Universiteit Leiden

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More focus on women in academia

For a month long, the Senate Chamber of Leiden University was reserved for portraits of women. The work of art showing a hundred unique portraits of female professors has now been put into storage, but the board of the University is taking measures to promote the image of women in science.

Clear signal

The unique photo exhibition in the Senate Chamber in the Academy Building - an initiative of four female professors who together make up Athena’s Angels ‒ was warmly supported by the many visitors. Rector Carel Stolker commented on the initiative of the four women: 'This was a project set up by Eveline Crone, Naomi Ellemers, Judi Mesman and Ineke Sluiter. I am really enthusiastic about the fantastic result, a clear signal that has been noted, understood and shared by so many people.' 

As the work of art depicting the female professors of the seven faculties was specially made to fit the Senate Chamber, it cannot be displayed in its present form in another building. But the Executive Board intends to apply other means to highlight the presence of the University's female scientists.  

More women in the Senate Chamber

Artists have been working for some time on a number of portraits of retired female professors. Several of these new paintings will be displayed in the present Senate Room, where the only portrait of a female is currently that of Professor Atoniades, Professor of Ancient Greek, who was Leiden's first female professor. The criterion of only displaying portraits of professors who have passed away will be relaxed. 

No longer a male domain

Rector Carel Stolker: 'I have asked our University historian Willem Otterspeer to reconsider the criteria for adding a portrait of a professor to the venerated location of the Senate Chamber. The number of women professors in Leiden, at 23 per cent, may not be an accurate reflection of society, but that number is growing: the University is no longer a male domain. That's something we not only want to but also have to show. Particularly with a view to the ambitions of young women who want to feel they belong here, the image we portray of women will be stimulating for their studies and their career.' 

Women in prominent places

The University is also going to have the portrait photos from the Senate Chamber re-printed so that they can be displayed in prominent places in the faculties and the central buildings. It is an idea that was put forward by the Angels, with whom the Rector reviewed the project. The women professors may also use their photo portraits for their personal homepage.  

More space on the University website will be devoted to the careers of female professors. They fulfil an important role in setting an example for students, PhD candidates and other young women in academia, in Stolker's words. 

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