Discrimination story sparks action at TU Delft

Computer science student Harshitaa Pandey was surprised by the positive feedback that resulted from the personal story she shared with Delta. She has now started a survey.

The Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics & Computer Science (EEMCS). (Photo: Justyna Botor)

Pandey was initially a bit nervous about discussing the topic of gender discrimination in such a public forum because of previous experiences. “I turned my phone notifications off because I was 100% sure that there would be some people who reacted very negatively,” she said of the day the article went online. She was certainly not expecting to open her email and see that the first response was from Professor Lucas van Vliet, Dean of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics & Computer Science (EEMCS).

After reading her story, he expressed that the conduct and behaviour she described doesn’t belong at the EEMCS Faculty or at TU Delft. More importantly, we should stress diversity, promote inclusiveness and support our students’ individual learning paths, he wrote. The email commended Pandey for speaking up and included an invitation to further discuss her experiences and explore ways to ‘continue our transformation to a more inclusive and diverse academic community’.

Having also received messages from female students who reposted her article, Pandey said she feels like she’s being given an opportunity to shine a light on the subject. So, she reached out to some of them to ask for ideas on how to move forward and one of the suggestions was to create a survey. Within just a few days of putting the survey online, they have already gotten numerous responses from people sharing their own experiences.

‘Getting so many positive responses is already a step in the right direction’

Pandey hopes that they can collect even more responses from women across TU Delft, not just from computer science. It’s nice if I share my opinion, but at the same time it’s just my opinion and I don’t think it carries that much weight in a broader sense,” she said. Pandey plans to share all of the feedback when she meets with the dean in early December and hopes it can help lead to a better understanding of the issues people are facing.

Reiterating what she shared in her personal story, Pandey said she wants people to be aware that gender discrimination is happening because that’s the first step towards doing something about it. And she’s encouraged by the responses she has gotten so far. “At least people are listening and wanting to learn more about it,” she said. “I think it’s not an institutional issue. The main problem lies with the people who are here, but getting so many positive responses is already a step in the right direction.”

Going forward, Pandey said “I think this is really important and the women I have been talking to are also super passionate about this topic. I don’t need to be in charge of this in order for it to go forward because there are lots of people who can help, including men. I think the more men that speak out about it, the better. I really didn’t think my story was that special, so I’m glad that I put it out there and that it got the response that it did.”

Heather Montague / Freelance writer

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