10 February 2015

Hiring target: A woman in every applicant pool

Equal opportunity

New University of Copenhagen hiring guidelines now require that women be included among the applicants for all new openings for managers and researchers

Applicant fields made up of only one gender are a thing of the past at the University of Copenhagen. A strategy unveiled by the University yesterday that seeks to increase the number of women in research and management positions requires that a least one person of each gender apply for these positions before they can be filled.

“The plan will expand our applicant pool. As it is right now, just one in five professorships is held by a woman, and that rules out a lot of potential applicants. The University is not looking to make it easier for women to get hired. What we want to do is ensure that anyone skilled enough to apply gets the chance to do so. It all still comes down to a person’s qualifications, not their gender,” says Rector Ralf Hemmingsen.

The strategy, which took effect on 1 February, will also require a gender balance on assessment and hiring committees. In addition, faculties will earmark money that will be used to assist adjuncts and lecturers – regardless of gender – to resume their teaching and research duties after returning from parental leave. The funding could be used on research stays or to hire research assistants.

Another initiative will be the establishment of recruitment committees that will encourage qualified national and international candidates to apply for open research positions.

Individual faculties will be able to develop their own plans for improving gender balances locally. Each year, they will be required to report their results to the Rector. 

Individual elements of the strategy 

  • Gender balance among top managers
    Goal: Raise the proportion of the under-represented gender by five percentage points, to a total share of 32 per cent, over a three-year period.
  • Open recruiting and the required use of recruitment committees when filling positions for managers, permanent lecturers and professors
    Goal: By 2017, active recruitment methods such as recruitment committees will be used when filling all relevant positions
  • Require that at least one person of each gender apply for professorships or lecturer and adjunct positions before they can be filled
  • Gender balanced assessment and hiring committees
    Goal: 40 per cent of assessment committees must have an overall gender balance within the next three years.
  • Initiatives to help men and women transition back to work from parental leave
  • Career development in the form of leadership preparation courses and mentor programmes
  • Continuing education and training focusing on how gender issues influence research
  • Identify the reasons why women choose not to pursue careers at the University of Copenhagen


The University of Copenhagen has applied for an exemption from the Gender Equality Act in order to be able to require that at least one person from each gender applies for open positions.

The plan will be evaluated in three years.

The strategy replaces a 2007-2013 programme that offered financial incentives as a means to improving gender balance among University researchers. The financial aspect, however, made the programme the focus of criticism. Faculties that hired female professors were permitted to hire additional professors of either gender, while specially earmarked funds were paid to faculties that increased the proportion of women hired as professors.