23 Oct 2009

I have recently entered the Female Career Development Programme, organised by my employer Erasmus MC. No doubt this programme has been inspired by the fact that only 7% of professors at Erasmus University are female; a percentage that is well below the national average (12%), which in turn is very low in comparison to the European average (19%). As the Netherlands aim for a national average of 25% by 2030, it seems time for drastic measures. The Female Career Development Programme, in my case.

I have to say, I was a bit sceptical about the whole thing. We’ve heard about the glass ceiling far too often already, and talked about it even more. Almost without exception, any meeting I’ve been to about female career development - or the lack thereof - very quickly descends from a reasonable discussion about facts and figures to a bitching session about our men never emptying the dishwasher and scattering dirty socks around the house. Extremely important topics, I agree, but much better discussed over cocktails with my girlfriends on a drunken night out.

So, after having been put forward by my boss, writing a long letter stating my fierce ambitions, and an excruciatingly slow selection procedure, I’m in. I was really dreading the glass ceiling discussion, yet again, and looked at my fellow female fiercely ambitious colleagues with suspicion, expecting a tirade about male nonchalance any moment.

But it was okay actually. We kicked off with a 2-day intensive programme during which we really got to know each other and talked about the many difficulties of combining clinical work with research, and, oh yes, a social life as well. But, no bitching, no complaining, no finger pointing, just practicing those difficult situations over and again to learn to deal with them.

The highlight was the final exercise: we wrote down our aims for the next meeting, and then passed them round to the others. So I ended up with a list of my aims, with lots of sweet and encouraging little notes, tips and comments written around them. Really, however ambitious we are, we still love those lovely little girlie things!