Closing the workforce gender gap in the Netherlands

Reports from OECD showed that in the Netherlands in 2011, only a small percentage of tertiary degrees in computer science were awarded to women, while Statistics Netherlands reported that only 3% of women with a diploma in the Netherlands had completed technical training.

The trend is improving, however, bolstered by the various initiatives and programmes in Amsterdam that encourage women to enter fields long dominated by men: computer science, engineering and even music. 

Inspiring interest in STEM among girls

Organised by VHTO, a Dutch organisation dedicated to encouraging girls to become interested in the STEM fields, alongside digital infrastructure provider Eurofiber, the Smart City Challenge invited primary school-aged girls in five cities across the Netherlands to participate in challenges to solve real-world problems with technology.

In Amsterdam, girls aged 9–11 formed teams to develop digital solutions to make playgrounds more fun and accessible, with guidance from students from the University of Amsterdam and the Vrije Universiteit. The winning solution was an app that allows users to search, add and review playgrounds, chosen by a jury that included representatives from Eurofiber, the City of Amsterdam and Amsterdam Smart City.

VHTO promotes programmes throughout the year; the annual Girlsday event puts girls ages 10–15 in contact with various science, technical and IT companies, and Share My Day in Tech pairs teachers with female technical professionals to better understand potential career paths for primary school students.

Others in the Netherlands have begun planting the seeds of interest in STEM for women: Project Prep, a young adult novel from Improve Digital’s Janneke Niessen and author Niki Smit, is part of an overall initiative to get young girls not just interested in tech, but excited about pursuing a career in it.

Scholarships for women in STEM and beyond

Schools in Amsterdam have also begun to focus on bringing more women into male-dominated professions, including music.

The Abbey Road Institute, a school in Amsterdam offering degrees in music production and sound engineering, introduced a new scholarship aimed at encouraging women to enter the field of professional audio. Named after one of the most recognised sound engineers in the industry, Darcy Proper, the scholarship funds one full year of tuition for the winning student.

Other scholarships for women in STEM include Google’s Women Techmakers Scholars Programme, which focuses on computer science and can be applied towards universities in Amsterdam, and the research-focused NWO Rubicon Scholarship, which—although open to all—especially encourages women to apply.