Figures from UNESCO said the Netherlands had fewer female science graduates than any other country in the world.
However, the Dutch government figures show that (since 2007) the number of girls applying for technical courses at havo secondary schools has gone up from 15% to 26% and at pre-university vwo secondary schools from 20% to 38%.
Currently, one in five girls study technical subjects at vocational or hbo colleges. The number of female students taking technical courses at university however remains the same, at 26%.
According to a recent study by Northwestern University in the US, the Dutch were the most likely to associate the sciences with men and masculinity. The report concluded that this kind of ‘explicit’ stereotyping is an indicator of biased hiring and a lack of encouragement for girls towards engineering and the sciences.
In the same light, VHTO, a Dutch expert advocacy group for women in science reported that self-confidence, fertility/lifestyle issues and the necessity to opt for specific study paths early in Dutch education are contributing factors to the problem. It also added that ‘it is hard to find female role models to guest lecture.’
To ease the problem, VHTO has developed a database of nearly 2,000 female role models. Working with these role models, they conduct research, consult and organise programmes and events and work closely with the education ministry.
Girlsday, its flagship programme takes place nationwide every April. Female experts, coached by VHTO to effectively deal with different age groups, visit schools; specifically to introduce strong role models to girls.
For Girlsday, thousands of girls aged 10-15 years visit companies or science centres and hundreds of companies threw open their doors for relevant workshops. It provides the girls an opportunity to see what working in these industries is like.
While women account for 47% of HR, communications and IT jobs, just 11% of technical staff are female.