More women than men in higher education for decades, but still more men in top jobs
For 23 academic years, Dutch higher education institutions have counted more female than male students, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reported on Wednesday - International Women’s Day. Despite this, the Netherlands is still struggling to close its gender wage gap, and Dutch businesses still have more men than women in leadership positions.
During the 2021/22 academic year, approximately 443,000 women studied at a Dutch university or university of applied sciences, compared to 393,000 men. The ratio between women and men in higher vocational or university education remained largely consistent over the past decade. In the 2021/22 academic year, 54 percent of students at a university (WO) and 53 percent at a higher professional education institution (HBO) were women. Pre-university education (VWO) has also counted more women than men since the 1995/96 school year.
The fact that more women than men participated in higher education is also reflected in the population’s current education level. Last year, 60 percent of 25 to 35-year-old women in the Netherlands had a higher professional education or university degree. For men in this age group, it was slightly more than half. In the 35 to 45 age group, it was 53 percent of women and 48 percent of men. In the 45-55 group, an equal proportion of men (40.9%) and women (40.8%) are highly educated. It’s only in the older age groups that more men than women have high education levels.
But despite all this progress at the education level, women are still struggling in the labor market compared to men. The European statistics agency Eurostat recently reported that at this rate, the gender wage gap in Europe will only be closed in 2086.
Eurostat data showed that the gap in the Netherlands is still 13.5 percent, which is equal to the average of all countries that use the euro as their currency. Data from CBS showed that corporations pay women 19 percent less on average in the Netherlands, while government offices have shown more improvement.
Dutch companies are appointing more women in leadership positions. However, women are still under-represented in top functions like CEO and CFO, consultancy firm EY’s Boardroom Monitor showed in January. The percentage of women in Dutch boardrooms increased from 37 percent in June 2022 to 42 percent at the start of 2023. But the number of women with “C” positions is still lagging behind. Of the current male board members, 62 percent hold or held a position starting with a C, compared to 51 percent of women.
Women are also struggling to get ahead in Dutch academics, according to the National Network of Women Professors (LNVH). At the end of 2021, an average of 26.7 percent of professors at Dutch universities were women, compared to 25.7 percent a year earlier. At this rate, higher education institutions will have the same number of male and female professors in 2041.