14 Aug 2020

EWM Netherlands 2018-2020

Policy projects

Policy recommendations for fostering a gender-balanced university

The Dutch association of female professional mathematicians, EWM The Netherlands, submitted a document to the Rectoren College der Nederlandse rectores magnifici. The document was sent out to the Council of Provostson on 5th July 2018.

EWM-NL has observed that some best practices among Dutch universities regarding gender diversity are not shared among all universities. A prominent example is the contract duration of tenure-trackers with respect to pregnancy, wherein some universities an extension beyond the 4-year mark is possible in such a case, and in others, this is considered against the Dutch law.

To compile the document, EWM-NL visited all Dutch universities that have a mathematics department in the 2017–2018 academic year and initiated discussions regarding gender diversity with all faculty members. This procedure let to a plethora of statements. We gathered a few of these thoughts/observations in a two-page document, which we hope will serve as food for thought for the Council of Provosts so as to harmonize to some extent the efforts in increasing diversity in Dutch academia.

EWM-NL secured the endorsement of the document by various relevant organizations, such as the Wiskunderaad, PWN, KWG, LNVH, DEWIS (TUD), FFNT (UT), and WISE (TU/e). We are grateful for the support.

Targeted promotion of open mathematics positions

The European Women in Mathematics Association has created a website posting openings and adopt-in mailing lists among its members (spanning all of Europe). In September 2018, the Dutch branch of the association, EWM-NL, has brought this resource to the attention of all Directors of mathematics institutes and capacity groups in the country, as well as all EWM-NL representatives, via direct correspondence, our newsletter, and an announcement during our annual event. Openings can be submitted via https://www.europeanwomeninmaths.org/ewm-news/job-offers/.

Many departments in the country wish to make a concentrated effort for diversity (in the fronts of, e.g. gender, nationality, seniority) and targeted advertisements have been proven to be an effective tool to increasing the diversity of the candidate pool. Any position open to mathematicians is eligible and not only fellowships or positions targeted specifically to women.

The procedure is simple, free of any costs or time limitations for the advertisement. Any individual can complete it without the need for registration or other hurdles. Moreover, it is single-step, meaning that a job opening submitted in this way appears both online at the EWM website and is forwarded per email to female mathematicians who have opted in. The list is moderated, and thus free of spam.

EWM-NL urged the Directors to consider instructing HR departments to use this resource by default. In addition, EWM-NL personally contacted individuals posting job openings in national lists to remind them of this targeted resource. With this effort, EWM-NL hopes to contribute both to increasing the diversity of mathematicians in the country and to helping departments identify more high-quality candidates.

Promoting diversity through NWO structures

EWM-NL established contacts in November 2017 with Astrid Zuurbier, senior policy manager within NWO tasked with the diversity policy in the domain of exact and natural sciences. As a follow up on our actions to approach all mathematics departments in the country with policy suggestions on diversity and all provosts separately on the same topic, EWM-NL also wishes to engage in a discussion with NWO to exchange ideas. The first meeting with this purpose took place at CWI, Amsterdam on 12 June 2018 with the presence of Maria Vlasiou, Astrid Zuurbier, Sera Markoff(UvA), and Maureen van den Berg (NWO).
EWM-NL shared with NWO the efforts we have made with universities and departments and also a list of action points that EWM-NL believes could be interesting for NWO. This list was compiled in2017 and used resources both pertaining to published documents on best practices within the EU and to experiences exchanged with researchers in The Netherlands. NWO shared their first thoughts on actions, their current programs and the new NWO structure on the topic.
EWM-NL will continue being in contact with NWO throughout 2019 and wishes to make the monitoring of the implementation of diversity policy in departments, universities and NWO one of the focal topics of 2019, as it is a natural follow-up of the 2018 action of inviting these players to think about the value of implementing our concrete suggestions.

Activities in 2018

Annual Meeting

Our Annual Meeting took place on 20th September 2018 in Delft. The theme was “PositiveDiscrimination: Advantages and Drawbacks”. Our main speakers were Peter van den Besselaar and Han Entzinger. The two talks were followed by an LNVH monitor presentation by Maria Vlasiou and a panel discussion featuring: Ana Ros Camacho, Arjen Doelman, and Monique van der Veen. It was a very successful afternoon.
The annual event was attended by ca. 30-40 coming from the whole Netherlands. The expenses for the rental of the room and catering were about 1448 Euros which were sponsored by EDIT–the diversity and inclusion team of the TU Delft EEMCS faculty.
The first speaker was Han Entzinger, professor emeritus of migration and integration at EUR. Hegave a talk about principles of equality, gave examples to stimulate equality, and what are the consequences. According to Entzinger measures to increase diversity and equality can be quotas, targeted hiring, obligatory reports about the distribution of men and women of employers, and policies for a good work-life balance. In his opinion, the most effective measure is a quota target. Hegave examples were quotas were implemented and yielded an increase of 20% to 40 % of females in leading positions in France.
Professor Peter van den Besselaarof the VU spoke about the vicious circle of gender bias, specifically in ERC grant applications. He observed panel discussions and decisions in ERC and NWO grant applications. For example, grant applications of highly qualified women were judged as “not bad” and of the same male counterpart as “very good”. The time pressure of panel members is very high so a bias training is often not realizable hence members decide often according to a gut feeling. What seems to help to prevent bias is a critical mass of female panel members. What was remarkable according to van den Besselaar that too many female panel members had the opposite effect leading to the “queen bee effect”.
Organizational notes:
We had some difficulties with securing other panelists. This took great time and effort. Retrospectively we had not needed any. There was a lively discussion anyways.


The EWM-NL 2018 workshop took place on 29th November and was organized by Sanne Willems andRosa Winter in Leiden. The topic was: “Show your worth–bluff without a blush”. There were 10mathematicians in total, some from Leiden, some from elsewhere. The workshop was very interesting and half of the participants stayed for drinks. Based on the evaluation by the participants after the event, was very successful and fun.

NMC 2018 and preparations for 2019

We had a session at the NMC 2018. This session was during the lunch break: the downside of this arrangement was that people had a shorter break when attending our session; however, the upside was that we did not compete with other sessions and that it helped put the session in the final program. We had three panelists, from different areas within mathematics and at different stages of their careers. They were also interviewed about their research and experiences as female mathematicians. Maria Vlasiou chaired the session, which was dynamic and interactive with the audience. The questions asked to the panelists were diverse in nature and the panelists had different perspectives, which resulted in a rich and fruitful session. These impressions we reconfirmed afterward by the questionnaire sent to all NMC participants, which asked explicitly a question about the EMW-NL session.
For the 2019 session, Vivi Rottschäfer is on the NMC organizing committee and will help us secure a slot for a similar EWM-NL session.

Photo exhibition “Women of Mathematics throughout Europe – A Gallery of Portraits”

The exhibition “Women of Mathematics Throughout Europe, a gallery of portraits” presents the photographic portraits of thirteen female mathematicians from all around Europe, who share their experiences as mathematicians. EWM The Netherlands decided in 2017 to support the touring of this exhibition through mathematics departments in the Netherlands.

We have printed our own copy of the exhibit in the form of banners, together with our logos and the logos of our sponsors, that we plan to lend to mathematics department across the country, and to other possibly interested associations. EWM-NL facilitated the exposition of the exhibition in two locations in 2017 (Utrecht, Twente) and another one in 2018 (TU/e), while the second location in 2018was deferred to Spring 2019.

In 2018, the TU/e opening of the exhibition happened with a public outreach event. The event, “Celebrating Mathematics” took place on 27 August 2018 and comprised talks that showcase the communication of mathematics, the popularisation of mathematics, and the impact of mathematics. The invited speakers were Prof. Nelly Litvak, Prof. Frank Thuijsman, Dr. Tom Verhoeff, and Prof.Ionica Smeets. The abstracts and presentations can be found on our website: http://www.ewmnetherlands.nl/celebrating-mathematics/. The afternoon closed with a reception opening the exhibition. In total 90 participants registered for the event, which was co-organized and co-sponsored by the Mathematics and Computer Science department of TU/e. The exhibition was displayed in the main building of TU/e for a month, until 30 September 2018.

EWM-NL will focus on having this photo exhibition displayed in another two locations in 2019.

Grant scheme

This year we started a grant scheme to support female mathematicians in their careers. We had five applications, of which we honored three. We evaluated each proposal on the following merits: “will the funding enhance the applicant’s career”, and “could the activity have been funded otherwise”.

The three awarded grants went to:

  • Wioletta Ruszel for childcare during travel and invited collaboration with Loren Coquille.
  • Sarah Graaffor travel to SIAM Conference on Applied Linear Algebra in Hong Kong.
  • Marta Maggioni for travel to a female mathematics camp in Kenya.

Promo materials

This year we ordered new flyers, and new Dopper bottles (as gifts for invited speakers and volunteers).

Mentor program

The mentor program of EWM-NL has been running since 2015. In 2017, NWO passed the administration of the program to EWM-NL under the leadership of Birgit Sollie. After Sollie’s term on the EWM-NL executive board, the administration of the program passed to Maria Vlasiou. In 2018,the program had very few (eligible) requests. Requests from men or non-mathematicians are not considered eligible. A first change implemented in 2018 has been that rather than appointing a mentor to a mentee, all mentors are approached for each case and asked if they wish to volunteer. This has shown that the pool of available mentors is rather reluctant to accept mentees. As a result of this observation, the actions planned for 2019 regarding the mentor program are to re-confirm the interest of the registered mentors personally, to solicit new volunteers as mentors, to monitor closely the running of past and current mentor-mentee relationships, and to evaluate if the demand for mentoring justifies the existence of the program and the associated administrative burden.

Activities in 2019

NMC session

The NMC was held in Veldhoven on April 23-24. Unlike the previous year, EWM-NL was granted a parallel session where we invited 4 panelists that contributed to talks at the event itself. The session was less well attended in comparison to 2018 due to the different parallel activities. About 30 participants attended, which allowed for a more informal style of communication and discussions. Olfa Jaibi hosted the session, preceded by a short presentation by Maria Vlasiou about the goals and activities of EWM-NL in 2018 and 2019. The attendees as well as the participants in the panel discussion found the session to be a fruitful encounter with fellow mathematicians.

Photo exhibition at Maastricht University

The exhibition Women of Mathematics throughout Europe was hosted by Maastricht University, on loan by EWM-NL. The exhibition, which has been traveling the world since 2016, portrays thirteen female mathematicians working at various European research institutions. The project explores their experiences, their drive, and their love for mathematics. The extended exhibition shown in Maastricht featured two extra portraits of some of UM’s women in mathematics. In addition, artist Jules Sinsel installed a custom-made, math-inspired 3D art object for the occasion.

Photo exhibition at Radboud University

The exhibit “Women in Mathematics, a Gallery of Portraits” was displayed at Radboud University in Nijmegen, for about four weeks. The opening took place on May 24th, 2019, during the Diversity Day organized at the Faculty of Science.

Photo exhibition at Leiden University

The exhibit “Women in Mathematics, a Gallery of Portraits” was displayed at the international bi-annual conference Equadiff in the Hooglandse Kerk, one of the monuments of the city. The conference gathered more than 550 mathematicians from around the world. The portraits were exposed during the whole week and praised by the organization as well as the participants.


In May, we hosted a workshop on Persuasion and Influencing. The trainer was from Centralis. The location was CWI who sponsored the use of their room and the drinks. The 10 participants were spread over all levels of seniority and mainly from CWI.

Annual event

The annual event took place on November 27 at CWI in Amsterdam. This year’s theme was “understanding and fixing the leaky pipeline”, a metaphor for the lack of women at senior levels of academia. The program started with an overview of EWM-NL’s activities by Maria Vlasiou, followed by the first main speaker: Dr. Erin Hengel from the University of Liverpool. She talked about her research on gender bias in publishing. Our second main speaker was Prof.dr. Gunter Cornelissen, former head of the department of mathematics in Utrecht. He spoke about concrete measures one can take to fix the leaky pipeline, to create a more diverse organization. Dr. Barbara van der Berg from the University of Utrecht gave a short presentation on a project they just started to find out why fewer girls than boys choose to study maths.

Following the talks, there was a panel discussion led by Sophie Huiberts. The annual event was visited by ca. 30-40 persons.

Mentor program

Some changes in the mentor program have been implemented in 2019. First, all mentors in the existing pool were asked to re-confirm their interest in mentoring (all but one did), and new mentors were recruited via the monthly EWM-NL newsletters, resulting in two new volunteers for our mentor pool. When someone registers as a mentee, the new process is as follows. An anonymized mail with the details and requests of the mentee is sent to all available mentors in the pool, asking for volunteers. If more than one of them is willing to mentor this person, the mentee is presented with their profiles and can make a choice, after which the mentee and mentor are put in contact with each other. Two new mentor-mentee pairs are formed in 2019.

European Girls Mathematics Olympiad 2020

In 2020 the Netherlands will be hosting the European Girls Mathematical Olympiad (EGMO) in Egmond aan Zee. The EGMO was founded in 2012 and is a competition similar to the International Mathematical Olympiad. More than fifty countries send their best female high school students to test their problem-solving skills. Two consecutive mornings these students get to tackle three hard problems each. The goal of the EGMO is to decrease the gender gap in mathematics competitions by giving more female students the opportunity to participate on an international level and meet other talented girls.

EWM will support and collaborate with EGMO2020 in various forms:

  • We will showcase the Exhibit “Women in Mathematics, a Gallery of Portraits” at the EGMO location during the duration of the event.
  • We will award the first Dutch girl in the final ranking a two-week trip to a mathematical institute in the country, including a guardian.
  • Some of our board members and affiliated members will help on the field serving as coordinators/translators.

Sponsoring Benelux Olympiad

The 11th Benelux Mathematical Olympiad was held in Valkenswaard in April 2019. After communicating with the local organizers of the Olympiad, EWM-NL supported the event by sponsoring a small prize for the best 2 girls of the competition. The prize comprised a book about solving mathematical problems by Terence Tao, a personal message, and EWM-NL memorabilia. This year’s winners of the EWM-NL prizes were Marie Peeters (BEL) with an impressive score of 26/28 points and a gold medal. The second prize was awarded to Angelina Kysil (LUX) with a bronze medal and 9/28 points, including a perfect score in one assignment. More details about their performance can be found here: http://www.bxmo.nl/problems-results/index.html.

Sponsoring national mathematics Olympiad

This year, EWM-NL also supported the Dutch national mathematics Olympiad by sponsoring a small prize for the best girl of each class. The award ceremony took place in November. The prize comprised a book on mathematics chosen by the winner, a personal message, and EWM-NL memorabilia. This year’s winners of the EWM-NL prizes were the Anke de Haan from Deventer (4th class), Samantha Li from Eindhoven (5th class) and Lisa van Barneveld (6th class).

Campaign of women in STEM

In January, EWM-NL was approached by the MEDIAPLANET PUBLISHING HOUSE B.V. with the request to support and contribute in the campaign “Women in STEM” that they wished to launch at the end of March. EWM-NL responded to the call and gathered material from its members. About 20 members contributed. The publisher let us know early in March that they postponed their campaign. EWM-NL asked for new permissions from the contributors to use their material in our own social media and newsletter.

Contacts with CWM

EWM-NL and CWM have coordinated their activities with respect to keeping their members informed about international activities. The newsletter of EWM-NL is also linked at the IMU’s Committee for Women in Mathematics, and CWM news is regularly distributed among our own members through our newsletter.

Number of women in mathematics

EWM-NL asked the mathematics departments and institutes to share voluntarily their personnel numbers categorized by rank and gender. From the 12 organizations asked, seven provided the information requested, two refused to do so, and four gave no answer. The aggregated data from those seven departments are as follows:

AggregatedNumber womenNumber menFte womenFte men% number women% fte women
PhD candidates5819120.6874.70.2329320.216817
Ass. Prof. (including TT)26861341.710.2321430.237617
Assoc. Prof.7683.8280.0933330.119497
Prof. (including bijzondere, NOP, etc)11805.2140.570.1208790.113805
% women in all ranks0.2046590.196691
Note: fte numbers include only 4 departments that provided this information

Women in the spotlight

The Nieuw Archief voor Wiskunde has agreed to host a new column about women in mathematics, curated by Clara Stegehuis and Francesca Arici. The format will consist of a brief portrait of a woman mathematician active in the country, followed by a more technical article about her research direction.

New board members

In January 2019, Rianne de Heide joined the executive board. In April 2019, Anna Kruseman and Wioletta Ruszel left the board, and Francesca Arici (re)joined the board. At the end of 2019, the board consisted of Maria Vlasiou, Olfa Jaïbi, Francesca Arici, and Rianne de Heide.


Continuing the grant scheme initiated in 2018, we have awarded two grants to the following applicants:

  • Julia Komjathy (TU/E) for covering the flight costs of her two children, in order to allow her and her husband to give talks in the Stochastics Seminar at the University of Bristol and to the Probability Seminar at the University of Bath.
  • Francesca Arici (LU) for the design costs of a website for the newly established network Women In Operator Theory and Operator Algebras, Benelux.