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Dutch Women Mayors

Some 23% of the 35 largest Dutch cities have women mayors *


December 2023: Femke Halsema has been mayor of Amsterdam, the Netherland’s largest city, since 2018. Other top-15 Dutch cities with women mayors include Utrecht and Haarlemmermeer. The country’s longest-serving female mayor is Elly Blanksma-van den Heuvel. A member of the centre-right Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), she was appointed in 2012 to the mayorship of Helmond in North Brabant.

Women mayors in the Netherlands from top left: Femke Halsema (Amsterdam), Sharon Dijksma (Utrecht), Marianne Schuurmans-Wijdeven (Haarlemmermeer), Liesbeth Spies (Alphen aan den Rijn), Marja van Bijsterveldt (Delft), Elly Blanksma-van den Heuvel (Helmond)

In the Netherlands, Mayors are appointed by the monarch, following nomination by the Minister of the Interior based on a recommendation by the municipal council. Mayors are appointed for six years, but there is no limit to how many terms they can serve. Mayors chair the municipal executive and the municipal council. Mayors are responsible for public order and safety in their municipalities.


As a member of the executive, mayors can also have tasks in a specific area, for example human resources, finance or economic affairs. The municipal executive decides which tasks (known as ‘portfolios’) to allocate to the mayor.


Female mayors in the Netherlands

Amsterdam (Dutch capital city)

Popl: 922,000 (National rank 1)

Femke Halsema, Mayor since July 2018

Party / Politics: GroenLinks, Green, centre-left

Notes: Born 1966. Degree in social sciences from Utrecht University (1993). Authored a book on crime and law enforcement (1995). Editor of De Helling, a research magazine by the Dutch Green Party (1996). She left the Labour Party in 1997, citing authoritarianism in the party. GroenLinks member of the House of Representatives, the Dutch parliament, from 1998 to 2011. Published political memoirs in 2016. Appointed Mayor of Amsterdam in June 2018.


Utrecht (Province of Utrecht)

Popl: 368,000 (National rank 4)

Sharon Dijksma, Mayor since December 2020

Party / Politics: Labour Party, centre-left

Notes: Born 1971. Studied law at the University of Groningen and public administration at the University of Trente without obtaining a degree. Joined the Labour Party in 1988. From 1992 to 1994 chairwoman of the party’s youth wing, the Young Socialists (Jonge Socialisten). Member of the House of Representatives, the Dutch parliament, from 1994 to 2007, from 2020 to 2012 and again from 2017 to 2018. Secretary for Education, Culture and Science from 2007 to 2010 under Prime Minister Balkenende. From 2012 to 2015, State Secretary for Economic Affairs. From 2015 to 2017, State Secretary for the Environment. Appointed Mayor in December 2020. Finalist for the 2023 World Mayor Prize.


Haarlemmermeer (Province of North Holland)

Popl: 178,000 (National rank 15)

Marianne Schuurmans-Wijdeven, Mayor since 2019

Party / Politics: People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie, VVD), centre-right

Notes: Born 1961. Studied law at Utrecht University without obtaining a degree. From 1985 to 1995 member of legal affairs department of Digital Equipment Corp. From 2002 to 2008 councillor and alderman of Beuningen municipal council. From 2007 to 2011, member of the Gelderland Provincial Council. From 2010 to 2013, mayor of Millingen aan de Rijn (Province of Gelderland). From 2013 to 2019, mayor of Lingewaard (Province of Gelderland). Appointed Mayor of Haarlemmermeer in July 2019.


Alphen aan den Rijn (Province of South Holland)

Popl: 113,000 (National rank 24)

Liesbeth Spies, Mayor since 2014

Party / Politics: Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), centre-right

Notes: Born 1966. Law degree from the University of Leiden. Joint the Christian Democratic Appeal in 1984. Minister of the Interior from 2011 to 2012. Member of the House of Representatives, the Dutch parliament, from 2002 to 2010. Shortlisted for the 2018 World Mayor Prize.


Alkmaar (Province of North Holland)

Popl: 112,000 (National rank 25)

Anja Schouten, Mayor since 2021

Party / Politics: Independent

Notes: Born 1968. Studied economics at the Free University of Amsterdam. Her early business career included management positions at the Alkmaar fire department and North-Kennemerland regional fire and rescue service. She joined the police force in 2007, working for the KLPD, the national police force at the time. Her positions included Director of Strategy and Operations and Interim Director of the National Criminal Investigation Department. Four years later she returned to healthcare. In November 2017, she was appointed police chief of the North Holland Regional Police Unit. Appointed Mayor of Alkmaar in June 2021.


Delft (Province of South Holland)

Popl: 104,000 (National rank 27)

Marja van Bijsterveldt, Mayor since 2016

Party / Politics: Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), centre-right

Notes: Born 1961. Joined the Christian Democratic Appeal in 1990. Alderwoman of Almere municipal council. In 1994, appointed Mayor of Schipluiden, a community in South Holland. Aged 33, she was the youngest mayor in Dutch history. Mayor of Schipluiden from 1994 to 2003. From 2002 to 2007, chairwoman of the CDA. State Secretary of Education from 2007 to 2010. Minister of Education from 2010 to 2012. Appointed Mayor of Delft in September 2016.


Helmond (Province of North Brabant)

Popl: 93,000 (National rank 29)

Elly Blanksma-van den Heuvel, Mayor since 2012

Party / Politics: Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), centre-right

Notes: Born 1959. Studied economics at Fontys University of Applied Science. Management positions at the Dutch bank Rabobank. From 1987 to 1995, member of North Brabant provincial parliament. From 2006 to 2012, member of the House of Representatives, the Dutch parliament.


Purmerend (Province of North Holland)

Popl: 82,000 (National rank 33)

Ellen van Selm, Mayor since 2022

Party / Politics: Democraten 66 (D66), liberal

Notes: Born 1964. Studies in rural sociology. After her studies, she and her husband spent several years abroad. In Pakistan, she worked for the Ministry of Forestry, setting up projects in the tribal north of the country. Spotted as a future mayor by the Ministry of the Interior, Van Selm went on to complete several mayoral internships as part of the mayor's training program. In 2014, she was appointed Mayor fo Opsterland. In 2017, she was chosen as president of P10, an alliance of large Dutch rural communities. In 2019, she was appointed board member of the Netherlands Society of Mayors. Appointed Mayor of Purmerend in September 2022.

*The research was carried out in December 2023. Contributors: Tann vom Hove, Sven Krüger


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