AMSTERDAM — Seen from Japan, a country known for dragging its feet in terms of gender equality, the Netherlands is often regarded as a model of social enlightenment.

In fact, the Western European nation ranked 6th out of 93 countries in the United Nations Development Program's Gender Empowerment Measure in 2007, only trailing Scandinavian countries to the north. Japan was 54th in the same league table drawn up by tracking women's participation in politics and business.

However, all is not as it may seem. In common with Japan and other countries, the Netherlands is currently wrestling with how to get more women into conventionally male-dominated fields — specifically science and technology.