to activities in the recommended areas of work-life balance, leadership, recruitment and career progression, research and teaching, and measures against gender-based violence including sexual harassment. Starting in 2022, all institutions who wish to secure funding from Horizon Europe are required to have a gender equality plan in order to be eligible. Gender equality plans are part of the European Commission’s strategy for promoting gender equality (Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025; Gender Equality in the European Research Area). In this document, we clarify how Leiden University’s diversity policy satisfies this requirement.

An integrated and intersectional approach

Before turning to specific activities and projects, it is important to outline our approach – how we seek to achieve our goals in the area of diversity and inclusion. An effective diversity and inclusion policy requires an integrated and intersectional approach with a clearly defined vision that is also invested in building an infrastructure and embedding an inclusive approach in institutional structures and practices.

Mission and goals

Diversity and inclusion are core values of Leiden University. Leiden University is open to everyone who wishes to study or work here. We are an open community in which anyone who wishes to contribute to the University’s ambitions and all that we stand for is welcome and will enjoy equal opportunities.

Our community is diverse in many ways: we differ from one another in terms of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability and health, religion, age, socio-economic background and more. The Strategic Plan emphasises that Leiden University wants to be an open community where all students and staff feel at home. To allow diversity to flourish, our University has to be truly inclusive. Leiden University has a societal responsibility to create a learning and working environment in which everyone can develop their talents to their full potential. An essential condition for achieving excellent academic education and research is an inclusive academic community.

Diversity, inclusion, intersectionality

Diversity is about how our student and staff population bring different experiences, ideas and perspectives with them. The University aims to reflect the diversity of Dutch society, including in areas such as ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability and health, religion, age and socio-economic background.

Inclusion shifts the focus from the individual and the representation of specific groups to the institution and the culture of the learning and working environment. Specifically, inclusion means not just being diverse, but giving equal opportunities to everyone and ensuring everyone feels at home, regardless of their background. This, with a climate where inclusion is the norm, is a basic requirement for success. An inclusive university is a learning and working environment where everyone can fully develop their talents and is supported by the institutions, staff and students in doing so.

Gender has been a central focus of Leiden University’s diversity policy from the beginning.

At the same time, we recognise that our identities and experiences are composed of multiple dimensions, requiring an intersectional approach. To promote gender equality, we need to take into account the intersections between, inter alia, gender, social class, ethnicity and race, sexual orientation, and health and ability. Gender equality can only be successfully promoted if the diversity of gender identities (including non-binary and transgender identities) and their intersectionality is addressed.

Leiden University’s diversity policy therefore does not exclusively focus on gender but promotes gender equality as part of an integrated and intersectional approach which fosters diversity, equity and inclusion for all staff and students.

Key goals

The D&I Work Plan sets out and implements the University’s D&I policy in the long term. Specific policy areas are concretised and given shape in form of a range of activities and projects on the central as well as faculty level.

The key goals of the D&I policy are:

  • Students: to increase diversity, including ethnic diversity, in the student intake and promote successful study completion, particularly in students with a migration background.
  • Education and learning environment: to promote an inclusive learning environment through inclusive curricula, lectures and pedagogy.
  • Staff: to promote diversity (in the areas of gender, LHBTQI+, disability and ethnic and cultural diversity) among staff members in all positions. To promote diversity expertise and inclusive leadership among all staff members.
  • Research: to promote diversity of applicants and an inclusive approach to research.
  • Learning and working environment: to promote an accessible and inclusive learning and working environment, with attention to inclusion in University publications and events.
  • To promote social safety and inclusion and to combat racism in the learning and working environment.

An integrated approach

Promoting an inclusive learning and working community where everyone can fully develop their talents requires an integrated approach. As stated in the D&I Work Plan, our approach is defined by the following elements:

  • Promotion of knowledge and understanding of the various themes that touch on D&I. Integrating D&I expertise in key roles and facilitating the development of expertise in administrators, staff and teaching staff are important principles for promoting an inclusive learning and working environment.
  • The creation of structures that provide clear frameworks for consciously promoting diversity and inclusion in the form of guidelines, agreements and procedures designed to safeguard diversity and inclusion, and promote positive change.
  • Cultural change. This requires a change in perspectives and behaviour. Reflection, dialogue and collaboration are key components of initiating and supporting concrete change that fosters diversity and inclusion as part of our institutional culture.
  • Permanent integration. This ensures that the D&I policy is firmly anchored within the organisation. This entails both capacity and expertise in key roles at different levels of the organisation. In addition to committed administrators, experts and policy officers, and staff and student networks in the area of D&I, there must be staff members at the faculty, department and institute level who can facilitate and promote policy and its implementation.


Governance, resources and community

Executive Board and Administration and Central Services

Diversity and inclusion is in the portfolio of Annetje Ottow, President of Leiden University. Aya Ezawa, the Diversity Officer at Leiden University, supports and facilitates the implementation of the University’s diversity policy and offers advice, expertise and tools to faculties, expert centres, directorates and other groups and units within the University to enable an active contribution to diversity and inclusion at all levels. The Diversity Officer works in close collaboration with Human Resources, Safety and Security, Student and Educational Affairs, Strategy and Academic Affairs, Strategic Communication and Marketing, as well as Real Estate in shaping and implementing University policy. Each year, the Executive Board assesses the progress of the University’s diversity and inclusion policy in a meeting with the Board of Deans. Progress at the faculty level is discussed in the annual assessments of the faculties.

The Diversity and Inclusion Expertise Office

The Diversity and Inclusion Expertise Office is part of the Strategy and Academic Affairs Directorate, and consists of the Diversity Officer, a D&I project officer, a D&I policy adviser and a student assistant. The D&I Expertise Office has funding for these positions, as well as a budget to fund temporary and incidental projects.

The D&I Expertise Office has a website which provides information on University policy, D&I activities, networks and resources. It also has an active Instagram page and newsletter and publishes regular columns on the Leiden Inclusion Blog; D&I related news regularly features in the University news. The goal of these activities is to share knowledge, raise awareness and make diversity and inclusion part of the everyday life and culture of the University community.

Diversity and inclusion student and staff networks

A number of student and staff networks are dedicated to diversity and inclusion, and have been recognised and endorsed by the Executive Board. The D&I Expertise Office financially supports the activities of student and staff diversity and inclusion networks. Their activities, which include lectures, readings groups and other events, contribute to community building, offer safe spaces, foster awareness and together contribute to an inclusive learning and working environment.

D&I policy at the faculty level

The faculties, service units and directorates formulate their own D&I plans, based on the D&I Work Plan and in cooperation with the D&I Expertise Office. These plans translate the described goals to the respective unit, creating the flexibility to respond to the specific needs and dynamics of that unit.

As recommended in the D&I Work Plan, several faculties have hired a faculty D&I coordinator, who shapes and promotes diversity and inclusion policy and initiatives at the faculty level. In addition, HR advisors and educational policy advisors play an important role in concretising goals in the area of staff, students and education. This is an integral part of their work. The Faculties of Behavioural and Social Sciences, Humanities, and Governance and Global Affairs also have ‘POPcorners’ where a coordinator and student advisor provide workshops, advice and community for, in particular, but not exclusively, first year students with a migrant background and first-generation students.

The faculties have also been asked to create D&I feedback groups or committees at the faculty and institute level, which can advise on diversity and inclusion, and can become an important contact point for staff and students in the area of diversity and inclusion.


Monitoring, training and capacity building


Monitoring and data

In order to promote a better gender balance in top positions, the Executive Board and the Board of Deans have made concrete agreements concerning the appointment of female professors. The University also sets itself specific targets on the proportion of full professors that are female. Progress here is monitored in form of the annual report Personeel in cijfers (Personnel in Numbers), which contains information about the gender diversity of staff and full professors, and the nationality of staff. The Quickscan benoemingen hoogleraren (Quick Scan of Professorial Appointments) provides information on the diversity of appointment committees and the appointment procedure for professors. By measuring the gender balance in professors as well as monitoring appointment procedures, the faculties have become more aware of the gender balance in their academic staff as a whole. We also monitor the gender pay gap among academic staff.

Training and capacity building

Leiden University provides a number of D&I training programmes to its staff and students. Diversity and inclusion are also integral to other training programmes, such as the Academic Leadership programme for newly appointed directors and administrators. A diversity and inclusion module is also offered as part of the University Teaching Qualification (UTQ) course. To ensure such training reaches a broad audience and secures management commitment, units at the University are encouraged to follow the Implicit Bias training (i.e. as units rather than individuals). This includes directors, chairs and managers, who take the lead in organising this training. Diversity and inclusion training programmes, with the exception of the UTQ module (which is in most cases funded by the institute) are provided to staff free of charge. The current training menu includes:

Work-life balance

A number of measures are in place to support the work-life balance of all staff, in particular those with care responsibilities:

  • The Terms of Employment Individual Choices Model provides staff with options to increase or reduce their working hours and to buy or sell leave hours.
  • The University offers different types of leave for parents and carers: maternity leave, adoption leave, birth leave, parental leave and carer’s leave. Information is available to pregnant employees and their partners about available leave and services.
  • All faculty buildings have nursing rooms for staff.
  • The University day care centre provides day care for the children of students and staff.

In addition, the University also recognises that the staff workload must be manageable. Workplace stress at universities is a national phenomenon. To this end, Leiden University has an Action Plan to reduce the staff workplace stress and increase staff awareness of local tools and policies to reduce stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Gender and leadership

Our Executive Board serves as an important role model for diversity and leadership, in terms of not only its gender composition (two of the three members are female, the Board of Governors has three female and two male members), but also its commitment to diversity and inclusion.

At the inauguration of the new Executive Board, two female scientists were honoured with statues in the University’s historic building, thus increasing the visibility and impact of female scientists within our University community.

Gender equality in recruitment and promotion

Recruitment and promotion procedures play an important role in achieving our goals to ensure gender balance and achieve a more diverse staff.

The Academic Leadership training, which newly appointed directors and administrators follow, includes a diversity module. The Implicit Bias Training programme, which is currently being rolled out, aims to increase awareness of bias in not only selection procedures, but also supervision and promotion.

An HR Toolkit provides staff with guidelines and information about how to attract and reach diverse candidates, and how to ensure equal opportunities in the recruitment procedure.

The PhD regulations require gender balance in PhD committees. The regulations use gender-inclusive language to accommodate all gender identities.

Knowledge production and education

Diversity also plays an important role in our education:

  • Diversity and internationalisation are among the eight ambitions of the University’s Vision on Teaching and Learning, and fostering diversity and inclusion is an integral part of our educational programmes and courses.
  • The degree programmes report annually on their activities in the area of diversity and inclusion.
  • Lecturers have the opportunity to follow an inclusive educational module as part of their teaching training.
  • The Leiden Empowerment Fund provides grants to first-generation scholars, men and women alike.

Safety, security and gender-related violence including sexual harassment

Codes of conduct and complaints

The University’s various codes of conduct underscore that discrimination, intimidation and other inappropriate behaviour is unacceptable, including on the basis of gender and sexual orientation. The University has a policy framework on intimidation, aggression, violence and discrimination, and associated complaints committees and regulations.

If students and staff experience discrimination, intimidation or other inappropriate behaviour, they may seek support from the University (see below) and/or lodge a formal complaint. If they feel that gender issues are involved in formal decisions, such as recruitment or working arrangements, they may also address any complaints to the Appeals and Objections Committee. This is part of a broader suite of complaints committees at the University.

Sociopsychological safety

The University commits resources to sociopsychological safety as a priority in order to ensure it is a safe space for all students and staff where everyone is treated equally. This includes providing a network of confidential counsellors who can help students and staff deal with problems that arise in their work or study environment. This includes two dedicated confidential counsellors for unacceptable behaviour, two confidential counsellors for personnel affairs who are qualified to deal with issues with a gender-dimension and an ombudsperson for students.

The University has also created the role of ombudsperson for the working environment. This ombudsperson investigates systemic problems in the working environment and makes recommendations on how to improve the working culture.


D&I Work Plan

A full overview of the University’s ambitions and activities in the area of D&I can be found in the D&I Work Plan and the updates from the D&I Expertise Office.

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