First of all, thank you to those of you who contacted us with questions and suggestions in the past months! One theme that came back a few times is the question whether this committee is really needed. With maternity leave solidly in place, are women still facing disadvantages compared to men? And those research grants that are only for women — is that fair? We asked these questions to UNIL’s Bureau de l’égalité (https://www.unil.ch/egalite/fr/home/menuinst/notre-engagement/actrices-et-acteurs/bureau-de-legalite.html), who gave us the following response:
– Women (but also LGBTIQ people and people with disabilities) are at a disadvantage in today’s job market, whether or not they have children. This is a fact recognized by both scientific research and the Swiss authorities. Public policies have been developed to address these challenges, and are governed by federal and cantonal legislation.
– The Federal Law on Equality between Women and Men obliges employers to promote equality in practice. Appropriate measures to promote women’s careers are therefore perfectly legal and encouraged, under certain conditions, in order to achieve parity. While strict quotas are not practised in Switzerland, nor at UNIL, incentives such as the “Tremplin” grant are entirely appropriate. It should be noted that this subsidy is competitive, awarded on the basis of the quality of the candidate’s scientific project.
– Moreover, limiting support measures to women who have taken maternity leave would be arbitrary, since research on women in the job market, and particularly in the academic world, shows that obstacles go far beyond maternity. Limiting ourselves to measures for mothers would not solve the problem of inequality, and would be an ineffective policy.
– Parental leave is just one way of facilitating work-life balance. UNIL has also invested heavily in childcare facilities and working conditions that enable parents to achieve a better work-life balance. These measures benefit both fathers and mothers. It should be noted that UNIL already offers 16 weeks paid maternity leave and 4 weeks paternity leave, and that daycare places are already subsidized by both UNIL and the public authorities. These measures are highly regulated by the standards and laws of the State of Vaud.
– The quality of research and teaching is a core value at UNIL. It is not compromised by efforts to promote equality and inclusion. Quite the contrary: by creating conditions where everyone can develop their talents and be recognized, we foster the diversity of approaches and ideas, and the critical debate that is the hallmark of an academic institution. As a reminder, although UNIL sets targets in terms of the number of female professors, recruitment is always ultimately decided on the basis of the scientific quality and skills of the candidates.
– Research and teaching on gender issues should not be confused with political demands or personal aspirations. Gender Studies is a rich, recognized, and dynamic field of research. We are fortunate at UNIL to have leading researchers who are advancing our thinking on this issue by observing and analyzing social, political, legal, and historical developments in the field.
– In the same way, we are fortunate to have associations on campus, particularly student associations, which denounce discrimination or the difficulties that women, LGBTIQ people, or racialized people may experience on campus.
– Finally, actions aimed at inclusion should not be confused with favoritism for certain groups. The actions implemented at UNIL (such as gender neutral toilets) have been designed to improve the daily lives of women, people with reduced mobility, trans and non-binary people, while not impacting other groups. Improving things for these groups takes nothing away from others. A visit to the Amphipole toilets will show that the renovation of these facilities has benefited everyone in terms of space, comfort and safety.
Thus, there is still lots of work to do for our committee! Please keep contacting us with your comments or questions: our suggestions-box is located near the elevators on the 3rd floor and we’re always happy to discuss in person.
The CIG EDI committee (Richard Benton, Isabel Lopez Mejia, and Jolanda van Leeuwen)