Column Guido Camps: Successor

What better way to belittle Fresco’s work during her years in the job!
Text: Guido Camps

The search has started for a new chair of the WUR board. We can read on the intranet that the recruiter has been given input for the profile of this new director. If you ask me, the criteria are solid and in line with WUR’s ambitions:

  • a research background in the field of food, nature and environment
  • a diplomatic representative of WUR in ministries in The Hague, the EU in Brussels, and international forums
  • an open management style
  • not necessarily Dutch

I can endorse this list, although reading it your first thought is that it will be difficult to find someone like this. They would have to be an incredibly special international highflyer to tick all these boxes. What’s more, the wish is expressed for someone who makes up a balanced team together with Rens Buchwaldt and Arthur Mol. That bothered me a bit.

Any man you appoint starts on the back foot and any woman has the “positive discrimination” stigma

Guido Camps

Not because I disagree, but precisely because it goes without saying, and therefore needn’t be said, if you ask me. Instead, the text explicitly states ‘Fresco’s successor should preferably once again be a woman’ in two places: at the end of the document and as the very first criterion.

I would say it’s totally obvious that when looking to complete the current team, the need for balance leads you to seek more diversity. And there’s more to diversity than gender. But by explicitly putting gender at the top of the list, isn’t WUR undermining itself? It means you put any man you appoint on the back foot from the start, as a second choice. And any woman you appoint is subjected to the stigma of ‘positive discrimination’.

Every time I read the sentence, I object to it more, because it tarnishes not just the new appointment but also the achievements of Louise Fresco. ‘Preferably a woman again’ – what better way to belittle her work during her years in the job! Change the profile into ‘Fresco’s successor should once again be someone who works tirelessly and successfully in WUR’s interests.’ 

Guido Camps (37) is a vet and a postdoc in Human Nutrition. He enjoys baking, beekeeping and unusual animals.

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