Dozens of female researchers at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) will go on strike on Friday. The protest comes in response to a call by the Belgian chapter of the Collectif 8 mars women’s movement for a general strike on International Women’s Day.
The academics, who have formed a movement called ‘Chercheuses en grêve’ (Researchers on Strike), are denouncing excessive competitiveness in the academic world which, they say, hurts women more.
ULB policies focus on productivity, excellence and competition under a system that ranks universities worldwide based on criteria such as the number of publications by researchers, one of the movement’s members said. This causes difficulties for both men and women, “but the women pay a heavier price since they undergo additional discrimination, the ULB researcher said.
The output logic comes at the expense of the transmission of knowledge, she added. Some women teach classes for long hours and are committed to doing so. However, they publish less, so they are less recognized since only articles published are taken into account.
Additionally, the system requires researchers to be able to move around internationally, an unreasonable and impossible requirement for women with families.
Despite this, women do high-quality work, the researcher said.
Women are also assumed to be less credible. Even when the quality is the same, work done by men is quoted more often than women’s work, which “reinforces the idea that men are more credible and serious,” she argued.
The research world itself is male-dominated. “There are more female students but the higher up you go in the university hierarchy, the fewer women there are,” the researcher stressed. “Women ask themselves more questions before applying for a post because they have other responsibilities” but “a man is more likely to benefit from the work done by his companion to advance in his career.”
On Friday, a non-blocking picket line will be placed at the entrance of the ULB’s Solbosch campus and a rally is scheduled for 12.30, prior to the submission of the movement’s demands at the Chancellor’s Office.