The trend is clear, rising from 8.8% in 1985 to near parity in 2015. There are major differences from one field of science to the next. The sharpest increases are in engineering and technology (from 2.5% to 28%), natural sciences (from 6% to 35%) and agricultural science (from 8% to 54%). Medical and health sciences awarded equal numbers of PhDs to men and women in 2006, and by 2016 women accounted for 62% of all PhDs in this field.
Analysis of new appointments by year
Our analyses show that the average age of candidates who have completed their PhD is 29.5, that assistant professors are an average of 37 years of age upon appointment, that the average age at which associate professors are granted an appointment is 42, and that professors are an average age of 49 when they take up their post (based on data taken from the WOPI University Staff Information System provided by VSNU Association of Universities in the Netherlands for the 2003-2015 period; no comparable data are available for university hospitals).
Policy meant to encourage more women in academia tends to zoom in on appointments and selection committees. That is why our analysis compares the male/female ratio of all newly appointed assistant, associate and full professors with the male/female ratio of PhD recipients 7, 12 and 19 years earlier. If careers are gender-neutral, then the ratio of male/female appointees in 2015 should parallel the ratio of male/female PhDs 19 years earlier, in 1996. But is that the case?
Universities name an average of 276 new professors every year. Of these, 52 are women (19%). If we compare appointments in the 2004-2015 period with our forecast (based on PhDs awarded 19 years earlier), we get the following.