Exploring Trends in Gender Parity in Higher Education Enrolments 1970-2015

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:10
Oral Presentation
Sara O'SULLIVAN, University College Dublin, Ireland
Patrick CLANCY, School of Sociology University College Dublin, Ireland
This paper explores trends in gender parity in higher education enrolments in OECD countries. One key feature of contemporary higher education systems is rising participation rates, fuelled to a large extent by a growth in female participation. While at a global level in 1970 the female rate was 60 percent that of males, by 2002 parity had been achieved. By 2013 there were more women than men in higher education (Clancy and Marginson, 2017: Table 2.4), albeit that the number of male entrants has not fallen. Recent evidence points to a new trend of a decline in the size of the female majority (Leathwood and Read 2009: 31; Clancy and Marginson 2017), a trend that, to date, has not attracted much attention from higher education scholars.

The Gender Parity index is one useful measure for capturing female participation and allows for trends to be captured and comparisons to be made between different national contexts. We divide OECD countries into three categories based on their score on the Gender Parity Index (GPI) in 1985: (1) Early Parity countries <1 (2) Later Parity countries 0.8-0.99 (3) Delayed Parity countries >0.8. We examine the extent to which system level features such as gross enrolment rate, distribution of enrolments by field of study and sex segregation by field of study are linked to scores on the GPI. We also explore whether features of the gendered labour market such as female labour force participation and pay inequalities explain differences in GPI scores. We critically evaluate the relationship between gender parity in higher education enrolments and issues of gender justice. Attention is paid to how variations in gender role attitudes and welfare regimes help explain both GPI trends, and differences within and across early, later and delayed parity countries.