Women make gains in traditionally male fields

More women are studying for traditionally male professions, such as engineering. Men, though, are not responding in kind. For example, it is still unusual for men to study to become pre-school teachers. These are some of the findings in Women and Men in the Higher Education Sector – Summary of a Report, published by UKÄ (the Swedish Higher Education Authority).

Before we can achieve gender equality in both higher education and working life, change is needed, says Annika Pontén, head of the Department of Higher Education Analysis.

The report, focusing on gender equality within higher education and working life, shows that the percentage of women beginning programmes leading to the degree of Master of Engineering has increased by eight percentage points in the last ten years.

However, the major female-dominated academic programmes — nursing, specialist nursing and pre-school education — have not seen a corresponding change, says Helen Dryler, analyst at UKÄ and editor of the report.

Eight per cent of students in the pre-school teacher programme were men in the academic year of 2014–15.

The gender-segregated labour market persists

Overall, women and men study different subjects at all levels: first, second and third cycle. This leads to the persistence of gender segregation in the labour market. Women were more numerous among higher education entrants in 2014/15 within the following subject areas: law and social sciences, humanities and theology, medicine, dentistry, nursing and health care. Men were more numerous than women within the natural sciences and engineering and technology. Gender distribution was equal only in the fine, applied and performing arts.

The report is based on statistics from 2004/05 through 2014/15.

Additional trends noted in the report:

  • 39 per cent of higher education entrants at first-cycle level were men and 61 per cent were women during the academic year 2014/15. Women have been in the majority since the academic year of 1977/78.
  • After achieving a doctoral degree, it is more common for men than women to become professors.
  • According to UKÄs forecast, gender differences are expected to increase in many university-educated professional groups through 2035, including legal practitioners, social scientists, dentists, architects, and people with a degree in agricultural or horticultural sciences.


The full report, Kvinnor och män i högskolan, was published in Swedish in 2016.