News & Events

Cosmopolis Lunch Seminar with Nellie Konijnendijk (HR advisor equality VUB): The role of bias in excellence

27 February 2020 , Geography Dept. - Room F 4.66- (VUB - Pleinlaan 2, BE-1050 Brussels, Building F) from 12.00h to 13.30h

Excellence is a word that comes back in almost every job application, project proposal and funding opportunity for academic research. Often it is presumed we all know exactly what we mean when this word is dropped and that we all define and measure it the same way, but the ways excellence is defined and measured varies greatly among the scientific community. Yet, it can affect who gets money, who gets opportunities, who gets promoted. In recent years we have seen an increase in research papers on how indicators of excellence can be highly flawed and impacted by bias. In this presentation we will go through the different ways bias can affect the scientific career, discuss the ways it impacts certain groups and the scientific work itself and the ways we can (re) define excellence in ways that it makes our judgement more objective and enhances meritocracy at the university.

Bio speaker:

Nellie Konijnendijk started her career at the University of Amsterdam. After studying biology she designed and taught courses for developing academic skills at her own faculty and then moved to Leuven to pursuit a PhD in evolutionary biology. During her PhD-project she realised a lot of her female colleagues were struggling to get recognised for their accomplishments and that women working in academics are faced with many hurdles. She became active in the organisation Women & University at the KU Leuven. She coordinated this organisation for three years together with Anya Topolski and brought forward policy proposals to decrease the effects of implicit bias and ways to support young parents in academia.  In 2016 Anya and Nellie wrote a book chapter about sexism in academia for the Dutch book #Seksime, Nee we overdrijven niet!  She then moved to Technopolis where she led the education and outreach team, hoping to inspire many young girls and boys to move into science. In 2018 the KU Leuven asked her to come back to find ways to improve the gender balance within the Science & Technology faculties. There she collaborated with the Flemish young academy (de jonge academie) on the gender campaign( focused on implicit bias), gave lectures and workshops to decrease bias in recruiting and identified problems that have an impact on evaluations and promotions. In 2019 Nellie started at the VUB. As an HR advisor in equality she implements the equality action plan and advices on policies that safeguard equal opportunities for employees at the VUB and promote a safe and inclusive work environment.