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Gender and Ethnic Diversity Assessment tool wins Synergy Award

Tessa van de Rozenberg and Daudi van Veen won the Synergy Award last month during a yearly conference of the Dutch Research Council (NWO). The PhD - candidates from Leiden University College The Hague won the prize for their idea to develop a diagnostic tool for publishers to examine gender and ethnic representation in schoolbooks.

On 6 February 2020, the Dutch Research Council Domain Social Sciences and Humanities (NWO - SSH) organised the yearly Synergy conference. Tessa van de Rozenberg and Daudi van Veen, both PhD- candidates at Leiden University College The Hague, teamed up and got selected as one of ten teams in a first round. Eventually, the team from Leiden made it to the finals with three other teams from the University of Amsterdam, University of Groningen and Utrecht University competing for the title.

Pitch Training

Four teams were chosen to receive additional pitch training in presentation, as well as practical tips from professionals to realise their idea. During the finals, the idea from Team Leiden was chosen by a jury, consisting of professionals and members from the audience based on the following criteria:

1. Does the idea generate a sense of excitement?

2. Is it clear what the candidates want to do?

3. To what extent can the idea lead to impact?

4. To what extent does the idea correspond with a topical need (in society)?

Tessa van de Rozenberg and Daudi van Veen receiving the Synergy 2020 Award


The development of this diagnostic tool is an extension of earlier research done by Judi Mesman in her chair as Professor of The Interdisciplinary of Societal Challenges. In November last year her research reported on the underrepresentation of women and non-Western characters in secondary school textbooks.

'The diagnostic tool envelops a coding system to closely examine how people in schoolbooks are represented in content, texts and pictures. This allows publishers to discover stereotypical patterns in their school books themselves and act on the outcome.' van Veen explains; 'Research shows that messages in schoolbooks regarding gender and ethnicity influence children's ideas and beliefs'.

Awareness amongst publishers is just a first step', Van de Rozenberg explains; 'in the end we hope that this diagnostic tool becomes superfluous in the future'. Tessa and Daudi received a €2500 grant to bring their idea in practice. Furthermore, the team will present an update and lessons learned during the next Synergy Conference in 2021.

The NWO-SSH Synergy Award is a vibrant competition for PhD students that provides them with opportunuites to learn and exchange with professionals. PhD students are challenged to come up with exciting ideas for impact on society stemming from their PhD work. A selection of candidates gets the opportunity to follow a pitch training and improve their idea in interactive sessions during the Synergy conference. The winner receives 2,500 euros to realise the idea.

Learn more about the proposals of the four finalists of the Synergy Award

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