Universiteit Leiden

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‘Everyone needs to feel that they are equally valued’

Giving all scientists at the Faculty the same opportunities, that’s what assistant professor Emily Strange stands for. As women face different challenges as scientists, RISE (Researchers in Science for Equality) provides a network and support group for women at the Faculty. Two months ago, Strange became one of the four new members of the Junior board. She wants to make the network more visible and see how she can help female scientists at the Faculty.

‘As soon as I started as an assistant professor at CML, I joined RISE as a member. That’s two years ago now. I participated in a lot of workshops and trainings. And most importantly, got to know many other young academic women.  

The network is run by three awesome women. As they are all professors, they are also very busy people. You could see the network was ready to expand and grow, so last year, the idea of a junior board came up.

Understanding the issues

I put myself forward as a candidate and now I’m one of the four members of the new junior board. To be closer to all our scientists and understand what is going on, each of us represents two institutes. In this way we can communicate the topics that RISE works with, on a slightly more personal level.

I represent LION and CML. I really want to understand what issues academic women face there as they can be very different for each institute. When I get a good grip on the problems, I can try to take them to a higher level and then things can be changed. For me, the bottom-up approach works best.

Inclusion, beyond diversity, is the main thing we want to work on within RISE. I’m happy to see that the numbers of male and female students and PhD candidates are quite equal in some institutes. But the higher up you go, the less women you see in those positions. And that’s surely not the only challenge. We want every woman to feel truly included, supported and their ideas valued.

Why RISE is still needed in these times

RISE is not about making a club for ourselves as women. It’s a safe space where people get together and help each other. I think everyone regardless of race, gender and sexuality should feel inspired and supported at work. And everyone should feel equally valued. Maybe not all men see the need for a women’s network but it’s easy to say that there is no problem when you are in the larger part of the pie.

In the past I’ve been in countless situations where I haven’t felt equal. I didn’t always feel like I was taken as seriously as my male counterparts. If you are the minority in the department, or the only woman in the room, it’s not always easy to feel like there is a good space to put your ideas forward. There is also much to learn about the experiences of other women in our faculty, people of different ethnic or cultural backgrounds will have totally different experiences from one another, what can we learn? How can we make our faculty better for everyone?

An enthusiastic newcomer

We can see that the work of RISE has already had a huge influence on how things are discussed and handled. That’s fantastic, and as a newcomer, I’m very keen to see how far we can go and how much we can change.

That starts with letting everyone in the faculty know what RISE is and what we do. As a minority, it’s nice to know that there are others going through the same challenges. It’s great to share ideas and have an open space to talk about it within RISE.’

Researchers in Science for Equality (RISE) is the network for female beta scientists of the Leiden University, Faculty of Science. The mission of RISE is to build an inspiring work environment for female scientists, to stimulate their personal and professional development and advance their careers to top positions in beta sciences. Besides that, RISE will strive to raise awareness of the importance of gender equality in the scientific staff by providing solicited and unsolicited advice to the Faculty Board and Selection and Appointment Committees.

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