Female majority in one-third of high-level occupations

© Hollandse Hoogte
There are more female than male workers in over one-third of occupational groups at higher levels, especially in the sector care and welfare and in education. This is related to fields of study chosen by men and women. Men are overrepresented in the other occupational groups. This is evident from a new analysis by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) on the male to female ratio in occupations and education disciplines, in response to questions from the media.

In 2018, 45 percent of people working in occupations at higher professional (HBO) or university (WO) level were women, up from 43 percent in 2013. At lower occupational levels, the share of female workers remained the same or declined over this period. Occupations at the highest level involve the performance of complex and specialised tasks, in most cases requiring a higher professional (HBO) or academic level (WO). At this level, social professions in particular have a relatively large share of women, whereas men are overrepresented in ICT, technical and management positions. One reason for the underrepresentation of women in managerial positions is that women are more likely to work part-time than men. Part-time workers are less likely to hold a management position than those working full-time.

Women less often in top positions

The share of women occupying a top position in the public and private sector is often lower than the share of men. In 2018, for example, 36 percent of the members of the Dutch Lower House were women, while the female share in management positions within the civil service was 38 percent. However, there were more female than male judges at the end of 2018, namely 63 percent. Within supervisory and management boards, women are a small minority although their share is rising. In 2017, 1 out of 5 top executives among the 500 largest enterprises were female; among the 5,000 largest enterprises, this was nearly 1 in 6.

Largest share of women in social professions

Occupations at the highest level with the largest share of women can be found in the sector care and welfare, and in education. The top ten occupational groups is headed by specialised nurses and primary school teachers: in 2018, more than 80 percent of positions in these groups were held by women. Other occupations with a female share exceeding 70 percent are social workers, psychologists and sociologist, and physiotherapists.

Doctors rank tenth place among high-level occupations with the largest female share. Women have a majority share among basic practitioners, pharmacists and general practitioners, while the majority of medical specialists and dentists are men. This list of ten professions hardly changed between 2013 and 2018. The share of women in these occupations grew fastest among psychologists and sociologists, doctors, authors and linguists, and physiotherapists.

High-level occupations with the largest share of women
Beroep2018 (% of women)2013 (% of women)
Top 10 occupational groups
Specialised nurses85.385.5
Primary school teachers83.382.7
Social workers77.175
Psychologists and sociologists76.369.6
Managers of care institutions69.665.7
Educationalists and other teachers66.663.9
Authors and linguists61.456.3
Staff and career development specialists6162.8

Male occupations at the highest level

Men with high occupational levels are a majority in ICT, technical and management positions. High-level occupations with a male share of 90 percent or more are electrotechnical engineers, logistics managers, ICT managers and production managers. The top ten high-level occupations with a male majority, too, has hardly changed since 2013.

High-level occupation with the largest share of men
Beroep2018 (% of men)2013 (% of men)
Top 10 occupational groups
Electrotechnical engineers96.496.1
Logistics managers9486.1
ICT managers93.193.2
Production managers90.294.5
Specialised services managers87.485.5
Engineers (excl. electrotechnical engineers)87.485.4
Software and application developers86.988.5
Database and network specialists82.685.4
Managing directors80.779.5
Sales and marketing managers77.279

Nearly three-quarters of highly educated with a care and welfare diploma are women

The large share of women working in occupations of the highest level in the sectors care and education is related to a large share of women with a completed degree in these areas. Of the highly educated 15 to 74-year-olds with a health care and welfare qualification, 73 percent were women in 2018. This share was 72 percent in education. Men took up the vast majority among highly educated with a degree in computer science (87 percent) and technology (82 percent). With the exception of computer science and design, art, languages and history, the female share was higher among 15 to 44-year-olds than among 45 to 74-year-olds.

Highly educated women by discipline, 2018
 15 to 44 yrs (% of women)45 to 74 yrs (% of women)
Health care and welfare77.868
Journalism, behaviour and society6655.3
Design, art, languages and history55.756
Agriculture, veterinary medicine and care50.921.5
Law, administration, trade and business services45.936.5
Mathematics, natural science44.524.5
Technology, manufacturing and engineering22.113.7
Computer science12.414.8

Disciplines in higher education with a male or female majority

In the academic year 2018/’19, 748 thousand students were enrolled in a higher education study programme (higher professional and university education). Of this group, 51.4 percent (384 thousand) were women and 48.6 percent (364 thousand) were men. As for study programmes such as veterinary medicine and care, welfare and health care, female students are in the majority. Disciplines where men have an overrepresentation can be found mainly in technical areas, such as computer science, technology and technical services, and transport and logistics.

Students in higher education, 2018/'19
StudierichtingWomen (%)Men (%)
Study programme
Veterinary medicine and care81.818.2
Health care74.125.9
Hygiene and working conditions73.926.1
Food technology68.831.2
Journalism, information supply68.731.3
Behaviour and society6535
Biology and biochemistry57.842.2
Environment and nature conservation48.251.8
Business administration37.762.3
Public safety34.465.6
Mathematics and statistics32.767.3
Architecture and civil engineering28.771.3
Natural science22.877.2
Transport and logistics19.880.2
Computer science12.287.8