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A history of strong and smart women at the UT

In the spirit of Women's Day, we have compiled a list of smart women, strong groups of supporters, and research aimed at improving the quality of life of women in the Netherlands and abroad. These women are part of UT history and will pave the way for future generations of women in science, and women as leaders.

1964

The first class of the University of Twente had around 200 students, of which four were women, paving the way for many more to come.

1965

In the second year of operation of the then named Technical University College Twente, Dr. ir. Marina Van Damme obtained her PhD, becoming the first woman to do so at the academic institution. In her name, a scholarship fund has also been established “consisting of cash amounting to €9,000 and an award.” The awardee has “four years to spend the amount on further developing her career. Such as by deepening or increasing her knowledge or an international orientation in the form of a study programme, internship or project.”

1977

While initially hired as a housekeeper, Mrs G. Elsenburg meant a lot more to students than clean towels and fresh bedsheets. With the loving nickname of “Ma,” she helped new students navigate their new life at their new home away from home. 

2006

In this year, the imbalance of gender was noted, and plans were initiated to generate an influx of women in professional roles at the UT.

2009

These plans were structured and described in a note called the "Influx and career development of women at the UT 2009." Simultaneously, a set of agreements were signed called the “Talent to the Top” charter, in order to “help realize greater male/female diversity at both top and middle management.” To this day, this charter is upheld with an aim to achieve greater diversity. 

2013

A very successful year for female researchers at the UT; four women appeared in media having won various prizes and awards. Prof. Dr. Ellen Giebels as the winner of the Jeffrey Z. Rubin theory-to-practice award; Computer scientist Dr. Marieke Huisman as being awarded the Netherlands Prize for ICT Research for her research on “the reliability and accuracy of concurrent software;” Dr Tatiana Filatova as receiving the Professor De Winter Award, “an annual publication award honouring a highly talented female academics” for her article entitled "Spatial agent-based models for socio-ecological systems: challenges and prospects;” and Susan Roelofs as the winner of the Marina van Damme-beurs.

2017

Former student Ank Bijleveld made UT history by becoming the first alumnus to become a minister, after an already very successful career in The Hague in various political roles.

2022

Another strong woman present in media as a result of being awarded funding for her research is associate professor Kerensa Broersen, who was awarded a Vici grant for her studies into “how intestinal bacteria communicate with the brain and what happens in diseases such as Parkinson's disease.”

Ongoing

At present, the percentage of full professors at the UT is only 21. Furthermore, only 17% of associate professors are women, very low in general, and even more shocking when compared to the Dutch average of 29.4%. The Female Faculty Network Twente (FFNT), a “professional network of female academics” is consistently attempting to improve these numbers with the aim of building “Female Academic Leadership together with our members for everybody within UT.” OBP Vrouwennetwerk is another network aimed at support and management personnel, who “contribute to improving the position of such women at the UT.”

For women outside of the UT, research also takes place in order to improve women's health. The Techmed Center houses a group of researchers who want to “Empower women by education and knowledge creation and translation by  developing a network of collaborative and well-funded research.” 15 talented women, and 1 man, undertake research into pregnancy complications, breastfeeding, breast cancer, women’s reproductive health, and more. These are their names:

Mentioned in this article are nowhere near all successful, smart, strong, independent, caring, feisty, and forceful women making change and seeking a better future for themselves and others. Who do you think belongs on this list?