LNVH presents the 2023 Women Professors Monitor

6 Dec 2023

LNVH presents the 2023 Women Professors Monitor


December 7, 2023


  • Lowest growth rate of women professors in the past 8 years
  • Modest increase in the percentage of women professors at most universities
  • Noticeable growth in the share of women associate professors
  • Expected outflow of male professors in the age category 60+ seems to have begun

Alarm bells continue to ring
The percentage of women professors working at Dutch universities is 27.6%, according to 2023 Women Professors Monitor presented by the Dutch Network of Women Professors (LNVH) on December 7. The share of women professors increased by 0.9 percentage points compared to the previous year when it was 26.7%. This falls below last year's record low, indicating the lowest growth rate in 8 years. Based on the growth rate of the past two years, it will take until 2045 to achieve a gender balance among professors.

At each successive step on the academic career ladder, the percentage of women decreases
The percentage of female students, which slightly increased to 51.5%, remains higher than the percentage of male students. The same applies to the percentage of female graduates, which also increased slightly to 54.4%. The percentage of women PhD candidates also increased from 44.5% to 45.1%. What is noteworthy this year is that, for the first time, the percentage of women assistant professors is 45.9%, which is 0.8 percentage points higher than the percentage of women PhD candidates. However, there is still a significant decline in the percentage of women at each successive job category, from 45.9% assistant professors to 33.8% women associate professors and 27.6% women professors.

Slight increase in the percentage of women professors at most universities
At 12 out of 14 universities, there is growth in the percentage of women professors. This growth is remarkably limited: at 7 of the 14 universities, the growth rate is exactly at or below 1 percentage point. At Leiden University, the percentage of women professors has remained the same. Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam has experienced a decrease of 0.1 percentage points in the percentage of women professors. Five universities have surpassed the threshold of 30% women professors: Open University, Maastricht University, Leiden University, Radboud University Nijmegen, and Utrecht University. Traditionally, Open University leads the ranking with a percentage of women professors at 40.9%. Maastricht University follows with an increase in the percentage of women professors from 35.1% to 36.0%. TU Delft remains at the bottom with a below-average increase of 0.4 percentage points, from 17.7% to 18.1%.

Target figures: achieved or more effort needed?
In early 2020, the LNVH requested universities to set target figures for women professors for the period 2020-2025. If these targets are achieved, by 2025 no university will have a percentage of women professors below 25%. Moreover, with an average of 31.2%, for the first time, 1 in 3 professors will be women.

As of now, 3 out of 14 universities have achieved their set target figure for 2025 and are setting new goals. These are Erasmus University Rotterdam, Tilburg University, and Open University. For the other universities, more effort is needed to achieve the future milestones. The forecast for 2025, based on the growth from end of 2021 to end of 2022, shows that 6 out of 14 universities will not reach their target at this pace. This is nevertheless an improvement compared to last year when there were still 9 universities falling short.

Well-filled talent pool and the start of the outflow of male professors aged 60+
A notable finding in this Monitor is the increased outflow of men in the 60+ age category. It appears that the (long) awaited exit of this group has begun. Additionally, we observe, partly due to the relatively strong increase in the share of women associate professors, that the so-called 'talent pool' is exceptionally well-stocked. Without distinguishing by scientific field, almost 100% (97.4%) of the expected outflow of professors can be replaced by women associate professors. This means that the replacement potential has increased by 3.5 percentage points in one year. This, coupled with the start of the long-anticipated outflow of male professors, offers significant prospects for the future. However, it is essential for institutions to act on this and ensure that the work culture focuses on attracting and retaining female talent.

Notable increase in the share of permanent contracts. Women more often on temporary contracts
By the end of 2022, there is a noticeable increase in the overall percentage of permanent contracts compared to temporary contracts. This increase is most evident among associate professors: from 67.2% to 79.6% for women and from 71.6% to 80.3% for men. This has reduced the difference between the percentage of women and men on temporary contracts from 4.4 percentage points to 0.7 percentage points. In all job categories, women still have slightly more temporary contracts than men, but the difference has become smaller.

Women still in lower salary scales. Difference in contract size is decreasing
Women professors are still overall classified in the lower salary scales than male professors. Looking at associate professors, there is a less clear difference in the salary scaling between men and women. This difference is minimal for assistant professors. Women PhD candidates are still classified slightly lower than male PhD candidates.

The scope of the employment contract increased slightly for women associate professors, assistant professors, and PhD candidates. For men, it remains unchanged. This means that the difference in the scope of the employment contract between women and men in those job categories has decreased. However, there is still an average slightly smaller contract size for women than for men, except for professors, where women have a slightly larger scope of their employment contract than male professors: 0.88 FTE compared to 0.85 FTE.

Share of academics with an international background slightly increases
For the second year in a row, we report on the composition of scientific staff in terms of origin in the Monitor. This allows us to provide insight into the gender distribution among academic staff with an international background. This provides relevant information, for example, for tailoring policies on gender equality.

In all job categories, the percentage with an international background increased slightly between the end of 2021 and the end of 2022. For each successive job category from PhD candidate to professor, the percentage with an international background decreases. Among PhD candidates, 55% have an international background, while among professors, it is only 22.9%. The percentage with a non-European background decreases from 25.4% among PhD candidates to 13.7% among assistant professors, to 6.7% among associate professors, and to only 3.4% among professors.

Among professors, associate professors, and PhD candidates, a larger percentage of women than men have an international background. For assistant professors, the percentage of women with an international background is slightly smaller than that of men. Especially notable is the decreasing percentage with a non-European background in successive job categories, both among women and men. For example, 24.3% of women PhD candidates have a non-European background, while only 3.9% of women professors have the same background. Among male PhD candidates, 26.3% have a non-European background, compared to 3.2% among male professors.

Most university medical centers see a decrease in the percentage of women professors
The percentage of women professors at umc’s increased by a meager 0.1 percentage points from 29.7% in 2022 to 29.8% in 2023. Erasmus MC stands out positively, with a growth of 2.3 percentage points. In 2023, VUmc, UMCU, and UMCG have surpassed the 30% threshold. The other umc’s have varying distances to bridge before reaching that threshold. LUMC has the largest distance to cover and is at the bottom in 2023 with 25.7%.

Academic management
Looking at the Executive Boards of the universities, we see an increase of 2.4 percentage points in the share of women, reaching 43.9%. The percentage of women on Supervisory Boards remains the same as last year: 47.8%. In governance and supervision of umc’s, the percentage of women decreased. In the Executive Boards, in particular, there was a significant decrease, from 40% last year to 34.4% this year. There is also a decrease in Supervisory Boards, where last year's proportionality has now dropped to 47.4%.

The percentage of women among deans is higher end of 2023 than end of 2022. It increased from 29.7% to 34.1%. This means that for the first time, more than 1 in 3 deans are women. A milestone. Despite a slight decrease, the majority of directors of educational institutes are women at 52.7%. Among directors of research institutes, as of late 2022, just like late 2021, only 1 in 4 is a woman.

In conclusion
This Monitor exposes the worrisome trend of stagnating growth rates of women professors. However, it also shows some positive developments that have the potential to lead to a turnaround. The Dutch Network of Women Professors emphasizes that transparency in appointment and promotion criteria, providing clarity regarding job security and career prospects, and ensuring a safe and inclusive academic culture that recognizes and values a broad range of talent are crucial for change in the near future. Forecasts show that gender parity will only be achieved in 2045 if the growth rate does not further decrease than end of '21 and '22. The LNVH therefore advocates for continued action and speeding up the flow of the abundant replacement potential by introducing a second ‘boost’, similar to the Westerdijk Talent Impulse of 2017, which appointed 100 additional women professors. More details on these plans can be found in the Monitor itself.

Subsequently, we emphasize the importance of broader monitoring possibilities. We are pleased with the extended data presentation we have been able to achieve in the Monitor this year, which now includes a more extensive figures on (international) origin and gender. This is progress and provides an opportunity to design policies and interventions more effectively.

Finally, the LNVH calls on the sector to maintain focus on addressing the outflow of women in academia and to ensure that the growing attention to broader diversity and the retention of female talent are complementary. We encourage everyone to examine their own role in this regard. Open the conversation about the current situation, identify areas for improvement, and contribute to upholding the quality of science, equal opportunities, gender parity, and a safe and inclusive academic culture where equal pay is the norm.

Jouke de Vries, interim-chair Universities of the Netherlands (UNL) in response:

"Unfortunately, the growth of the share of women professors is stagnating. We must work together to ensure that we achieve the target figures by 2025. This is certainly possible. Due to the significant increase in the percentage of women associate professors, there is a lot of female talent ready to be promoted."

Read and download the 2023 Women Professors Monitor here.

About the Dutch Network of Women Professors:

The Dutch Network of Women Professors (LNVH) is a network, knowledge, and advocacy organization with more than 1600 affiliated women associate professors and professors. The LNVH aims for a proportional representation of women in academia, the improvement of the position of women academics from all backgrounds and disciplines, and an inclusive and safe academic landscape in which equal pay is the norm.

Note for the editor:

For further information and/or interview questions, please contact drs. Lidwien Poorthuis, Dutch Network of Women Professors, 06-15207225 – poorthuis@lnvh.nl.