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Persistent gender divide in subjects studied by tertiary students in the region

What people decide to study at tertiary level is of interest to gender analysis as those choices can reflect stereotypes of “masculine” and “feminine” subject areas. Furthermore, some study subjects may be preferred by potential employers, and may affect occupational segregation once graduates enter the labour market.

Whilst the take-up of particular subject groups by men and women vary between countries and over time, in many UNECE countries the overall gender disparity in the enrolment of students in different subjects has changed relatively little. This is illustrated by the chart showing the average gender balance of subjects studied by tertiary students in 33 UNECE countries.

Changes in the gender balance of the subject groups have been modest from 2000 to 2011. There have been slight increases in the proportions of women studying some subjects that were already female-dominated, such as education, and health and welfare, and decreases in the proportions of women studying science, where men were already in majority. Some exceptions to this pattern are for humanities and arts, where the share of women studying this subject has decreased, and also in the areas of agriculture and engineering, manufacturing and construction, which have seen increases in their share of women students.

Source: UNECE Statistical Database. Data for 2000 and 2011 refers to the academic years 2000-01 and 2011-12, respectively. Data from 2009 or 2010 is used for 4 of these countries, for which the 2011 data is not available.