Tech education gaining popularity among girls

© Hollandse Hoogte / Maarten Hartman
More often than was the case ten years ago, girls in secondary education types HAVO, VWO and MBO are opting for technical subjects. At VMBO and at higher education level, the number of girls enrolled in technology-related subjects has seen a slight rise. Tech education is still predominantly popular among boys. This is shown in figures released by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) on enrolments in the academic year 2017/’18.


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In the academic year 2006/’07, the respective shares of girls taking the Nature and Technology profile at HAVO (senior general secondary) level and VWO (pre-university secondary) level were 2 and 6 percent. This profile includes mathematics B, physics and chemistry as compulsory subjects. By 2017/’18, these shares had gone up to 10 and 28 percent respectively. The upward trend started in the academic year 2007/’08, when the so-called new upper secondary phase was introduced. This made it easier to combine the profiles Nature and Technology and Science and Health in a ‘dual subject cluster’. Girls at VWO level in particular opted for this dual subject cluster after the new upper secondary phase was introduced. Nature and Technology is still popular mainly among boys. More boys have opted for this profile as well over the past ten years, but the gender gap has narrowed at the same time.

Students at HAVO (Yrs 4-5) and VWO (Yrs 5-6) with Nature and Technology1
 VWO: boys (%)VWO: girls (%)HAVO: boys (%)HAVO: girls (%)
1 Including NT students in dual subject cluster
* Provisional figures

Technology still least popular among female VMBO level students

Technology is the least popular discipline sector among girls at VMBO schools. In the academic year 2017/’18, the Technology sector was chosen by 4 percent of girls and 33 percent of boys in Years 3 and 4 of VMBO pathways ‘basic vocational’, ‘advanced vocational’ and ‘combined’. Between academic years 2011/’12 and 2016/’17, the share of girls taking Technology went up from 3 to 4 percent. The percentage share of boys attending this sector has been declining since 2003/’04. As of 2007/’08, VMBO has inter-sectoral programmes, which have become increasingly popular at the expense of other sectors. These programmes often include technology-related subjects.

Girls at VMBO-3 and VMBO-4 ( basic vocational, advanced vocational and combined pathways), by sector2
 Technical (%)Intersectoral (%)Other subjects (%)
*) Provisional figures 2) ICT students in the academic years 2007/’08 through 2010/’11 have been classified under the Technology sector. As of academic year 2011/’12, ICT has been classified under Intersectoral programmes.

Boys in VMBO-3 and VMBO-4 (basic vocational, advanced vocational and combined pathways), by sector2
 Technical (%)Intersectoral (%)Other subjects (%)
*) Provisional figures 2) See note in previous graph

1 in 10 female MBO students obtain diploma in technology

As of academic year 2010/’11, a growing number of girls attending MBO (secondary vocational training) obtain technical qualifications. In that year, 6 percent of female MBO students were enrolled in technology-based education, rising to 11 percent in 2015/’16. The share subsequently dropped to 10 percent in the following academic year. Over the same period, the share of male MBO students instead declined from 46 percent (2010/’11) to 41 percent (2016/’17). Generally speaking, girls obtain technical diplomas in other fields compared to boys, for example in the field of clothing and footwear technology, design and audiovisual production.

MBO graduates in Technology sector
 Boys (%)Girls (%)
* Provisional figures

Few female students choose Engineering, Industry and Construction Engineering at university level

Despite the fact that more girls (and boys) at secondary HAVO and VWO level are choosing a technical profile, the trend is hardly noticeable in higher education (universities and universities of applied sciences). The share of women in higher education obtaining a diploma in Engineering, Industry or Construction Engineering increased from 2 percent in 2006/’07 to 3 percent in 2015/’16. Among male students, the share was 15 percent in the latter academic year. Examples of courses which are more popular among female rather than male students include garment technology, textile engineering, urban design and biotechnology.

Higher education graduates in Engineering, Industry or Construction Engineering
 Men (%)Women (%)
* Provisional figures