Merian Prize gives talented women researchers a chance

Leiden archaeologist Corinne Hofman has been awarded the Merian Prize intended to stimulate and motivate women researchers. The prize will be presented on 21 November. The first Merian Prize, in 2009, was also awarded to a Leiden researcher, psychologist Naomi Ellemers. What does one do with 50,000 euros?


The biennial Merian Prize was established by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and is financed by SNS Reaal Fonds. In addition to a specially designed piece of jewellery, the prize consists of 50,000 euros, to be spent on motivating women researchers. The Merian Prize both emphasizes the role model function of women in high positions in academia and gives other women a chance to make a career for themselves in science.

Role model

Professor Hofman was awarded the Prize for her contribution to her field of specialisation, Caribbean Archaeology, and the way in which she has brought this field to the attention of the international community. ‘An impressive achievement,’ the jury commented. ‘Her authoritative and innovative scientific work makes her an inspiring role model. In addition, she also actively encourages talented women researchers to aim for scientific positions.’ What is Hofman going to do with her 50,000 euros? ‘I want to use the prize to stimulate women researchers from the Caribbean region and offer them the opportunity to study and do PhD research within my research programmes.’

New line of research

Professor Naomi Ellemers

Professor Naomi Ellemers

Social and Organisational Psychologist Ellemers still remembers precisely what she did with her prize. ‘I used the money to start a new line of research on implicit discrimination. The question was whether people can counter the implicit negative associations they have with members of a stigmatised group, in this case women wearing headscarves, and if so, how they go about it. We tried to answer the latter question by measuring brain activity. We discovered that it helps if you remind people of the moral implications of their behaviour.’

First study

‘The use of this kind of psycho-physiological measurements to investigate implicit discrimination was a new research method for me,’ says Ellemers, ‘I wanted to start a PhD project in this field, but I could not show beforehand that it was possible to investigate such issues in this way. With the money from the Merian Prize, I was able to attract a very promising research master’s student to carry out the first study. The positive results of that study formed the basis for her PhD research – which is currently being rounded off.’

Welcome publicity

As a result of the publicity surrounding the award of the Merian Prize, Ellemers’ research group became visible to external parties, thus generating a lot of attention for the position of women in science and how it can be improved. ‘The added value of the Merian Prize is still tangible.’

Growing number of female (academic) staff at Leiden University 
The percentage of women staff members in academic positions at Leiden University has increased from 32.2% in 2007 to 35.2% in 2011. Since 2007, the percentage of female professors has increased by 4% to 19.2%. The goal is to reach 20% by the end of 2013. Among senior university lecturers, the number of women has increased from 23% to 27.7%. Among the lecturers, including those who carry out research, the number of women was slightly higher in 2011 than in 2010. Among researchers and PhD candidates, the number of women has decreased slightly. The total percentage of women staff members has increased in the period since 2007 from 43.4% in 2007 to 45.4% in 2011.

(21 November 2013)

Only for women

  • KNAW Merian Prize

  • Talent to the top: the charter signed by Leiden University to appoint more women to senior positions. both academic and non-academic.

  • Aspasia: subsidy for promoting women to senior lecturer or lecturer positions.

  • Athena: subsidy for appointing female Veni winners to permanent positions in the sciences.

  • NWO Meervoud: subsidy to attract more women lecturers to science, including geosciences and life sciences. 

  • FOm/v: intended to retain women scientists in the field of physics in the Netherlands.

  • Catharine van Tussenbroek Fund: grants for women in the early years of their academic career to travel or carry out research abroad (PhD candidates/post docs).

  • Jo Kolk Study Fund: to encourage women who have studied at an academic university or a university of applied sciences to complete or extend their studies.

See also

Studying in Leiden



Last Modified: 22-11-2013