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6.7 Project 1: A historical lens on family firms and gender equality in the Netherlands, 1900-2020

Read the job description for project 6.7


6.8 Project 2: The historical development of gender occupational segmentation and stereotyping of medical specializations, 1950-2020 

Read the job description for project 6.8


7.8 Project 3: Agentic  and communal occupational stereotypes in medical specializations in the Netherlands


 Introduction to the clusterprojects

This multidisciplinary cluster consists of three interrelated PhD projects, which together devise solutions for a more sustained inclusion of women in the labour market. The key assumption is that the behaviour and choices of men and women, institutional arrangements and ideals and values on work roles are inherently intertwined, leading to insistent cooperation imbalances on the level of families, firms and society, which result in clear patterns of gender segmentation in the Dutch labour market. Nevertheless, gendered labour market segmentation – the phenomenon that women and men work in specific occupations, with women generally working in position with lower pay, status and authority – has been subject to change over the past. Therefore, these mechanisms ought to be studied in an interdisciplinary, integrated research design which applies a longer-term perspective, to identify tipping points in positive and negative feedback mechanisms for women’s inclusion. The insights gathered in this cluster of projects will ultimately lead to more differential criteria for enhanced sustainable cooperation, to be translated into concrete interventions promoting inclusive organizations or employment sectors.


Sustainability Threat

Historically, particularly in the Netherlands, the traditional gender roles consisted of men working and pursuing careers, and women being homemakers and caregivers. Even though the participation of Dutch women in the labour market has markedly increased over the past few decades, their work is still often an extension of their role in the family: the majority of women work part-time and in sectors that align with feminine stereotypes, e.g. care and education. Women less often start a business, engage less often in high-tech occupations and occupy fewer managerial positions compared to men (Eurofound 2020). An additional problem of the crowding of women into professions that are closely associated with women’s presumed talents and interests, is that these are comparatively lowly esteemed and rewarded. The gender wage gap averages between 8% in government jobs and 19% in business (CBS 2018) and occupational segregation is still considerable. Unequal distribution of men and women in the labour market and women’s weaker position are a serious threat to sustainable economic development, and also intrinsically impede the economic position as well as the financial independence, self-esteem and agency of women (Sen 1999).

This cluster of project assumes that this labour market segmentation is not so much a reflection of the natural inclination of women, which would be difficult to change, but rather originates from a path-dependent vicious cycle that has failed to include women’s participation in the full breadth of the labour market. Instead of predominantly looking at women’s individual choices and actions, we aim to study how institutions can contribute to solving this problem. The ageing population and the changing character (e.g. flexibilization) of the labour market requires fuller involvement of labour potential, as well as adaptations by households to changing working conditions. A key challenge is to ensure that both men and women are more flexibly deployable in a vast range of occupations, and have better opportunities to combine work and family life, in order to make them more resilient in varying circumstances and allow them to make a more sustainable contribution to society’s economic resilience.


State of the Art

The explanations of why gender inequalities exist in the labour force – in terms of wage gap, glass ceiling, occupational segregation – vary from psychological traits (e.g., lack of risk taking) to care duties in the family and institutional level explanations including gendered stereotypes and governmental arrangements (e.g., availability of childcare services and paternity leave). Theories on social roles (e.g. Eagly et al., 2000), social identity (e.g. Haslam & Ellemers, 2005) and group stereotypes (e.g. Fiske et al., 2002; Ellemers, 2018) suggest that  (1) in many occupations the stereotype of being successful rests on agentic - rather than communal - traits, (2) because agency is more strongly associated with men than women talent is less likely to be recognized in women, and many women perceive a lack of fit between their professional self-image and the agentic occupational stereotype of success, and (3) women’s higher lack of fit imposes a barrier to their work and career outcomes (Van Veelen & Derks, 2021). Despite the fact that scholars and policy-makers seem to agree on the causes of the gender gap, however, there is less consensus on how to achieve gender equality in the labour force. Much is still unclear about how behavioural, institutional and ideological factors interact, and what exactly is needed to turn negative feedback mechanisms into positive ones.


Main Proposition

We propose that the behaviour and choices of men and women, institutional arrangements and ideals and values on work roles are inherently intertwined, leading to persistent patterns of gender segmentation. Nevertheless, history shows that despite this persistence, change is also possible. In order to identify what drives positive change for women’s inclusion, we introduce an interdisciplinary, integrated research design which applies a longer-term perspective. Following from the analysis of such mechanisms, interventions to enhance more sustainable, gender-inclusive forms of cooperation, on the level of the family, businesses, sectors, and society, will therefore form part of this project cluster.

The PhD projects in this cluster all deal with at least 3 challenges as formulated in the overarching SCOOP program: Challenge 2: Facilitating work-life balance; Challenge 7: Dealing with diversity/Reshaping organizational forms and Challenge 11: Identity flexibility and sustainable cooperation. We believe that for the study of inclusive labour markets, these challenges are difficult to separate, but feed into each other. For instance, more diverse organizations tend to lead to different arrangements for work-life balance (spill-over), and the absence of such arrangements may lead to less gender equality in organizations (external threat). Using theories and methods from history, sociology and psychology, the cluster will investigate gender inclusion in business (Project 1) and in the medical sector (Projects 2 and 3) in the Netherlands over a long time period (early 20th century-present). This allows for a combination of:

  • a holistic approach, combining methods and insights from sociology and history (PhD project 1) – businesses are organizations where most factors that either discriminate or support women in their career development are represented; and
  • a sectoral approach, combining methods and insights from history and social and organizational psychology (PhD projects 2 and 3) – the medical sector is one of the few sectors in which women have had career opportunities historically, though in the lower-valued segments (e.g., as nurses), and have now recently entered into large numbers in the higher valued segments too. Still, it is much more difficult for them to reach senior as well as the highest-paid positions than for their male counterparts.

Main Outcome

The insights gathered in this cluster of projects will ultimately lead to more differential criteria for enhanced sustainable cooperation, leading to gender inclusive organizations, such as businesses and employment sectors. We aim to develop multiple alternative opportunities for identifying and rewarding emerging talents, offering different types of career development opportunities, and attracting new groups of employees for career choices where they are underrepresented.



CBS (2018). Monitor loonverschillen mannen en vrouwen 2016. https://www.cbs.nl/nl-nl/maatwerk/2018/47/monitor-loonverschillen-mannen-en-vrouwen-2016

Eagly, A. et al. (2000). Social role theory of sex differences and similarities: a current appraisal. In Eckes, T. and Trautner, H.M. eds. The Developmental Social Psychology of Gender: 123-74. New York: Psychology Press.

Ellemers, M. (2018). Gender Stereotypes. Annual Review of Psychology 69:275–98.

Eurofound (2020). Gender equality at work, European Working Conditions Survey 2015 series, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

Fiske, S.T. et al., (2002). A model of (often mixed) stereotype content: Competence and warmth respectively follow from perceived status and competition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 82(6): 878–902.

Haslam & Ellemers (2005). Social Identity in Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Concepts, Controversies and Contributions. In Hodgkinson, G.P., Ford, J.K. eds. International Review of Industrial and Organizational Psychology 20: 39-118. Chisester: Wiley.

Sen, A. (1999). Development as Freedom. New York: Anchor Books.

Van Veelen, R. & Derks, B. (2021). Academics as superheroes: Female academics' lack of fit with the agentic stereotype of success limits their career advancement. Manuscript under review, available at: https://psyarxiv.com/c3k56/

Project stakeholders

Belle Derks, Tanja van der Lippe, Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk, Corinne Boter, Selin Dilli, Ruth van Veelen



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