Gender Patterns in Higher Education

While women have made significant strides in tertiary education, representing 58% of first-time graduates in 2021, STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) continue to see a significant gender imbalance. According to the OECD’s “Education at a Glance 2023” report, only one-third of STEM graduates are women. In contrast, women make up an average of 77% of graduates in health and welfare fields in OECD countries.

In all the countries covered by the data, the female graduate share is significantly larger in health and welfare fields than in STEM fields.

The disparity is particularly pronounced in countries like Chile, Japan and Switzerland, where less than 25% of STEM graduates are female. In contrast, nations such as Argentina, South Africa, Iceland, and Romania are leading the way with over 40% female representation among STEM graduates.

Chart notes:

  • Data only available for OECD countries and OECD partner countries.
  • Tertiary education includes universities, colleges, and institutes that provide academic and vocational degrees at various levels, such as bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, doctoral degrees, and non-degree programs like diplomas and certificates.
  • Year of reference differs from 2021: 2020 for Argentina and South Africa; 2018 for Indonesia.

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