The myth of gender equality in the Netherlands by Henriëtte Prast, TiSEM, Tilburg University

News - 16 July 2019

On July 12, 2019 Henriëtte Prast, full professor at Tilburg University and economist, talked about the gender gap in academia. Are women treated differently than men, in school and during their careers?  How do environmental factors and prejudice influence preferences and behaviour? Do the seemingly innocent rules by NWO require policy if we want to combat discrimination? 

The Netherlands is not as progressive as we think. We can see in the Glass Ceiling Index published by the Economist that the working environment for women in the Netherlands is one of the lowest from all the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries.  The figures from The Economist’s latest glass-ceiling index, which measures where women have the best chance of equal treatment at work, show that, after decades of improvement, progress for women in the workplace has stalled in recent years.

Henriëtte said that the general explanations are that women have less ambition, women have other preferences, women should negotiate better and/or women should work more hours. This, of course, puts all the blame on the women and they should find the solutions. 

But Henriëtte shows in her research that implicit bias, stereotyping and stereotype threat discriminate women from a young age. For example, in the VWO (preparation school for university) final exams (2016-2018) the number of women occupations used was 6 and the number of men occupations used was 26. Also, the occupations were very stereotyped: a women was an economics teacher and a men an economist (11x).  

It is a problem because stereotyping influences career choices and chances. Women tend not to choose a STEM career or imagine themselves as a professor. Gender bias in interpretation of CV’s and funding requests result in hiring less women and giving women less grants. Henriëtte explained little economic research has been done into the root causes of gender differences in income distribution and labor market participation.

Policy suggestions made by Henriëtte are:

  • Gender quota to replace mediocre men by top women (talent pool)
  • Screening of education material for gender bias
  • Screen teachers for gender bias (Harvard implicit bias test)
  • Introduce gender and economics in curriculum
  • Treat gender (50%) issue different from diversity issue

View the full presentation here.

About Henriëtte Prast

Henriëtte Prast is full professor at Tilburg University and was a member of the Dutch Senate from June 2015 through February 2019. She is an economist with expertise in behavioural economics, finance, financial supervision, pension saving and investing and gender & economics. She is working on the behavioural economics of gender gaps in the labour market. She is a board member of the LNVH, the Dutch network of female professors. Previously she was a member of the Scientific Council for Government Policy in the Netherlands.