In 2021, four in 10 STEM enrolments in Australia were women, up from 34% in 2019, found Coursera’s recently published Women and Skills Report 2021.
Of the 40 million new enrolments on Coursera between January 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021, 51% of the new learners from Australia were women, higher than the global share of 50%. In fact, half of government learners and 38% of business learners on the platform are women.
This boost in women taking up online learning can be attributed to the impact of the pandemic in the past two years, suggested Betty Vandenbosch, Chief Content Officer of Coursera.
“The number of employed women in 2021 was 13 million fewer than in 2019, while men were about the same – that’s something that has focused women on how to learn.”
“[Women] had the burden of taking care of their families. They have a lot of constraints and so that’s how they move forward."
Vandenbosch highlighted that women are registering for introductory programs in STEM and digital fields and those programs guarantee that they will gain skills for particular positions. Further, the percentage of women in Australia enrolling for entry-level professional certificates jumped from 29% to 35% since 2019 (25% to 37%, globally).
Interestingly, the report also found that women (49%) are more likely than men to enrol in courses conducted by women.
“Australia has the benefit of really strong female professors on our platform and women respond well to female teaching. We need role models. I’ve been in STEM my entire life and I’ve never had a female professor.”
“This has been a hard nut to crack, but with online learning, women have the opportunity to develop and grow into skills and jobs that are disruption resistant,” Vandenbosch added.
Most in-demand courses include:
- Leadership skills such as communication, management
- STEM-related subjects such as machine learning, data analysis, and statistics
“More women gaining “hard skills” for STEM digital, and leadership occupations creates an opportunity for both the Australian government and employers to emphasize learning and development, and create a more diverse workforce. If they don’t, the gender gap in these occupations will increase and women will remain more vulnerable to major disruptive events such as the pandemic,” Vandenbosch said.
She encouraged employers to play a more active role in supporting this trend by ensuring that every slate of job candidates includes women and diverse people.