67 years of women at TU/e

Students now and in 1957
Students now and in 1957
[VIDEO] In light of International Women’s Day, we delve into the history of women at our university.

March 8 is International Women’s Day, a day to acknowledge the position of women in the broadest sense. Today, many women work and study at our university. A fitting occasion to take a brief look back at 67 years of "women at TU/e".

First female student

Very early on, when TU/e was founded in 1957, half of the students were women. In fact, there were only two enrollees to study electrical engineering. The 19-year-old. Henny van der Leeden was one of the two. She was even specially addressed during the opening speech by Rector Magnificus Dorgelo.

F.l.t.r. Mr. Dorgelo receives Henny van der Leeden, she signs her student pass, she is addressed during the opening. Photos Martien Coppens.

The rector says to the attendees of what was then called the Eindhoven University of Technology, "Miss and gentlemen.

Van der Leeden also had the opportunity to shake hands with Queen Juliana at the opening of TU/e in 1957, and she was interviewed by the attending journalists. This led to an article in the Eindhovens Dagblad titled ’One coat among 250 jackets’.

A year later, three girls enrolled in Chemical Engineering, and a separate association (Juno) for women was founded.


However, in the following years, it was predominantly boys who came to study at TU/e. Special information days were organized to attract more girls, such as in the 1990s, the ’THEA studies technology days’.

Nationally, campaigns like ’A smart girl is preparing for her future’ in the 1980s aimed to encourage more girls to enroll in technical studies.

First female doctor and professor

In the 1960s, Wil Visscher became the first female doctor at the university. She remained affiliated with the department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry at TU/e until her retirement.

F.l,t.r. Helga Fassbinder, Mary Fanet-Wheeler, Silvia Lenaerts and Wil Visser. Photos: John Claessens, Bart van Overbeke.

Then it took nine more years until the first female professor was appointed. From 1976, Helga Fassbinder held a chair as professor of urban renewal. And with that, she was also the first European female professor in her field.

In 2006, we awarded the first female honorary doctorate. Mary Fanett Wheeler received the honorary doctorate for her research in applied and industrial mathematics.

Since last year, Silvia Lenaerts has been not only the first female rector of TU/e, but also of all the technical universities in the Netherlands.

Equal distribution of men and women

The university aims for an equal distribution of women and men, and encourages this in multiple ways.

For example, we aim for at least 30% of all scientific staff to be female researchers.

To achieve this, the recruitment policy was adjusted in 2019. Additionally, there is the Irčne Curie Fellowship program to offer scholarships to talented female scientists.

The Marina van Damme scholarship is also awarded annually. A scholarship of ¤9,000 to help female alumni of the four Dutch TU’s advance in their careers.

TU/e in figures

In 2023, there were over 7,000 people working at TU/e, with nearly 66% of those being scientific staff. Over 31% of our scientific staff are women. There is also an upward trend among students, with over 28% female students last year.

It’s not entirely equal yet, but progress is being made.