Kennis en inspiratie

NWO: An unconscious preference for male leadership?

NWO logoEven if diversity is an important theme within an organization, unconscious preferences for male leadership can play a role. About 100 employees of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) became more aware of this during a mindbug workshop by Esther Mollema of Direction. “

Although we strive for diversity, our mindbugs may hold us back.” That was the conclusion of Anneke Zijlstra, P&O policy advisor at NWO, after she attended the mindbugs workshop. Her employer is one of the largest science financiers in the Netherlands, but there are not many women at the top of that organization. That is why NWO has set target figures in the field of women’s policy. In 2015, the organization wants 16 to 28 percent in the scales 15 and above to be women. In scales 11 and 12 it must be more than 33 percent. “We have made policy to achieve that, but awareness is also important,” says Zijlstra. “We know that quality is related to diversity.”

Harvard approved

On International Women’s Day, the general director of NWO spoke about the state of affairs: how much progress has NWO made? Esther Mollema was invited to come and tell the audience about Mindbugs.

“Anyone who wanted to could take a mindbug test in advance, which was approved by Harvard,” says Zijlstra. “Of course, as an organization from the world of science, we thought that was important.” The test, Esther said, showed that the vast majority had a preference for male leadership. “For example, we had to link pictures to words. When I filled it in, I noticed that when I say director I rather think of a man, and that I unconsciously link women to the lower positions in an organization, “says Zijlstra.


“I became aware of the role of stereotypes and judgments about men and women in decision-making. And that while diversity is so important: female characteristics can also help an organization further. “The video that makes it clear what the power of Mindbugs is with regard to male leadership, made a big impression. “Without wanting to betray everything, you see what you want to see and you don’t see everything, were some final conclusions.” Mindbugs in women too Zijlstra knows after this presentation that women also have Mindbugs. “I too, while I am very regularly involved with diversity,” says Zijlstra. “I now know that many people, including myself, also have an unconscious preference for male leadership. It is important that you are aware of those Mindbugs, because only then can you correct yourself. “

Esther Mollema about an unconscious preference for male leadership at NWO

Direction is very active at all kinds of universities that are striving for more female professors. The NWO is very important in this academic setting because a lot of the money for research is distributed there. And unfortunately, research by NWO shows that male scientists receive more research funding than female scientists. The NWO itself also finds this undesirable. Internally at NWO, the advancement of women can also really improve. The willingness to look at the gender mind bugs that live at NWO is an excellent step that will help the organization and ultimately the academic world too. It always takes some courage to see if you really choose the best one or if mind bugs are getting in your way. NWO has shown that courage without hesitation.

Want to know more?

Would you like to know more about the possibilities to make diversity a real success? Please contact Robert Smit, phone 06-54253643.

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