As a female computer scientist, Alexia Athanasopoulou is used to being in the minority. “People have asked me: ‘you’re a girl, why are you doing this?’”. But it was when she moved to the Netherlands to start her PhD that she noticed a big difference. “The ratio of men to women in my engineering department was very high, and this had consequences for the working culture,” she says.
That women are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) is a well-known problem. The statistics for gender balance in higher education are similarly bleak: the European Commission estimates that women make up 48% of graduates but hold only 24% of senior academic roles, falling to 15% in Stem. Dutch universities are particularly gender imbalanced, and last year Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) sat at the bottom of the pile with women representing just 15% of professors.
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