DEWIS is the women’s network of scientists at the TU Delft and our mission is to help TU Delft to attract more women and create an inclusive, safe environment that makes women want to stay, while giving them the opportunity to grow and flourish in their academic careers. Another important goal for DEWIS is to reach a male-female ratio that more accurately reflects society.

22 July 2020

An interview with Ena Voûte, Dean of the faculty of IDE

DEWIS is interviewing academics at TU Delft to talk about diversity at work, women and academic leadership and inclusive, safe working environments. Today’s interview is with Ena Voûte, Professor and Dean of the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering. Making conscious choices as we design our workforce step by step, year by year, will enable us to beat other universities who focus more on ‘me and my CV' Ena Voûte You are one of the few female deans. What could TU Delft do to ensure there are more women in positions such as yours? In addition to the Delft Technology Fellowship, TU Delft could do more to attract top-class women. It's not simply a question of posting a job vacancy and filling the post. It's naive to think that. The process begins far earlier and can take as long as one or two years. You have to show all that TU Delft can achieve, what opportunities there are and what the culture is like. That means maintaining contacts, building relationships and doing a lot more networking. I think we could convey more eagerness in the early stages of the process. The basis is good but we could make more of a song and dance about it. How would you describe an inclusive leadership style? How can you contribute to an inclusive academic culture? I invest an incredible amount of time and attention in getting to know people. I want to know what inspires scientists. I also encourage ‘pockets of energy’: groups of people who want to undertake something together. So my leadership style has a strong focus on collaboration. Of course that is particularly suited to design, where ultimately you can achieve far more together than alone. And when you work together you automatically become more inclusive. The PI model can get in the way of inclusivity as it is about personal depth and niche and it makes diversity a subordinate objective. Of course this should be possible in the academic world, but we also have to show how we can use this fundamental knowledge and generally speaking that requires collaboration in a more diverse team. And this brings about a shift from more individualistic working to more collaboration between a diverse team of scientists. We need both. As an academic leader: Have you experienced discrimination or being treated unequally? And how did you deal with this? No I have had absolutely no trouble with this. How can you help to create more awareness of the existence of implicit bias and how can you help the academic community to acknowledge the existence of discrimination within the institution? In my opinion, discrimination within TU Delft is not intentional but stems more from a lack of awareness and sometimes just clumsiness. For example, about how you often inadvertently look for similar types of people rather than seeking diversity. So we need to talk more about subconscious prejudices we may hold and create more awareness through training people. I certainly experience the top-down efforts to be a diverse and inclusive university. For example, we have the Delft Technology Fellowship, an ombudsman, a Diversity Officer and confidential advisors. But we need to ensure that we widen the discussion even further. There needs to be space to talk about things. I also engage in such conversations. Where necessary I tackle colleagues on the space that is given to others, including women of course. And the same is true for people of a different sexual inclination or cultural background. And now we have the situation with Covid-19. Do we really know how people are affected by this? Is it OK for people to say they can't cope? Or are we busy keeping up appearances? Let us encourage these conversations and talk about how we can be more open to other people. I don't think we should force the issue too much because then we won't get the discussion that we want. Last Christmas I gave everyone in the faculty the book The Culture Map by Erin Meyer. This is all about having a genuine interest in other people, this is something you can learn from and it's fun. Diversity is fun! And it makes us all better people. Sharing a book on this subject makes it much easier to talk about these things. What advice would you give to junior female scientists? Women can make a real substantive contribution. So my advice to women is don't seek out a head-on confrontation, but trust in your own added value. Stay true to yourself and have the courage to show your vulnerability. If there's something that you think you're not good at, talk about it. And emphasise your own qualities and role within a team. Say: ‘Together this makes us stronger.’ Sometimes people stay for a long time in a research group or department and then you get a particular culture. And nothing is so hard to change as a culture. So sometimes I say to women: ‘If you're not happy where you are, find another place where you can be happy.’ In the business community people are continually on the move and that is seen as perfectly normal. In academia it may not always be so easy to change, but my message is still: ‘be sure to stand up for yourself!’ What does your ideal university look like? What will TU Delft be like in 20 years’ time? We shouldn't want to be world champion in everything; we need to make choices. What expertise do we have in-house or do we want to expand further? What themes should we be tackling? What societal problems do we want to solve? Then we can make conscious choices in building up our workforce. We need a mix of people, both excellent scientists who are able to bring in personal grants, and team players who love working in consortia. But also people who want to pick up the teaching role. Making conscious choices as we design our workforce step by step, year by year, will enable us to beat other universities who focus more on ‘me and my CV’. It is important for us to be constantly looking at the right mix of people throughout the university. So by all means continue with the Delft Technology Fellowship. But I can also imagine a ‘Delft Cultural Fellowship’ to encourage cultural diversity. We need to be constantly aware of this and consciously give shape to it.

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Let's Talk Diversity: Coming Out for Who We Are or Who We Want to Be | Aminata Cairo

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