Equal opportunities and gender : policy at ULiège


Since 2019, ULiège has been committed to the fight against discrimination [1]. In addition to complying with the legal obligations imposed on all institutions, the universities also have a social responsibility in this respect: that of promoting, through the teaching and research for which they are responsible, the cultural changes that are essential to the democratic equality targeted by our legislation.

 

Various actions have been undertaken, such as the support seminar for new supervisors, the inclusive writing guide, the increase in the representation of women in decision-making committees, the double lists for honorary doctorates, the granting of incentive scholarships in fields where women are under-represented, the institutionalisation of distance work, the #RESPECT campaign and the monitoring of statistics.

Promoting such changes means changing the university itself, making it a more open and inclusive place to work and live; betting that the diversity of people is an asset to teaching, research and knowledge itself. This challenge concerns all forms of discrimination: even today, sex and gender, sexuality, race, language, disability, religion, and even physical appearance - and often a combination of these - are still limiting factors, whether in students' careers, in access to the world of research or to academic careers.

As far as professional equality between women and men at the University is concerned, in 2020, women are still in the minority at all levels of the academic career: 28.5% lecturers, 29% professors, 24% ordinary professors. Women are also in the minority in decision-making committees, although there has been an increase since 2019. 

Professional equality between women and men in universities is an issue of justice that calls for the equalisation of opportunities in a selective and meritocratic system based on evaluation. Ensuring equal opportunities is also a matter of institutional efficiency, as it increases the chances of finding the person who really fits the profile expected.

But professional equality also concerns the quality of scientific research, because knowledge itself is not free of so-called 'gender bias'. The history of science shows that when gender issues are explicitly posed and confronted - which is mainly due to the women who were able to enter the university and to those who supported them - knowledge itself evolves. In many fields, and not only in the humanities, women have been able to identify the assumptions, the partial, reductive or erroneous points of view that can affect knowledge when it depends on a gaze that considers itself to be neutral and therefore not inclined to question itself. Multiplying perspectives increases reflexivity, offers opportunities for correction, promotes discovery and invites methodological and epistemological analysis [2].

Affirmative action in recruitment, appointment and promotion is therefore a necessity. It is not just a matter of raising awareness, but of training and equipping the members of the committees concerned, as well as all those involved in the evaluation of research and teaching, on which the recruitment, appointment and promotion processes are ultimately based.

In line with the authorities' Well-being policy, working groups contribute to the improvement of the diversity integration policy and good practices are proposed to the university community.

The implementation of these good practices should contribute to the objective of equality between women and men at ULiège. Although this equality is only one aspect of the fight against discrimination, it can be a major lever for the overall change we want to see. Through their knock-on effect, such tools also make it possible to attack other forms of discrimination that are based on similar mechanisms.

 

Professor Anne-Sophie NYSSEN
Vice-rector in charge of Education and Welfare

 

[1] Institutional commitment validated by the Board of Directors on 3/07/2019.

[2] Countless reference works on this subject: Evelyn Fox Keller, Reflections on Gender and Science, Yale University Press, 1985; Londa Schiebinger, Have Feminism Changed Science?, Harvard University Press, 1999; & Anne-Marie Devreux, Les sciences et le genre, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2016.

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