University of Groningen Special Diversity Matters

Page 1

International conference

Growing together

Celebrating diversity, fostering inclusion Interview Kimberlé Crenshaw ‘We need intersectionality to understand inequality’

Race and Law Just how just is our justice system?

The Truth about Gender Differences

Science is slowly but surely overthrowing gender stereotypes



University of Groningen, June 2019

6 - 7 June: International Conference

Growing together

Celebrating diversity and fostering inclusion An international scientific conference about diversity and inclusion at the University of Groningen. Academic Council chair Mónica López López describes this versatile subject as follows: Growing refers to the university getting older as well as growing or developing in numbers and in different ways. Growing also evokes how academia cultivates and nurtures new ideas as seeds of innovation. There is power in growing together; it unites us, strengthens our bonds and provides us with a sense of belonging. Togetherness plays a very important role in achieving societal change as well. The verb celebrate was chosen to make a reference to the festive aspect of the anniversary (lustrum celebration), but also accompanies the word diversity to signify that diversity should not merely be tolerated, but should instead be celebrated. Diversity encompasses the dimensions of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, abilities, religious beliefs, amongst other ideologies. For us, diversity means respect, acceptance and celebration of these rich dimensions represented within each person. We also chose to add inclusion as we contend that inclusion is not a natural consequence of diversity but something we should strive for, something we should actively foster.

Programme Thursday 6 June 08:00 - 09:00 09:00 - 09:15 09:15 - 10:00 10:00 - 11:00 11:00 - 11:30 11:30 - 12:30 12:30 - 14:00 14:00 - 15:15 15:15 - 15:45 15:45 - 17:00 20:30 - 22:00

Registration Opening Keynote: Prof. Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, UCLA School of Law & Columbia Law School Keynote: Prof. Philomena Essed, Antioch University Coffee break + posters exhibition Keynote: Prof. Glenn Adams, University of Kansas Lunch break Parallel sessions tracks 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 Coffee break + posters exhibition Parallel sessions tracks 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 Rosalind Franklin Fellowship Celebration Keynote: Kate Zernike

Friday 7 June 09:00 - 09.50 09.50 - 10.40 10.40 - 11:00 11:00 - 11:50 11:50 - 12:40 12:40 - 14:00 14:00 - 15:15 15:15 - 15:45 15:45 - 17:00 17:00 - 18:00 from 18.00

Thursday 6 - Friday 7 June

Academy Building, Broerstraat 5

Keynote: Prof. Jonathan Jansen, University of the Western Cape Keynote: Dr. Saran Stewart, University of West Indies Coffee break + posters exhibition Keynote: Prof. Shose Kessi, University of Cape Town Keynote: Sonya Renee Taylor Lunch break Parallel sessions tracks 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 Coffee break + posters exhibition Parallel sessions tracks 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 Conclusions and commitments Dinner and Party

More information:


Diversity Matters Special



his year, the University of Groningen celebrates its 405th anniversary. The theme of this lustrum is one of undeniable importance: diversity and inclusion. The magazine that you are holding right now is part of the University’s efforts to celebra­ te diversity, to showcase diversity research and to offer insights into the importance of inclusion. We are happy to collaborate with New Scientist to make these stories possible. Can we use the terms inclusion and diversity interchangeably? In this issue, we and other contributing researchers aim to dis­ entangle these concepts and reflect on their meaning for society today. Even though all three authors of this foreword work in different disciplines, we discovered that we all engage with differ­ ent aspects of both concepts. Lucy Avraamidou’s research aims to broaden the diversity of people who participate in, contribute to, and benefit from science, technology, engineering, and mathe­ matics. Mónica López López examines whether the interrelation between family migration background and gender are associated with disparities in child protection systems. Geetha Reddy’s ­research takes an intersectional perspective on identities, racism, migration, and multiculturalism, highlighting power structures that influence the psychology of the individual. The three of us pledge to address challenges, such as the under­ representation of marginalized groups and the lack of commit­

ment to anti-racist, anti-homophobic and anti-transphobic speech and actions, which often arise within the University. We are deter­ mined to follow in the footsteps of many scholars who have fought and continue to fight bravely for the rights and dreams of many marginalized groups around the world. Our goal is to create a truly inclusive place within the University, and indeed within society. In our roles within the scientific committee of the conference that commemorates the University’s 405th anniversary, we are driven to set in motion a University-wide process for creating this space. But what role can researchers play in being inclusive within our institutions and in society? How do we radically transform our educational spaces to address inequality in the access to, and participation within, academia? This magazine issue invites all of us at the University to reflect deeply on what inclusion and diversity mean and how we should engage with these concepts. It is our hope that all scholars will bring meaning to inclusion and diversity in their work, and will critically inform higher education institutions with the will to change such that institutions put diversity and inclusion at the forefront of their daily practice. Geetha Reddy, Lucy Avraamidou and Mónica López López Scientific committee of the 405th anniversary of the University of Groningen

special diversity matters | New Scientist | 3





Interviews 08 Intersectionality American Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw is trying to change our framework of thinking through ‘intersectionality’. 20 Dialogue Social psychologists Geetha Reddy and Nina Hansen on multicultural societies and newcomers.

Features 12 Inside science How are women in the Netherlands doing in science? Facts and figures. 14 Man or woman? Our thoughts on gender roles are outdated. 23 Diversity? Go for it! Diversity in companies leads to higher profits. Three organizations on their experiences. 26 Ethnicity and law The equality principle is not always applied in court. Why is it so tricky to have no prejudices?

4 | New Scientist | special diversity matters


COLOPHON Editor-in-chief Jim Jansen Coordination Ans Hekkenberg Editorial team Jaap Augustinus (picture editor), Yannick Fritschy, Joris Janssen, Wim de Jong (managing editor), Isabelle Pirson, Tamara van ‘t Woud Contributors Lucy Avraamidou, Pepijn Barnard, Bram Belloni, Monique van den Boomen, Linda Duits, Fenna van der Grient, Monique Kitzen (final editor), Dorette Kostwinder (final editor), Aafke Kok, Mónica López, Maaike Putman, Geetha Reddy, Elmer Sterken, Zvezdana Vukojevic Basic design Sanna Terpstra (Twin Media bv) Design Miranda de Groot, Donna van Kessel, (Twin Media bv) and Pascal Tieman Brand manager Thijs van der Post ( Marketing Hannah Jansen Sales manager Alex Sieval ( Production manager Sonja Bon Printer Habo DaCosta bv Distributor Aldipress (NL), AMP (BE) ISSN 2214-7403 The publisher cannot be held liable for any damages resulting from printing and typesetting errors.


COPYRIGHT The logo and other trade marks of New Scientist are the property of Reed Business Information Ltd. No part of this publication may be copied or stored in an automated database without written permission from the publisher. The publisher has tried to assert the copyrights of the illustrations in accordance with the legal provisions. Those who believe that they can assert any rights, can contact the publisher.

08 Interview Kimberlé Crenshaw ‘Organizations should reflect our society, be an honest reflection’

In the spotlight 06 Zoomed in The music industry can easily contribute to more equality and diversity. 17 Inclusive language The way in which we address someone determines whether they feel welcome. 18 Light This is how technical innovations contribute to an inclusive society.

Opinion 34 Linda Duits Few professors are women. Unacceptable in everyone’s opinion. Why then, does nothing change? 35 Column Rector Magnificus Elmer Sterken: willingness is paramount in science.

This publication was produced by New Scientist in collaboration with the University of Groningen.

Columns 30 Culture Lab 9 recommen­ded books on gender differences, racism and inequality. 33 The maker Neuroscientist Gina Rippon dispels the myth that there are differences between male and female brains.

22 Aletta Jacobs The first woman in almost everything. 29 No to racism What can we do to combat racism?

special diversity matters | New Scientist | 5



Tuned in to equality ‘People feel empowered by music; they are emotionally connected to music. Music is therefore a good way of making people aware of important societal issues. It is consequently very important that the music industry in particular considers equality and diversity,’ says Kristin McGee, Associate Professor in Popular Music at the University of Groningen. It cannot be denied that much progress can still be made regarding equality in the music industry. McGee: ‘We see that the music industry, despite being considered progressive, is run by a competitive network that is mainly composed of men. There are also many stereotypes. For example, anything to do with technique and production is generally viewed as something masculine. These ideas are still very powerful. It is important to change them to bring about more equality within this industry.’ In an effort to achieve this, McGee founded the KIEM project (Knowledge and Innovation Mapping of the Creative Industry). In this project, she studies the gender dynamics of the current Dutch music industry. ‘We are trying to find out whether and how women in the Dutch music industry are being disadvantaged. Despite the increasing number of women in the charts, women take up only a fraction of the paid positions behind the scenes. We also organize workshops and symposia to gain an understanding of how we can tackle inequality. For example, by introducing gender quotas for major music festivals. Or by pairing young women who are starting out with women who have already established their position in the music world.’ –IP


‘Always ask: does this approach work for everyone? A woman of colour can experience a different type of discrimination than a man of colour does; a different combination of vulnerabilities often leads to a different experience. Unfortunately, not everybody sees that, claims American Professor of Law, Kimberlé Crenshaw. She is trying to change our framework of thinking through ‘intersectionality’. By Aafke Kok


puzzle: a father and his son were seriously injured in a car accident. The ambulance sped to the hospital. On arrival, the surgeon said: ‘I cannot perform surgery, this is my son.’ What is going on here? Even human rights advocate and Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw (UCLA School of Law, Columbia Law School) had to think for a while when she first heard this, until she figured out that the surgeon in this puzzle was the injured son’s mother. If the facts do not fit within our framework of thinking, we disregard the facts. A female surgeon does not match our standard picture and, therefore, we overlook her. When Crenshaw speaks to large audiences, she sometimes tests them. She reads

8 | New Scientist | special diversity matters

out names one by one. Anyone who does not know the person must sit down. After naming a few names, the entire audience is back in their seats. Crenshaw then explains what these names have in common: they are all names of women of colour who died as a consequence of police brutality. Even people campaigning against police brutality towards people of colour barely know these names, although women of colour are probably a group that is even more vulnerable to the police. And yet we do not see them. It was Crenshaw who introduced the term ‘intersectionality’ to describe these sorts of problems. This term refers to thinking in terms of intersections. At such intersections, different identities come together, which can lead to layered forms of discrimination, such as discrimination based on both gender and on race. ‘Intersectionality is a framework that can help us to find out how different forms of exclusion can happen at the same time,’ says Crenshaw. ‘This coming together

of identities often has effects that people, from employers to activists, do not recognize.’ It is a metaphor to show that ­different forms of exclusion can overlap, which causes new obstacles. Does intersectionality apply to us all?

‘It depends entirely on the context. Intersectionality is not a formula. It is a way of describing circumstances in which you – if you are vulnerable to one form of discrimination – can also feel the impact of a different form of discrimination. You can use it to identify how some burdens or forms of exclusion can be made worse. For example, women can experience discrimination in many different ways. These experiences can have more of an impact on women who are also, for example, immigrants, or who are also disabled. It can happen anywhere. I mainly write, both publicly and privately, about law, conceptualization, representation in the media and violence. But people can experience the

intersecting impact of racism, Islamophobia, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, class ­inequality, etc. anywhere. Every form of inequality has different effects when it overlaps with another form of vulnerability. Intersectionality helps us to see and understand how forms of inequality come together.’ Don’t people see that?

‘Most people think in exclusive categories. You are a woman, or you are a person of ­colour. You are LGBTQ+, or you are an immi­grant. They regard being a woman and being of colour as two mutually exclusive things and perceive that in the same way. I try to fight those assumptions, to show that someone can be multiple things at the same time. That someone can have experiences that reflect precisely all those different categories. We must pursue our understanding of discrimination to the point where we come across aspects that we do not understand. And we must get past those. This ­means not stopping when we encounter an intersecting form of discrimination that we do not understand, or that nobody talks about. In that way, we can ensure that ­equality activism is at its most inclusive.’ Because activists are also not very good at intersectionality?


‘For me, intersectionality started when I tried to understand whether the short-sightedness that I observed regarding the work of feminists and anti-racism activists was also reflected in law. I pleaded earlier for the introduction of diversity in law faculties. Then, I discovered that initiatives to address diversity concerning gender were often not about ethnic diversity, and vice versa. As ­if these two things can only be tackled separately. I came across some disturbing court cases in my research that suggested that courts did not do much better. Like feminists and anti-­ racism activists, courts are not good at anti­ cipating and responding to the unique status of women of colour. The way in which we conceptualize discrimination based on special diversity matters | New Scientist | 9


‘I try to show that an individual can be multiple things at the same time.’  g­ ender, and discrimination based on ethnicity, is in itself part of the problem.’ How can you deal with this as an activist?

‘All women can be subjected to discrimina­ tion. However, viewed from a feminist perspective, women in organizations are represented mainly by white middle-class women, thereby missing many of the effects of sexism. The same is true for racism. If you only look at how men of colour experience racism, you will miss how women experience this. In the same way, initiatives against violence must take into account the various forms of violence. If their help is not broadly based, they will exclude, for example, some women who experience gender-related ­violence. This is just one of thousands of ­examples.’ How are intersectionality and jurisdiction interlinked?

‘Intersectionality was originally a word to describe ways in which discrimination court cases in the US often ruled against women of colour. Those women were only proven right if the discrimination claim was accompanied by a claim from white women or a claim from men of colour, like in the case against General Motors (see information box). The assumption in that case was that women of colour experienced discrimination in the same way as did white women or men of ­colour. Intersectionality shows that experiences of discrimination can be different.’ How do you, as a Professor of Law, study intersectionality?

‘I investigated whether the laws against ­discrimination based on gender and based on ethnicity worked equally well for women of colour as for white women. That was the specific question that I tried to answer. It is 10 | New Scientist | special diversity matters

generally a case of continually asking: does this approach work for everyone? Or are ­ we missing things? If you have the correct framework, you can always ask the right questions. As Mari Matsuda (Professor of Law at the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawaii, eds.) said: I recognize the sexism here, but do I also recognize the racism? Or, I recognize the racism here, but do I also recognize the homophobia? We must keep asking these questions to broaden our concept of what inequality looks like. I am now surrounded by a team. We work together in many areas, from advocacy to research to educating the public. We always keep the same questions in mind.’ Do you run into obstacles doing this work?

‘The starting point for intersectionality was to attract attention to the fact that even the law does not do a good job at preventing all forms of discrimination. If even the law, and as I mentioned just before, also activists are falling short in their ability to recognize and acknowledge intersecting forms of discrimination, you can imagine that society cannot do much better. So yes, it is an area with many challenges.’ I can imagine that not everyone who feels discriminated against goes to court. How can you then still do your job?

‘In fact, most people do not go to court. Not all my work related to intersectionality is based on court cases. Much of my current work involves societal problems that don’t concern discrimination in the workplace. Most women of colour who experience police brutality do not go to court, but it is a form of intersecting vulnerabilities. Women of colour have more often had contact with the police and have a higher probability of


Kimberlé Crenshaw Crenshaw (1959) obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Government and Africana Studies at Cornell Univer­ sity. She then obtained her Juris Doctor degree at Harvard Law School and subsequently her Master of Laws at the University of Wisconsin Law School. In 1986, she started wor­ king at the UCLA School of Law, where she still lectures on subjects such as Intersectional Perspec­ tives on Race, Gender and the Criminalization of Women and Girls. In 1995, Crenshaw was appointed Professor at Columbia Law School. Meanwhile, she founded the non-profit organization African Ame­ rican Policy Forum, among others, with which she tries to bridge the gap be­ tween academic research and the public debate on discrimination and ine­quality.

dying as a result. But when people rise up against police brutality, these deaths are often forgotten. Also, sexual abuse by the police is often not mentioned, not even by feminists who campaign against violence against women. Violence against women of colour is an area of intersecting vulnerabilities that often ends up having nothing to do with courts. It is visible in ways that do not involve law. For example, I started working with mothers of women who died as a consequence of police brutality. I pass on their story.’

Working at General Motors


In an American court case from 1976, which has now become iconic, the judge ruled against four women of colour. These women accused General Motors of discriminating against them: General Motors allegedly did not employ women of colour. Discrimination based on race, skin colour, religion, gender or nationality was prohibited according to the Civil Rights Act. But according to the judge in this case, General Motors was not guilty of sexism or racism. The company employed women and they employed men of colour. It never occurred to the judge that two forms of vulne­ rability to discrimination, gender and ethnicity, came together here and that this works diffe­ rently from sexism or racism alone.

‘Even the law is not doing a good job at preventing all forms of discrimination.’  Can we ever have a society that is equal for everyone?

‘Philosophers have talked about this for thousands of years; I stay clear of this. We have in any case not yet reached that state. Things are not getting any better in the ­United States now that Trump is in power. However, I prefer looking at the here and now: what can we realistically change now?’ What must we change? Must we also consider intersectionality in the diversity policies of organizations?

‘Much has to change. Our concepts, the ways in which we work. Our laws, the

­ edia, our economy. Many relation­­m ships must be different to bring about a meaningful shift towards equality for ­everyone. Organizations’ diversity policies must also change. Our organizations should look exactly like our society, be an honest reflection of society. Intersectionality helps to remind us that we must not only pay sole attention to ethnicity, gender and other forms of diversity. We must ensure that we are also aware of the ways in which people can be burdened in many ways, ways that activists sometimes forget. We must also consider this in diversity policies.’

Can science help us with this?

‘Science can certainly help, if you use it ­correctly. I am, for instance, very interested in cognitive sciences. This explains how, for example, prejudices can have an effect on various aspects of our thinking. Cognitive sciences can show what people see and what they think they see. Science can also help us to get past the denial that is present in so many people in our society, about the consequences of compartmentalization that we are all guilty of in our daily lives. It is hard to change our framework of thinking and our concepts. But science can help us to achieve this.’ special diversity matters | New Scientist | 11


Women in science Dutch universities strive for diversity regarding gender, nationality, cultural background, functional impairment and age. Universities should be places where everyone feels at home. The male/female ratio has been progressing in the right direction over the past few years. We are slowly on our way to universities that are no longer male-dominated. According to the Monitor Vrouwelijke Hoogleraren (Female Professors Monitor) 2018, the proportion of female professors passed a significant milestone: at the end of 2017, an average of 20.9 percent of professors at Dutch univer­ sities were female (measured in FTEs, excluding the scientific field of Health). Compared to 2016, the number of professors increased by 63.3 FTE, of which the majority (55.5 FTE) was in favour of women. This means a growth of 1.6 percentage points compared to 2016. This is the largest increase in the percentage of female professors in a single year.

Percentage breakdown of professors according to gender 100

Male professors Female professors


























Increase in percentage points compared to the previous year 2.0 1.5 1.0 0.5 0.0

* ‘99










*The percentage growth (1.6 percentage points) has never been this high

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The percentages of women and men, from students to professors, 2017 Women



49.4 51.1


53.0 47.0

The measures are effective. Within all position categories in science, the number of women has increased. However, the proportion of women decreases as the position categories become higher. This phenomenon is referred to as the leaking pipeline.


PhD students

57.3 40.7

Assistant professors

59.3 28.6

Associate professors Full professors

Universities have set targets. To realize these, universities look critically at their appointment procedures, have developed mentoring programmes and some universities have fellowships specifically aimed at women.


20.9 79.1

Top 3 universities with the most female professors


Open University


Radboud University Nijmegen

Top 3 scientific fields with the most female professors


University of Leiden




Languages & Culture

Behavioural & Social Sciences


In 2017, one in five professors was female.


2048 In 2048, a proportional male/female professor ratio is expected to be achieved.

special diversity matters | New Scientist | 13

Man/woman Does science put an end to gender roles?

Men cannot multitask. Women cannot parallel park. Nonsense, according to science. The different domains – biology, neurology and psychology – continuously show that traditional ideas about gender roles are outdated.

By Ans Hekkenberg


f you study gender roles scientifically, clear definitions will help – the main ones being gender and sex. These terms are not synonymous. Your sex is what the midwife proclaims when you are born: ‘Congratulations, it is a ...!’ In contrast, your gender refers to your identity. What gender do you identify with from a social and a ­societal perspective? In 2015, researchers from Ghent University reported that 0.6 to 0.7 percent of the population state that their gender is not the same as their sex a­ ssigned at birth. Furthermore, there are people who do not identify with a binary gender. Gender is a spectrum: man/­woman/other. Many scientists are studying the differences between these categories. Are male and female characteristics hidden in

14 | New Scientist | special diversity matters

our genes? That is, is there a biological cause for the gender roles that we recognize in our society?

A brain matter When scientists want to know why people are the way they are, they look at the brain. Is there such a thing as a ‘male’ and a ­‘female’ brain? To answer that question, scientists at Tel Aviv University studied the brain scans of 1,400 individuals. When they compiled the data, they noticed that – on average – the sizes of different brain regions differed between men and women. However, when they subsequently studied the brain scans of individuals, they had to conclude that an individual brain is almost never typically male or female. Only a few people, 0 to 8 percent, have brains demonstrating the typical characteristics that you would expect based on their sex.

‘It was a pioneering study,’ says Professor of Gender Studies Anelis Kaiser from the University of Freiburg. ‘We have known for some time that the brain is a type of mosaic of different parts that can each be designated female or male. But what the Tel Aviv study demonstrated was that the sum of the parts is hardly ever male or female.’ Cordelia Fine, psychologist at the University of Melbourne, puts the findings in perspective: ‘The probability of two people of a different sex having the same brain type is approximately equal to the probability of two people of the same sex having the same brain type.’

Typical But if there is no male or female brain, how can there be typically male and female characteristics? Take empathy: women are generally more empathic than men, aren’t

they? ‘The answer is both yes and no,’ says Kaiser. ‘Women are generally better at thinking empathically. But that does not mean that is how we were born. We did not start out with a brain pre-programmed for empathy. Instead, we were raised in a society that has clear gender roles. We learn to behave typically masculine or feminine ­because that is deeply rooted in our society. Over the course of our lives, our brains shape themselves according to our experiences. It is therefore plausible that the ­‘female brain’ becomes more empathic with time. But if you ask: does biology make women more empathic, is it in their genes? Then the answer is: no. This is how we are shaped, not born.’ Research at Brown University confirms this. Scientists wondered why, on average, women have more affinity with languages than men. In their study, they discovered



that parents chatted more to daughters than to sons. Or, due to existing prejudices about what boys and girls are like, girls ­receive a more linguistic upbringing. ‘The social context affects who you are, how you think and what you do. And your thoughts, attitudes and behaviours in turn

The fact that biology plays a limited role is also shown by the complexity of our ­behaviour, Fine believes. She points out that characteristics that we label as typically male or female can be present to various extents, depending on the time, place and context. Furthermore, someone can be typically male in one aspect, but typically female in other aspects. ‘This shows that such characteristics result from many small causes, instead of a strong all-determining factor, such as biological sex,’ says Fine. It is a constant interaction between brain, genes and environment.

An individual brain is hardly ever typically female or male

Double-blind become part of the social context,’ Fine wrote in her book Delusions of Gender. In other words, gender roles cause expectations that we wish to fulfil, and that sub­ sequently uphold gender roles.

Nonetheless, there is also criticism from scientists who are convinced that biology is the deciding factor. For example, researchers from Cambridge University reported in 2000 that newborn girls preferred special diversity matters | New Scientist | 15


‘When the environment emphasizes gender, it affects the mind’ Evolution People often point to evolution as the cause of man/woman differences in our society. ­Women are better at caring because they used to look ­after children, while men were whacking mammoths, for example. Or men are more aggressive than women, be­ cause aggressive men won the battles for a female and were therefore able to repro­ duce. To what extent are such assertions true? Both Professor of Gender Studies Anelis Kaiser and Aus­ tralian psychologist Cordelia Fine are reticent to explain our current behaviour based on evolution. ‘It is impossible to analyse our ancestors’ be­ haviour. There is nothing left of it. That is why so many of the assertions about our an­ cestors are a matter of projec­ tion,’ says Kaiser. She thinks that we paint the historical picture based on our current stereotypes. Furthermore, there is no scientific evidence for some of the things we take to be true, such as the as­ sumption that an aggressive man has a higher probability of reproducing. This is not true for humans or other ­primates. Fine thinks that we are overlooking a significant part of evolution. ‘Where it con­ cerns differences in behaviour between men and women, ‘evolved’ is not always the same as genetically inherited. There is also a cultural inheri­ tance.’ Children learn from their parents what ‘normal’ gender roles are and, in turn, pass them on to their children. This is how gender roles per­ sist for generations without an underlying genetic reason. 16 | New Scientist | special diversity matters


looking at faces (a sign of social talent), while newborn boys preferred to look at a hanging mobile (proof of a gift for technique). There is a biological difference in the interests of boys and girls, announced research leader Simon Baron-Cohen. Within the scientific community, this study is as notorious as it is famous. ‘There has been much criticism of the research methods and the interpretation of the findings,’ says Fine. A significant criticism was that it was not a double-blind test. The researcher showing the face or the hanging mobile knew whether the child in the cot was a boy or a girl. That could influence the researcher’s behaviour, and therefore the child’s behaviour. In 2013, researchers at Western ­Sydney University tried to rigorously repeat the study. Their results showed that there was no difference: they concluded that both boys and girls preferred seeing a face over a hanging mobile.

I think, therefore I can If our brains show few differences, you would expect men and women to perform various tasks equally well. However, many people would argue that men are better at parallel parking than women. How is that possible? Stereotypes appear to play a crucial role in this too. Social-psychological studies show that an individual’s talent ­often depends on what they expect they can do. Or, turned around: if you constantly hear that you cannot do something, you start to believe that and then you really cannot do it anymore. ‘We also observe ourselves through the lens of a stereotype,’ wrote Fine in Delu-

sions of Gender. The effect of this was described as early as 1974 by Jan Morris in her autobiography Conundrum. Morris, who is transgender, described how she ­experienced her transition. ‘The more I was treated as a woman, the more I became a woman. When people assumed that I was unable to reverse a car or open bottles, I – strangely enough – truly became unable to do these things.’ ‘Everyone feels pressure to behave as the gender stereotype expects them to behave,’ explains Kaiser. ‘If test subjects must perform tasks in which they – in line with stereotypes – will not be successful because of their gender, that prediction is likely to come true. When you are confronted with gender stereotypes, brain regions involved in memory inhibition and anxiety become active. This means that the confrontation with the stereotype places an additional burden on the brain, which negatively ­affects performance.’ In other words, if women are confronted with the fact that they are women before solving maths questions, they perform less well than if their gender were ignored.

Breaking stereotypes ‘When the environment emphasizes gender, it affects the mind,’ wrote Fine. ‘This can change someone’s self-image and interests, and even weaken or strengthen someone’s skills. So, if we really want to achieve equality, emphasizes Fine, it is not biology that is the obstacle. It is the images that we have of men and women, and the image that we consequently have of our­selves. Breaking stereotypes is not easy. Even nowadays, many people look surprised when a man bakes a cake and a woman tinkers with cars. ‘We are very used to thinking in two gender stereotypes,’ says Kaiser. ‘But science has taught us that that image is incorrect. There is no woman who is the essence of womanhood, and there is no man who is the typical man. It is time that we disregarded that image.’

Emi Howard (24) provides training on inclusive communication at the University of Groningen. ‘The words that we use have a major impact on the person we are addressing,’ says Howard. ‘They determine who feels welcome at the University, something that every academic institution should consider when communicating.’ Howard has three tips for inclusive communication:


Never make assumptions about someone’s identity, such as their gender, ethnicity or age. If you don’t know someone, don’t assume that this person uses the pronouns ‘he’ or ‘she’, for example.

to communicate

Do your research when writing about something that you don’t know much about or that you have not personally come across. For example, if you write about the accessibility of a building, research the preferred terminology to avoid using hurtful language. The phrase ‘accessible parking’ is, for example, preferable to ‘parking for the disabled’.


Learn from criticism. If you have written or spoken about an individual or a group of people in a way that they consider offensive, do not label them as being too sensitive. Accept your mistake and learn from it. -MvdB special diversity matters | New Scientist | 17


Learning how


Lit up 18 | New Scientist | special diversity matters




echnical innovations can contribute to an inclusive society by helping people with disabilities. Jeroen Perk (40) could hardly see anything anymore because of a genetic eye abnormality. He has retinitis pigmentosa, which led to an increased loss of vision – until he underwent surgery in 2013, when a chip was placed on his retina. Perk now wears camera glasses that take pictures and send them to the chip on his retina as electrical signals. Since the chip is small, it only has 60 electrodes. Each of these sends a signal, via the optic nerve, to the brain: on or off. Light or dark. This is how Perk can see 60 pixels. That is not much, but it expands his world, says Perk: ‘At bus stops, I can see when the bus arrives. Following a conversation, I can see the person walking away. During a concert, I can see movements on stage. This chip is – literally and figuratively – bringing the light back into my life.’ -AH


special diversity matters | New Scientist | 19

Who am I? By Joris Janssen


E ‘Multiculturalism is a fact of life’ 20 | New Scientist | special diversity matters

veryone’s identity is made up of different components. For example, you can be a loving mother, a vicious left-back on the football pitch and a proud Dutch person who was born in Turkey, all at the same time. ­Nevertheless, it is possible that you are still given a one-dimensional label, such as ‘immigrant’. Geetha Reddy is a social psychologist at the University of Groningen. She studies how identities are formed in multicultural societies and how this knowledge can make societies more inclusive.

How do people form an identity in a multicultural society? ‘Identity construction is largely strategic. Individuals construct their cultural and ethnic identity depending on the requirements of a situation and the possibilities. These requirements and possibilities differ when you are in contact with members of your own community, with government agencies, with colleagues or with friends outside your community.’

What are the problems with identities? ‘People sometimes end up in situations in which there are limits to the accepted identity. I conduct research in Singapore and Malaysia, where you can only register one ethnic identity with government agen-

dual interview

cies. You are Chinese, Malaysian or Indian. There is no in-between. This is very limiting when you identify with multiple ethnic identities.’


What is the problem with those kinds of labels? ‘Labels can be useful: they are convenient cognitive shortcuts that we use to understand a situation quickly. But labels can be problematic when they concern marginalized identities. They can attribute many ­negative characteristics to someone, often based on just one aspect of a person’s identity. This creates tension and conflict.’

Can you mention an example of a problematic label? ‘Take the label ‘migrant’. This label is ­often only used for people from specific countries who look different from the ­local population. Many migrants in the Netherlands are from Germany, France and the United Kingdom, but they are ­regarded differently than migrants from other countries. Migrants are often blamed for budget cuts and unemployment. But in reality, increased numbers of migrants lead to increased employment, ­because migrants use services such as healthcare and schools. Marginalized groups often do not have the opportunity to change the narrative. This creates ­problems.’

How can science improve the situation? ‘By studying individuals’ experiences, we learn to better understand different forms of diversity. Multiculturalism is one form and simply a fact of life. We, as scientists, must make sure that everyone can live in a safe, happy and welcome ­environment.’



ewcomers to a society often have trouble getting a job. Just having an exotic-sounding surname ­sometimes means that you are ­discounted in an application process. ­However, labour market discrimination is more than that. It often happens uninten­ tionally because cultural differences lead to misunderstandings. Nina Hansen, social psychologist at the University of Groningen, studies this phenomenon and together with the Lemat Foundation, she has developed a training course that enables employers to prepare for the recruitment and integration of Eritrean employees.

Why is having a job so important when you are a newcomer to a society? ‘Neighbours or new colleagues can help with learning to understand a new culture. New friends also help to make you feel at home. Integration is therefore a two-way interaction between different cultures. Migrants must discover the new culture, but the receiving society also plays an ­important role.’

How can receiving societies take up this role? ‘At present, the focus is mainly on educating migrants. In the Netherlands, migrants are offered an integration course, for example, in which they learn about different

‘Integration must be a two-way interaction’

­aspects of Dutch culture. But it is not explained to them why there are behavioural or cultural differences. Employers can help by explaining the norms and rules of the receiving society.’

What things go wrong? ‘A surname is sometimes already the first barrier. The next barrier is faced once ­people have a job. Cultural differences ­often lead to miscommunication in the workplace. For example, Eritreans often walk behind their manager and listen more than they talk. In their culture, that is a sign of respect. However, Dutch employers expect people to provide clear input and ask questions. Employers may therefore undeservedly think that someone is lazy.’

How are migrants doing in the labour market? ‘The facts are rather shocking. A recent ­study showed that after two and a half years, only 11 percent of the residence ­permit holders who arrived in 2014 had a paid job. This shows that much still needs to be done, for example through fostering mutual understanding.’

Can science contribute to a solution to this problem? ‘We have developed a training course that prepares Dutch employers for appointing Eritreans. In this training course, they can learn what these people have gone through and what the cultural differences are. Employers are often very happy to learn this. Due to a shortage of workers, they are increasingly interested in employing migrants, but have received little support in doing so thus far. With this training course, we wish to contribute to mutual knowledge and ­understanding.’ special diversity matters | New Scientist | 21


Always at the forefront Aletta Jacobs (1854-1929) from Groningen was 68 when she cast her vote for the first time. Twenty-­­five years previously, she had founded the Vereeniging voor Vrouwenkiesrecht (VVK: the Association for ­Women’s Right to Vote). The photograph shows Jacobs­(pictured with a bag) and allies from the VVK at the Binnenhof in The Hague. Jacobs’ colourful career made her possibly the most ­iconic feminist in the Netherlands. She was the first Dutch woman to be admitted to a university, the University of Groningen, where she graduated as the ­first female physician. Whilst holding that position, she fought for years for women’s rights: she held free surgery hours and provided women with contraceptives. -AH


Diversity? Go for it! Diversity within organizations is not just an idealistic pursuit of a society in which everyone has a place. It is also a good strategy for organizations to generate creativity, flexibility and new solutions – and thereby ultimately to increase profits. What does science say about diversity within organizations? And what are the experiences of drivers of diversity in the Northern Netherlands?

By Aafke Kok


hen the police arrived at 12.30 a.m., Mr A. had been dead for at least an hour.’ ‘The ­police found traces of X.’s blood on the knife.’ ‘G. proclaimed that every person has the right to have a weapon to defend themselves.’ These are three random clues that you could be given as part of the murder mystery task. At Northwestern University (US), test subjects had to identify the murderer, the murder weapon and the motive using a series of these kinds of clues. But not on their own – they discussed this ‘whodunnit’ as a group of three students, all members of the same student association. Five minutes ­later, another student joined them. If the fourth student was a member of a different student association, the outcome of the discussion was more often correct than if all students were from the same student ­association. This is one of many studies into the effects of diversity on team performance. Time after time, groups with members that have different backgrounds acted more objectively and monitored individual members better. A different background might be a d ­ ifferent social background, as with

the murder-solving students, but diversity can also originate from ethnic differences or an equal man/woman ratio. From solving murders to estimating prices of supermarket products: more diverse teams are better at it than homogeneous teams. Most people are, of course, not solving murders on a daily basis, but do often work in teams that may or may not be diverse. How does an average organization benefit from diversity? Consultancy company McKinsey decided to answer that question by conducting its own research. This showed that companies that were more diverse had higher profits. Diversity apparently pays off. A review study from the University of Utrecht complements this: studies from, for example, Columbia Business School, Xavier University and University College London showed that diversity within organizations is associated with innovation, flexibility and, ultimately, financial gain.

More closely monitored This does not show a causal link. Successful companies may just be more inclined to employ people with different backgrounds – rather than having diversity cause their success. However, scientists from the University of Amsterdam suggested otherwise. Quoted companies cannot be grown in a lab, but by letting students run a company for an entire year,

researchers were able to identify cause and effect concerning diversity and success. Groups of students with equal male/ female ratios made more profit with their companies than groups with imbalanced ratios, because they were monitoring each other more closely. So, science appears to be convinced of the usefulness of diversity within organizations. Yet diversity is not self-evident. In the Netherlands, it is still the case that more men (83 percent) than women (73 percent) have a paid job. Furthermore, the proportion of women in top positions is low, as shown by figures from Statistics Netherlands. And whilst the government has met its target for women at the top – ­ 30 percent – ministries are lagging behind regarding cultural diversity. Moreover, employing workers with different backgrounds alone is not enough. To retain diversity, organizations must invest in a climate that gives all employees a sense of belonging, according to the review study from the University of Utrecht. That can be tricky. Current employees may, for example, wonder about the competences of new colleagues. Were they appointed because they are good or because they have a certain background? Three drivers of diversity talk about the state of diversity within organizations in the Northern Netherlands. special diversity matters | New Scientist | 23

‘Students must be able to do what their hearts tell them’ - Mare Riemersma-Diephuis, Drenthe College


ocational Education and Training (VET) institution Drenthe College has a diverse group of students and staff, says Mare Riemersma-Diephuis, a member of Drenthe College’s Executive Board. With around 8,000 students, 800 staff and 13 locations in the province of Drenthe, Drenthe College is a large organization. The diversity of the VET institution shows on various fronts. For example, most students are between 16 and 22 years old, but there are also older participants, because Drenthe College also provides refresher courses and further education. The school also organizes integration activities, which means that there are many newcomers.

The teaching and management teams also show a wide variation in age, gender and cultural background. Riemersma thinks that it is important that the staff adequately reflect the diverse group of students. ‘This is how students can feel more connected with our organization,’ says Riemersma. Moreover, staff in diverse management teams make decisions in a better way, she emphasizes. ‘If you all look at a dilemma from the same perspective, you will also arrive at the same solutions. By looking at it with a different background, new ideas and solutions will develop. That is more compatible with our organization’s future.’ Riemersma thinks that it is important to dis-

cuss the diversity theme. Students will not easily start talking about it of their own accord, despite it being an important topic. To give everyone a worthy place on the labour market, it is also good to talk about financial independence. ‘Financial independence is a significant component of diversity. How will our students make sure that they can manage financially later on, regardless of their

‘We must really do it now’ - Jellie Tiemersma, Stichting Aletta Jacobs Noord-Nederland


hen it comes to diversity, the Northern Netherlands is trailing ­behind, says Jellie Tiemersma, chair of Stichting Aletta Jacobs Noord-Nederland (Aletta Jacobs Foundation Northern Netherlands). Diversity means diversity across the board: men and women, people with different cultural backgrounds, people with disabilities. Stichting Aletta Jacobs Noord-Nederland is trying to do something about this. The foundation wants to follow up on the diversity manifesto that 60 organizations from the Northern Netherlands signed during last year’s Aletta Jacobs Conference. There are national initiatives that address diversity, but these are often aimed at the Randstad area, says Tiemersma. So, now there is also a foundation for diversity specifically in the Northern Netherlands, a region that must work extra hard at this theme. ‘We have ­already talked about it a lot, but now we

24 | New Scientist | special diversity matters

r­ eally have to do something,’ according to Tiemersma. Just like over the past 30 years, this change is still rather slow. ‘But we do live in a time in which diversity is attracting more and more attention,’ says Tiemersma. This is also noticeable in the North. Increasing numbers of organizations address this theme, discuss it, and consider it when appointing new employees. And that is important, says Tiemersma. ‘Many women work part-time. If they were to work a few extra hours, we would have fewer problems with positions that are hard to fill.’ In addition to the economic aspect, diversity leads to better decisions, states Tiemersma, with attention being paid to different things. She notes that women-only teams do not work either – teams must have a broad base. And then there is the societal aspect. ‘It is ­important that we give everyone the opportunity to participate,’ Tiemersma believes. The diversity theme is especially appealing


‘Violins alone do not make an orchestra’ c­ ircumstances?’, asks Riemersma. Young people often feel constrained, whilst they have much more potential than they think, according to Riemersma. It is also for this reason that Riemersma wants to have good examples for students to follow at the Drenthe College. ‘Role models provide an ­opportunity for dialogue with young people.’ The Drenthe College likes to show students what is possible. ‘Students must be able to follow their hearts and talents. This also fits in with the diversity discussion: that everyone can do what they are good at. There are often many more opportunities and possibilities than students think,’ says Riemersma. Therefore, Drenthe College places much emphasis on letting students discover what they are good at, in order to contribute to a valuable future.

when people share their personal stories, ­notes Tiemersma. Tiemersma herself has a visual impairment. She talks about this at meetings. ‘When I mention that I am sometimes reprimanded for this, I see people thinking: oh, I never looked at it like that, that is also diversity.’ Not everyone has such a personal story. ‘Some women say, for example: but I do not encounter any obstacles. But you can also find something important without it being about yourself. If it does not apply to you, it does not mean that other women don’t have to fight for their positions or for equality. That is also a reason to fight for diversity. The foundation’s ultimate goal is for diversity to lead to inclusion: a society in which every­ one can participate. According to Tiemersma, we must achieve this together. ‘Not just as women, not just as men. Not just as people with a certain cultural background or people with an impairment. We can only make this happen together.’

- Henniëlle Dam, Noorderlink


oorderlink represents 45 large ­organizations in the Northern ­Netherlands, from care institutions to municipalities, from schools to industry. Noorderlink is a partnership through which these organizations exchange knowledge and experiences related to Human Resources. They often run into the same problems, but offer different solutions based on their backgrounds. This is how the different ­organizations can learn and benefit from each other. This is an example of how diversity can lead to new insights, according to Henniëlle Dam, programme manager at Noorderlink. ‘In 2019, diversity is an important theme for Noorderlink’, she says. Noorderlink tried to raise awareness of diversity last year too. One hundred and forty years after Aletta Jacobs obtained a university degree, the first woman in the Netherlands to do so, Dam co-organized a conference on diversity for Noorderlink. Various organizations signed the manifesto to encourage diversity in the Northern Netherlands. Stichting Aletta Jacobs Noord-Nederland (see previous page) is trying to further boost diversity in the Northern Netherlands based on that manifesto. They are investigating whether the manifesto’s signatories truly act on their intentions and help where necessary. This year, Noorderlink is a main partner of Het Grootste Kennisfestival (The Largest Knowledge Festival) in the Northern Netherlands. Here too, the main topics include what can be gained from diversity, what the effect of female leadership is and how to create diverse and inclusive teams. ­According to Dam, this theme appeals to people. ‘Some time ago, people were sometimes obtuse about, for example, female candidates not necessarily being better candidates. People are inclined to appoint the same kinds of people. They look around for something that is compatible. But if you search properly, you can also find candi-

dates from the opposite gender, with different cultural backgrounds or who contribute to the team’s diversity in different ways. And diverse teams lead to creativity. ‘Violins alone do not make an orchestra,’ says Dam. This is also the case for Noorderlink itself. The organization often works with temporary staff who are looking for a new step in their career. For example, people with refugee status. Dam noticed that brainstorming sessions have consequently changed. ‘Such sessions always lasted an hour, but others with different backgrounds were used to much shorter sessions, with very different approaches.’ It is precisely new insights and creative solutions that ultimately lead to better ­results for an organization. Dam notes that diversity is alive, also in Noorderlink’s organizations. Various organizations are becoming increasingly active in this area. For example, Safety Region Groningen ­recently announced that it would put ­diversity high on the agenda, and the FNV (Federation of Dutch Trade Unions) also finally signed the diversity manifesto. Dam: ‘This is the time to make sure that diversity becomes self-evident.’ special diversity matters | New Scientist | 25

Injustice in court Following the shooting by Gökmen T. in a tram in Utrecht, the Forum voor Democratie (FvD) party leader Thierry Baudet directly linked immigration policy and criminality. Are people with a migration background really more criminal, or are they treated differently by our legal system? American Professor Janet Thompson Jackson, who teaches at the University of Groningen, says: ‘Nobody is immune to prejudices.’

By Zvezdana Vukojevic


hilst the police in Utrecht tried to locate the escaped suspect Gökmen T. on 18 March 2019, FvD leader Thierry Baudet was at an election meeting in The Hague. He already had the answers to all the questions: ‘If people want more of these kinds of problems, they should vote for Rutte,­ ­because he throws the borders wide open and does nothing to solve the integration problems.’ The link between Moluccan, Surinamese, Turkish, Antillean and Moroccan Dutch citizens and criminality has been studied since the 1980s. Are they more 26 | New Scientist | special diversity matters

criminal than the native population? Studying the figures, you could draw the conclusion that in criminality some demographics are overrepresented. In contrast to what some opinion makers and politicians want you to believe, this has been kept anything but quiet for years. In 1993, the then PvdA (Labour) Minister for Welfare, Health and Culture, Hedy d’Ancona, already made a plea for a ‘pragmatic and formal migration policy’, whereby it ‘must not be a taboo to discuss and deal with criminality of immigrant youths.’ When Piet Hein Donner was the Minister of Justice, he said that criminality figures demonstrated that non-Western immigrants ‘do not engage much with society’. Right-wing politicians also made themselves heard. There was, for example, the notorious statement by PVV leader Geert

Wilders in 2014, who was allegedly talking about criminal Moroccans when he got an audience to chant ‘fewer, fewer’. In an interview with a German magazine in 2017, he said: ‘Moroccan youths are represented 22 times more often in street crime.’

Is that true? The question is whether such statements present the facts correctly. Take that factor of 22. That is high. For that reason, the news checkers from the University of Leiden ­investigated the figures. The Monitor Jeugdcriminaliteit (Youth Criminality Monitor) 2010 report by the Research and Documentation Centre (WODC) states the number of suspects related to their proportion of the population, per 1,000 individuals of the relevant population group. In 2008, the proportion of suspects among Moroccan


young adults (18-24 years old) was by far the highest: 116 per 1,000. They compared this to the group with the relatively lowest number of arrests: native Dutch people, of whom 30 per 1,000 were arrested in 2008. Thus, Moroccan youths are not represented 22 times more often than native Dutch youths, but four times. But are Moroccan youths really more criminal? Or is there more to it?

Inequality principle Janet Thompson Jackson knows all about this topic. She is a Professor at the Washburn University School of Law (US) and is working at the UG for a year. There are ­quite a few pitfalls when interpreting such figures, she says. Firstly, you should compare youths from the same socioeconomic class. This makes the difference largely

disappear. Furthermore, youths from lower socioeconomic classes are often watched more closely. But that is not all. Our legal system is officially based on the equality principle, which states that identical cases must receive identical treatment. But the reality is often different, says Thompson Jackson. Before commenting on these dynamics, she wants to say that intentionally stating incorrect figures, and abusing these for political gain, like Wilders did, is frankly malicious. ‘Politicians do this to set population

‘Intentionally stating incorrect figures is malicious’

groups up against each other. Labelling ethnic minorities, migrants and asylum seekers as ‘others’ to strengthen the ‘us’ feeling among white Dutch citizens. Amplifying the contrasts. Increasing the fear.’ According to Thompson Jackson, differences develop precisely because the legal system deviates from the equality principle from the start. For example, police officers in the US more often patrol ethnic communities, because they think that the people who live there are more likely to be criminals. ‘So, who is being watched? Against whom are investigations started more ­often, and who is arrested? And who is ­accused? Research shows that this is often the person of colour.’ Thompson Jackson wants to emphasize that disregarding this background information behind the cold figures leads to the special diversity matters | New Scientist | 27


distorted view that ethnic minorities are more criminal. But the figures only represent the criminality that has been detected – and the police are looking harder for criminal activity among specific groups. An honest comparison of crime statistics can only be made if all criminal activities are represented, something that is, of course, never going to happen. In the meantime, politicians abuse statistics to point out the danger that migrants pose to our society, and more often plead openly for a tough approach to criminality in ‘disadvantaged areas’ – often migrant neighbourhoods. Last year, VVD (the Dutch conservative-liberal party) leader Klaas Dijkhof suggested the implementation of a plan devised by fellow Danish politicians, whereby criminality in disadvantaged areas was to be punished twice as hard. An initiative like that would only distort the statistics more and increase the inequality within our legal system. This selective approach within our legal system leads to ‘white spots’ of undetected and therefore unpunished criminality. For example, the police are less likely to perform a drugs raid on the Zuidas in Amsterdam, where there will certainly be people with cocaine on them, whilst a shisha bar will be visited more often to search for drugs.

to check someone, this is ethnic profiling. A study by the Social and Cultural ­Planning Office (SCP) showed that one-­in-three Turkish and Moroccan, a quarter of Surinamese and one-in-five Antillean Dutch citizens, as well as 16 percent of ­migrants from Middle and Eastern Europe, are subjected to discrimination by the ­police. This was recently brought up again when mar-

The police are less likely to perform a drugs raid on the Zuidas in Amsterdam. ket research institute Beke ­concluded that the police in Amsterdam are not doing enough to eradicate such practices. Earlier, the proposal to introduce ‘stop forms’ was abandoned; on these, ­policemen had to write why they were stopping and searching someone preventively, so that they would become more aware of the reason behind checking someone.

Ethnic profiling


Meanwhile, we are still struggling in the Netherlands with the most basic problem that causes the differences: ethnic profiling. It has been on the agenda for years, in part due to non-profit organization Control Alt Delete. In 2016, rapper Typhoon wrote on Facebook that he is regularly pulled over by the police. As a black male, he allegedly ­drives a too expensive car. Typhoon wrote: ‘Unfortunately, this is the umpteenth time that has happened to me and I am ‘famous’, and after they have recognized me, the ­atmosphere is less tense. Many do not have that privilege.’ When the police let some­ one’s skin colour, ethnicity, nationality, language or religion play a role in the decision

Inequality also takes place once suspects enter the legal system. Thompson Jackson is specialized in the American legal system, where suspects must deal with an obviously prejudiced jury when their case is brought in front of a judge. ‘But American judges were also shown to have prejudices. There are studies about every legal system that demonstrate these prejudices.’ Also in the Netherlands. In 2012, a study was published in the Nederlands Juristenblad that showed that Dutch-speaking ­suspects with an ethnic background and appearance had a higher probability of ­being convicted than Dutch-speaking white suspects. The probability of being

28 | New Scientist | special diversity matters

convicted was highest when the suspect did not speak Dutch and also looked ‘unlike the Dutch’ (read: not white). Researchers from the University of Leiden subsequently studied 110,000 criminal records from 2005 to 2007 and interviewed 1,500 prisoners. The outcomes were very serious: the probability that a suspect born in the Netherlands ended up in prison for theft involving a weapon was 7 percent. The probability that second-generation Turks and Antilleans ended up in prison for the same crime was 11 percent. Was that racism? Discrimination? The researchers could not decide. They did consider that judges sometimes think in stereotypes. The differences became smaller when they corrected for the suspect’s personal circumstances. People with a job appeared to end up in prison less often, so as not to also be unemployed after serving their sentences. If you are already unemployed, you more often end up in prison. Who is, relatively speaking, more often ­unemployed? Ethnic minorities. And unemployed people cannot pay fines, so that is another explanation for sending immigrants to prison more often. The researchers concluded that the difference had ­developed by ‘considering the circumstances’ of those convicted. Yet there was still a small difference in sentences after correcting for personal ­circumstances. The chair of the Justice Council, Frits Bakker, wants an investigation into that final difference. He said in the Dutch newspaper Trouw: ‘The suggestion that judges make distinctions is the opposite of judges’ core values.’ Thompson Jackson regrets that people refuse to accept that judges also have ­prejudices: ‘The initial reflex is: this is not racism. This problem of unconscious bias has e­ ntered the legal system, as it has entered every layer of society. Everyone has these unconscious prejudices: you, me and even judges. Nobody is immune to them. And these prejudices are often to the disadvantage of people of colour and ethnic minorities.’


In 2017, 54 percent of the Dutch population stated that there is more discrimination now than there was 20 years ago, as reported by the Social and Cultural Planning Office. What can we do to combat racism? By Ans Hekkenberg

How not to discriminate? Tip 1 Learn what racism is

GLENN ADAMS cultural psycho­ logist at the Uni­ versity of Kansas (US) is an expert on racism percep­ tion. He provides three tips.

‘White people notice racism less quickly because they are not exposed to it. It is not always unwil­ lingness, it is also a lack of informa­ tion,’ says Adams. ‘Furthermore, dif­ ferent groups experience racism in different ways. White people often see racism as a personal problem: it is a matter of some individuals’ pre­ judices, ‘a few bad apples’. Minority groups sooner acknowledge that racism is a structural problem. It is

not just personal, it concerns unequal treatment that stems from the way in which various institutions in society, for example the education and legal systems, work.’

‘We all have implicit prejudices’

Tip 2 Become involved with more diverse social networks

‘We all have implicit prejudices,’ says Adams. ‘For example, many people associate the word ‘professional’ more with white people than with people whose skin is darker. For­ tunately, prejudices can be repro­ grammed, by searching for a social network with more diversity. Go outside your usual social circles. Look for other cultures. Make friends – not on your terms, but ­precisely on someone else’s. By ­having positive experiences, you combat prejudices.’ Tip 3 Read and learn


‘Many people of European descent are only familiar with European and American literature and his­ tory-writing. That limits your per­ spective of the world. By reading more from a non-Western perspec­ tive, you get a better idea of how Europe and the United States achieved their prosperity. Schools still often present this as a glorious historical account, but it was accom­ panied by violence and colonization. Do not pretend it was not. By studying history from a different perspective, you not only under­ stand more about other cultures, but also more about your own ­position in the world.’

special diversity matters | New Scientist | 29




Feigned equality


n White Privilege: The myth of a post-racial society, Kalwant Bhopal, Professor of Education and Social ­Justice at the University of Birmingham, shows that despite the impression that we live in a post-racial society where ethnicity, gender and class no longer matter, the opposite is true. It is still the case that people from ethnic minority groups are disadvantaged compared to their fellow white citizens. And even white people are subdivided, with certain white groups such as Roma and travellers being systematically discriminated against in society. The cause? Neoliberal policymaking, which has increased rather than reduced discrimination towards non-white people over the years. In White Privilege, Bhopal uses socio-scientific research, political and economic analyses to show how white individuals can benefit from sometimes invisible privileges and, therefore, how ethnicity impacts on inequality in society. –IP

White Privilege: The myth of a post-racial society Kalwant Bhopal Policy Press € 19.99

Subjective science

n Trans*, Jack Halberstam, Professor of Gender Studies at Columbia University New York, takes you on a journey into the world of transgender studies in a little under 200 pages. He addresses two topics in that field in particular. Firstly, Halberstam zooms in on the importance and the pitfalls of names and labels. What are the correct terms for transgender individuals? How important is a suitable pronoun? And how does language form identity? Halberstam champions an expansion of the current gender categories with more diverse labels. The second topic addressed by the author is that of physical bodies. Using a number of examples, Halberstam identifies the medical and biological aspects and challenges of being transgender. Trans* is an academic review of various insights into gender variability. It is clearly written by an academic, but also includes some personal touches from the author, who goes through life as both Judith and Jack. –AH

For centuries, the scientific community was convinced that women were intellectually inferior to men. Such sexist assumptions affected research methods and, even worse, research outcomes.

I Inferior: How science got women wrong – and the new research that’s rewriting the story Angela Saini Beacon Press € 21.99

n Inferior, British-Indian journalist Angela Saini shows that even today, scientific research into ­gender differences is far from objective. Present-day scientists are also full of prejudices about gender. Saini studies the scientific body of evidence to separate the chaff from the wheat. Which studies are robust and which are built on unstable foundations based on prejudices? Where are the pitfalls in the various studies? Which

30 | New Scientist | special diversity matters

research outcomes can we trust? And how has science short-changed women all these years? Based on a large number of studies across biology, neuroscience, anthropology and psychology, Saini concludes that differences between the genders are mainly determined culturally. Armed with hard figures, she makes a plea that it is time that we embrace this infomation. In 2017, Physics World declared Inferior the book of the year. –AH

Trans*: A quick and quirky account of gender variability Jack Halberstam University of California € 17.99

read more about diversity

One size fits men

Innocent or guilty?



t’s a man’s world. Even though half of the world’s population is female, all of our technology is, in the first instance, made for male users. This is demonstrated by the British journalist Caroline Criado Perez in the book Invisible Women. Smartphones are too big for female hands, seat belts are tested on test dummies with male-shaped bodies and much of our medical knowledge is based on male test subjects. Perez uses these and numerous other examples to show us that the world is, in many hidden ways, not ‘made’ for women. The reason for this is that techno-

logy developers and scientists always have a man in mind as the ‘default’ user. Perez refers to this as the one-size-fits-men approach. The consequences of this are much more far-­ reaching than you would think at first glance. Not only do women lose out socially and financially, they also have to put up with technology that risks their health and sometimes even their lives. In Invisible Women, she appeals for change at all levels, from government ­policy to science and from office landscapes to toilet cubicles. –AH

Invisible Women: Data bias in a world designed for men Caroline Criado Perez Vintage Publishing € 18.99

Digital negligence Whether you want to do some shopping or find your true love: everything is ­possible online. Convenient. But in Technically Wrong, technology expert Sara Wachter-Boettcher shows how our dependence on algorithms can also lead to ­ethical nightmares.

hat traces have 400 years of colonialism left behind in Dutch culture, history and ­language? Gloria Wekker, cultural ­anthropologist and Professor Emeritus of Gender Studies at the University of Utrecht, delves into the Dutch cultural archives from an intersectional perspective. She investigates, for example, the colonial inheritance of the Netherlands and its inhabitants, and the way in which the Dutch population deals with terms such as ethnicity, class and gender. In White Innocence (translated title), Wekker shows that there are various paradoxes between the anti-racial and ever tolerant Dutch self-image and the powerful reactions that the term ‘race’ evokes. Using examples from her own experiences in academia and the ­government, she explains the Dutch view on race and how deep some customs are rooted in our colonial past. A good example is the discussion ­surrounding Black Pete. Why do adaptations to this tradition lead to firm ­resistance every year? Wekker argues that the paradoxical denial of the significance of race as part of our society could be the cause. –IP

W Technically Wrong: Sexist apps, biased algorithms, and other threats of toxic tech Sara Wachter-Boettcher Norton & Co € 21.99

e blindly follow what websites and apps ­provide us, but is that wise? The designs of digital products and services are full of prejudices and neglect – from forms that exclude everyone who is not heterosexual to chatbots that bother girls, and from ­algorithms that send people of colour to ­prison to social media that send messages about dead relatives. How do products based on exact fi ­ gures lead to racism, discrimination and sexual ­intimidation? Wachter-Boettcher shows the underlying processes and assumptions that make technology anything but neutral. With her book, she wants to make consumers ­more aware of the influence of digital services. She also ­makes a plea for companies to face the consequences of their actions and to take more responsibility for ­making products that strive for equality. –TvtW

Witte onschuld: Paradoxen van kolonialisme en ras Gloria Wekker AUP € 26.99 special diversity matters | New Scientist | 31




he idea that there is a ­biological basis that can explain racial differences and justify discrimination is ­terribly outdated. The scientific community has therefore turned their back on this idea en masse. Or have they? The past few ­decades have shown a return to research into racial differences, argues Angela Saini, science journalist for BBC Radio. In her book Superior: The return of race science, she investigates from a historical perspective how science and racism are ­interlinked and how we can still see this in the w ­ orld of science. Saini notes that research into racial differences has found its way back into current research in a subtle way, for example in the study of the human genome. She also shows that modern day science still wrongly returns to ethnicity to explain the differences observed, for example concerning the spread of disease, poverty or test ­performances. –IP

More maths ≠ equal opportunities We live in the algorithm era. Algorithms determine the news you get to see on ­Facebook, the adverts shown before your YouTube video starts to play, and your ­music recommendations on Spotify. In Weapons of Math Destruction, mathematician Cathy O’Neil explains how algorithms can lead to social inequality.


Weapons of Math Destruction: How big data increases inequality and threatens democracy Cathy O’Neil Penguin Books € 11.99

’Neil analyses how the use of big data can lead to choices that are to the disadvantage of, for example, people in poor areas, or people from ethnic minority groups. It is possible, for example, that a prospective American student is refused a student loan because the decision of whether or not they will receive the loan depends on a mathematical model that takes into account the average prosperity in the prospective student’s postcode area. The consequence is a downward spiral, ­in which the prospective student from a ­‘bad’ postcode

area is unable to go to university, which consequently makes it hard for them to change their socioeconomic position and which means that the neighbourhood’s prosperity stays the same. There are also plenty of examples in the Netherlands. For example, insurers calculate your premium based on algorithms, and the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration uses big data techniques to find out who may be committing fraud. Increasing the use of mathematical models does not lead to more equality, that much will be clear when you have read this book. –TvtW

Data discrimination


Superior: The return of race science Angela Saini HarperCollins Publishers € 20.99

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ou would expect search engines to be a level playing field for everyone’s ideas and opinions. However, you will be disappointed. In Algorithms of Oppression, technology and equality researcher Safiya Noble shows that algorithms reflect the prejudices of those who develop them. Noble addresses the role that companies, and Google in particular, play in the production and distribution of generally accessible information. Some viewpoints can be found much better than others, to the disadvantage of marginalized groups. Women of colour in particular lose out. Based on an analysis of search terms and online adverts, Noble argues that this is not just a fault in a machine, but the consequence of the power structures between people. The use of prejudiced ­algorithms results in profiling based on gender and ethnic background. This concerns Noble, since search engines are used more and more intensively for many different purposes, for example in education. With Algorithms of Oppression, she wants to provide insights into the way in which racism is created and perpetuated by modern technology. –TvtW

Algorithms of Oppression: how search engines reinforce racism Safiya Umoja Noble New York University Press € 30.00

the maker Gina Rippon In The Gendered Brain, neuroscientist Gina Rippon dispels the myth that there are fundamental differences between male and female brains. On the contrary, the brain is a reflection of the life that its owner is leading, and thereby also of the world full of stereotypes that we are exposed to.

Why did earlier research lead to the conclusion that there were major differences? ‘Previously, researchers often made the mistake of comparing male and female brains without correcting for differences in size, for example. On average, men have larger brains, because men are on average larger. As soon as scientists started to correct for size, the alleged gender differences quickly disappeared.’

How do new brain imaging techniques affect research into gender differences in the brain? ISTOCK

Are there no biological differences at all between the brains of men and women?

The Gendered Brain

Gina Rippon

Vintage Publishing € 20,99

‘So far, nobody has found a structure at the macro level that can distinguish a human female brain from a male brain. Earlier claims of differences in size or volume of these structures did not hold up. Thus, a difference has never been d ­ emonstrated in a reliable way using standard brain imaging techniques. There are some ­differences at the cellular level though, for example in the density of hormone receptors.’

‘People are social creatures with staggering cognitive skills. The new techniques provide us with better insights into our brains’ role in this. These techniques have also enabled us to uncover our brains’ extreme flexibility and plasticity, which are present over the course of our entire lives. That is why our experiences in life are so important.’

Is current research on the right track? ‘Much current research is still based on the quest to find gender differences in the brain. Researchers often discount environmental factors that affect the brain. As long as this remains the case, the results will be misleading and unrepresentative.’

These environmental differences include stereotypes about the differences between men and women. Why are those stereotypes so important? ‘Stereotypes can affect how information is coded in the brain. A well-known effect is the conviction that if you are a member of a certain group with a reputation of underperforming on a specific task, you will underperform. For example, you think that you will be bad at parallel parking because you are a woman, and women are known not to excel in this task. Whether the stereotype is correct or not, researchers have shown that confrontation with the stereotype affects how the brain processes information.’

Do you think that we will ever live in a world in which gender does not affect people’s decisions? ‘Perhaps, if we can develop a world in which gender is irrelevant and in which we respect individuals for who they are and for the skills that they have. Then, we will be able to distance ourselves from the potentially toxic influences of gender stereotypes. But we still have a long way to go.’ –FvdG

special diversity matters | New Scientist | 33


The patriarchy, but also the system There are plenty of female students, but most girls still don’t manage to become professors. What extraordinary mechanism perpetuates this?


s a student, feminism did not interest me. ­These were the 1990s. Second-wave feminism had just died down and the prevailing notion was that the ­remaining gender inequality would automatically be rectified. Everything would be ­different for my generation. Feminism was therefore an old-fashioned word, ­something that no intelligent young woman identified with. ‘Women’s Studies’, which also sounded rather stale, was a marginal field within political science at the University of Amsterdam. The lecturers there slightly increased the proportion of women in political science. Except for one ­female professor, political ­science was mainly a white men’s sport. But I didn’t worry about it, because the balance among the students was pretty even. This would all work out. After obtaining my degree, I started my PhD research in Communication Studies. Not only was this a girls’ discipline, but also a fairly new one. There were plenty of female staff. Well, many more than in other fields. I considered that evidence for the promise that more women in science was just a matter of time. I learned to think about this better during my PhD research, not


least because my PhD supervisor was a woman and because I started to explore Gender Studies, its new name. I recognized a surprising phenomenon within communication science. Although the proportion of female students was higher among undergraduates and approximately equal among PhD students, men started to dominate at the assistant professor/postdoc level and, once among professors, men were in the majority. That was a reason to be ­despondent. Science was aware of the problems. Staff members were convinced that this was unacceptable.

It is more about self-interest than the struggle for emancipation

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So, what extraordinary mechanism perpetuated this? Structural sexism, said Willem Schinkel in 2017 in an article for Vers Beton. Using his characteristic sharp pen, he criticized the ‘patriarchal nomination of ‘crown princes’. According to him, this is a form of academic homophilia, whereby male professors systematically promote their academic sons to professorship. In addition to Schinkel, innumerable colleagues in our own country and abroad have studied gender inequality at universities. After all, scientists like writing about science. That is why this topic always evokes my irritation. It is more about self-interest than the struggle for emancipation to fight for more female professors. You could also call it typical white feminism. White women tend to look no further than

their own noses. That is why childcare and the shortage of top business women are ­always hot issues. In doing so, they don’t address the differences in experience that exist between women. Differences not just in colour, but also in class, age, ability, sexuality and religion, for example. Inequality looks different when you wear a headscarf or are a­ ­lesbian. The new generation of ­feminists is very committed to – in jargon – intersectionality. I agree with them that much more attention should be paid to joining forces and listening to each other’s stories. At the same time, I think that it is ­important that we do not ­perpetuate the myth that the second wave of feminism was only white. Black, migrant and refugee women were also involved, and made their presence at universities known.

Column Elmer Sterken

The human factor In my fields these were, for ­example, Ien Ang and Gloria Wekker, who both went abroad in the 1990s. And that makes you think. We are losing talent. In the list of EU countries, we are dangling near the bottom, one-but-last, where female professors are concerned. It is really not true that all these women who leave end up in the kitchen. Some seek refuge elsewhere after continually hitting their heads against a glass ceiling, above which the crown princes are dancing. I did not become a professor either, to my PhD supervisor’s huge disappointment. That was not for anti-feminist ­reasons, but because I no ­longer wanted to be employed by the university. Not because the university is unfriendly ­towards women, but because this sector is unfriendly towards everybody. This is a lesson in intersectional thinking, and one that Schinkel supports too. We must not just overthrow the academic patriarchy, we must also eradicate other wrongs – for example, the ­incredibly high work pressure and the substantial drop-out caused by psychological problems. As a naive student, I thought that everything would sort itself out. I now understand that the system is broken. And something that is broken does not repair itself.

Linda Duits is a researcher and writer in the field of media and gender.


university’s quality is determined largely by the ‘human factor’. Of course, universities have impressive buildings, laboratories, lecture halls and information technology – to name a few assets – but it is really the human effort that makes the difference. ­Research and education are becoming increasingly complex, and consequently depend more on collaboration between individuals. ­Researchers collaborate and students learn – much more than before – to work on ­projects as members of a team. In doing so, the rule applies that collaboration requires team members to have different backgrounds and competences, but that those differences must be surmountable. Small and surmountable differences lead to success. These differences can, of course, be of a different nature, but the conclusion is that knowledge institutions benefit from ­organizing diversity in a ­suitable manner. Herein lies the main challenge for a knowledge institution. How to organize the institution in a way that makes diversity a driver of quality? How are students with different backgrounds collectively educated, also in programmes with many students? How do diverse research teams function? Acknowledging the problem is easier than finding the ­solution.

In October 2016, I took a picture of our then brandnew Nobel Prize winner Ben Feringa and his group in the laboratory. In addition to the happiness, I especially noticed how diverse his group was, and undoubtedly still is. More than 15 different nationalities were represented in this group. The staff at the Feringa

lab share a passion for the research field, but are all from entirely different backgrounds. And that is how knowledge institutions ought to be: the willingness to contribute to science is paramount – someone’s background should not be an obstacle. That is what makes a university strong.

How do you organize diversity as a driver of quality?

Elmer Sterken is Rector Magnificus at the University of Groningen

special diversity matters | New Scientist | 35

This conference is part of the 81st lustrum celebration programme of the University of Groningen, June 2019 Front cover LTR: Philomena Essed - photo: Hellen J Gill Jonathan Jansen - photo: Stanford University Janet Thompson Jackson - photo: Reyer Boxem KimberlĂŠ Crenshaw - photo: African American Policy Forum Clarice Gargard - photo: Else Krebbers

Back cover LTR: Elmer Sterken - photo: Gerhard Taatgen Luis Parra - photo: University of California Davis Sarah Lasoye - photo: National Union of Students Glenn Adams - photo: University of Kansas Monica Lopez Lopez - photo: Floor Fortunati