[Works Council elections] Claudia Werker: ‘See diversity as something positive’

TU Delft staff may vote in the Works Council elections on 3 and 4 November. But who to vote for? The nominees introduce themselves in this four-part series.

Claudia Werker: "I realised that if I wanted to achieve anything for the dossiers that I thought were important, the logical step was to join the Works Council.” (Foto: NewMedia Centre)

She spent most of her career working as an economist at various technical universities in and outside her country of birth, Germany. “I know what it feels like to be seen as ‘different’,” says Claudia Werker (Technology, Policy and Management). By coincidence, the professor became involved in local staff participation in her Faculty and is now an FNV trade union candidate for the Works Council. “In a perfect world, TU Delft would be a real reflection of society.”

Why are you standing for election to the Works Council?
“To be honest, I just rolled into it. Two years ago I was invited by the Chair of TPM’s Personnel Committee to ‘pull up a chair’. We had just published a scientific article about gender differences in career paths at technical universities. The Volkskrant (in Dutch) newspaper did an interview with me on the article’s pre-publication. The Personnel Committee wanted to delve into the subjects of diversity and gender more deeply and that is how I got involved.”

‘The Works Council is for everyone, for academic and non-academic personnel alike’

“Over the years I have worked on various dossiers that range from gender differences to teacher evaluations. Time and time again I saw that the subjects that the Faculty put forward were decided at university level. I realised that if I wanted to achieve anything for the dossiers that I thought were important, the logical step was to join the Works Council.”

You are representing the FNV. What does this party stand for?
“The FNV is a large trade union which has many members among working people. Its membership is not restricted to the highly educated, but is open to everyone. Even if you are not a member you can still ask for help. You are not alone. This is how I see the Works Council. The Works Council is there for everyone, for academic and non-academic staff. It works for anyone who has an issue, in whatever area.”

What subjects do you want to put your efforts into in the coming years?
“For more bottom-up-based policy making so that we can use and strengthen diversity in education, research and social role valorisation research. TU Delft has so much talent: young people, the over fifties, academic and non-academic staff. Behind them is great a diversity of backgrounds in terms of religion, birth country, gender, skin colour and character. If we see diversity as something positive, it will make us more creative and productive because TU Delft would then be a place where everyone feels at home. TU Delft still has to move forward on this.

This is not only an ethical but an economic issue. In 2021, the European Commission will place greater emphasis on gendered research when awarding research budgets through Horizon Europe. The national action plan for diversity and inclusion presented by the NWO (Dutch Research Council) recently shows a similar approach. If we do not regularly submit research subjects targeted at diversity and gender, we will lose that research support.”

‘We need to work hard to offer staff the opportunities to develop and to change along with TU Delft’

What do you believe is the biggest challenge for staff participation at TU Delft?
“TU Delft is part of the South Holland growth agenda (in Dutch) and will closely collaborate with the province to make it more knowledge centred. I am interested to see how the Executive Board and the Works Council will deal with this. It will have implications for TU Delft as in the decades to come, it will go further than the Leiden-Erasmus-Delft (LDE) collaboration of today. Just think about our collaboration with Erasmus University Rotterdam on artificial intelligence, health and urban development. It will have a huge impact on all staff. An organisation like TU Delft changes fast in this kind of situation so we need to work hard now to give staff the opportunity to develop and to change as TU Delft changes. This is a major challenge.”

What is your image of an ideal TU Delft?
“It is a real reflection of society. Students with different backgrounds. A university that is really connected to the region. A place where diversity is a strength and where we dare discuss difficult issues. How international do we want to be? A few years ago, TU Delft teachers got subsidies for MOOCS. The idea behind them was ‘Educate the world’. Really admirable, but what does this mean for on-campus where, in contrast to a virtual environment, the places are much more limited?”

You live in Belgium and work or have worked in the Netherlands, Germany and England. Have you seen anything at other universities that you would like to see at TU Delft?
“The University of Tilburg works with targets to promote gender equality and inclusion. It may be harder for technical universities, but there are still good examples. I am a guest professor at the RWTH Aachen University which has targets too. Policy plans have already been worked out at university and faculty level and these can be requested and adapted to TU Delft. I am happy that the new diversity officer wants to build a diversity dashboard like the one at Stanford University. I think this is a good starting point.” 

  • The elections for the Works Council and the Personnel Committees will be held on 3 and 4 November. Staff can vote digitally via
News editor Marjolein van der Veldt

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