Women indispensable in hard science, Dijkgraaf believes

We cannot allow women to be underrepresented in the top echelons of science, business and public administration, Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf said this week at an international conference on Women’s Empowerment.

He was speaking not only as a minister but also as a scientist, said Minister Dijkgraaf in the speech he gave in English to the G20 conference.

Science, in his view, is of crucial importance in addressing challenges such as the coronavirus pandemic and climate change. ‘Therefore, we simply cannot afford to squander it.’


Nevertheless, that it what is happening to some extent, for example in the underrepresentation of women in the exact sciences, technology and mathematics. There is a risk of widening gender gaps, he said. Dijkgraaf calls this ‘unacceptable and unnecessary’.

But what can be done about it? In Dijkgraaf’s opinion it all starts with quality and inclusive education. Girls should be aware that they are as capable as boys of flourishing in these disciplines.

The previous Dutch government introduced a bill to ensure that the supervisory boards of listed companies comprise a minimum of one third and a maximum of two thirds of women. The legislation took effect this year. The idea is that top positions should not be held exclusively by men or women. Target figures are to be introduced for the public and quasi public sectors, Dijkgraaf stressed. This includes higher education institutions.

Lagging behind

While women are still lagging behind in science, with STEM programmes continuing to attract more male than female students, there has been a gradual increase in the number of female professors. Last year – for the first time – one in four professors was a woman.

© HOP. Source: Statistics Netherlands.

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