The Den is crowded. On the first floor of Forum, each study association has its own tiny office, and ours is always packed during breaks. If you show up late, you have to sit in the awkward corner behind the door or stand and wait for a chair to free up. And it always smells of bread, sweat, and men’s deodorant.
During an average break, there will be around twelve people eating lunch in the Den, which is no more than ten square metres. Most of them are male. My study programme (Forest and Nature Management) has an equal number of males and females. Still, the Den-inhabitants do not reflect this demographic. In the last two boards of which I was a member, only one of the six board members was a woman (me). This imbalance is noticed mainly by women; it is a blind spot for men. As soon as there are one or two women, in addition to the eight to ten men, they say: ‘Well, they are represented. What is the issue?’
A board with many women has a more pleasant dynamic (sorry former board, you guys were awesome, but something was lacking)
As a former chair of a board in which I was the only woman and as someone who grew up in a household of five women, I do consider it an issue. New board members are often recruited from among those in the Den. A board with many women has a better and more pleasant dynamic (sorry former board, you guys were awesome, but something was lacking). During the association’s periodic drinks, I ask everyone how we may improve and how we might recruit more women. ‘Perhaps there should be less shouting and throwing things in the Den’, is one of the suggestions. ‘Perhaps we should reserve a bench in the Den for female fellow students’, says another. ‘Or we could take pictures of all the women who are present tonight and share the pictures’. ‘Yes! Hey, take pictures of the women!’
The unofficial task force charged with attracting more women to the study association has worked less or more. At least, it has become a topic of conversation. When I enter the Den on a random day, I am immediately told that there were four women during the break and that it was ‘kind of intimidating’. And when I walked in today, the number of women instantly doubled from one to two. Tonight, the new board of the study association will be inaugurated. Two women and four men. Double the number of women. There!
Ilja Bouwknegt is 23,bachelor’s student of Forest and Nature Management, and an active member of the study association WSBV Sylvatica. She sometimes does bat research at night.