'Scientists should not be hindered by rules and regulations’

8 March 2019

Femke Tabak is a policy officer with NWO's Chemistry and Physics department. Despite the fact that men dominate in science, in her department the ratio of men to women is 50:50. What does she think about that?

Femke TabakFemke Tabak

NWO funds nine national research institutes that all perform high-quality scientific research. Femke visits each of them regularly. 'I meet with the researchers, help them with questions and offer advice. The researchers are happy to have a permanent contact person within NWO, and I enjoy it because it gives me energy! I help the scientists with concrete matters such as the status of their funding, publications in staff newsletters, appointments of PhD students, or the ins and outs of NWO’s systems.'

Are you also involved in policy decisions?

'I am involved in both concrete and abstract work, which is precisely what I love about my job! I am coordinator of the Top Sector High-Tech Systems and Materials (HTSM) and I work one day a week as programme manager with the Top Sector Chemistry. The Top Sectors are nine sectors in which Dutch businesses and research centres excel internationally. Together with a colleague, I analyse the HTSM activities funded by NWO.

I am also part of a team that is considering how NWO can advertise its processes and instruments to the outside world, because these have undergone considerable changes in recent years. It is exciting to work together in a team to drive innovation at NWO.'

What is your mission within NWO?

'I want to contribute to making our range of instruments more easily accessible. We need a system that makes it easy for scientists to find their way to NWO, and we need to hinder them as little as possible with complicated rules and regulations. Their time is much better spent on valuable research!'

What does your work-life balance look like?

'My husband and I have divided the household tasks fairly. I bring the children to the daycare centre in the morning and my husband picks them up in the afternoon. Working four days a week means I can easily combine my job with family life and hobbies. I enjoy doing sports, although I have less time for it now that we have kids. In 2013 my husband and I cycled 4400 kilometres from Canada to the US border with Mexico. We had a tent with us and camped in the wild for three months, which was quite an experience! I am currently a member of a triathlon club and regularly go swimming, running and mountain biking. One more thing that really helps to improve my work-life balance: I love my work!'

International Women's Day…. What's your opinion on that?

'Despite that fact the science is dominated by men, the ratio in my department is 50:50. I think it's a really relaxed place to work; everyone listens to each other and we all help each other. I do believe we could do with more female role models. It is a shame when women forgo a technical career because they think they are expected to do something else. If we can show that women enjoy this field as much as men we may be able to persuade the doubters to reconsider. I studied and work in a field that I really love and I enjoy it every day! So my advice is: do what you really want to do and don't let yourself be held back by the expectations of others.'

Text: Milou Oomens | Doelgroep in beeld

Source: NWO