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Women and girls in science

Today is International Day of Women and Girls in Science. It is still not always easy for women to get into the same positions, to be treated equally and  seriously as men. Elly Hol is professor of glia biology of brain diseases. In her career she has noticed that there are all kinds of obstacles and prejudices and sees this also happen among younger research colleagues.

What needs to be done to change this? For example a women’s quota is regularly discussed.

Elly: “A women's quota can help, but it is much more effective to coach women well. And it is important to provide good role models.”


Should parental leave be equal for men and women to achieve gender equality in research careers?

“This sounds logical, but it mainly gives men an advantage. For example, they may also be eligible for certain grant applications for longer if they have children. But men have not been pregnant, and it is exactly that pregnancy that can have a huge effect on how women function. So you should actually let men feel the effects of a pregnancy.”

What would help to achieve gender equality in life science research according to you?

“Provide good coaching for women who really want to. And also challenge them to really go for it. It is also important that they get a realistic view of what is required of you as a scientist. That is also the case for men. In addition, we must be flexible in how scientists organize their working time with children.”

How do you try to practice that yourself?

“For example, by actively nominating talented women for all kinds of scientific tasks, such as organizing a conference. And I tell them they can do it, that I believe in them!”