Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report
Women and Education: Qualifications, Skills and Technology

by Sarah Jane Ferguson

Release date: July 6, 2016

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Introduction

Canada’s knowledge-based economy – especially the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) – continues to grow. Related changes in the economy, including shifts to globalized markets and an emphasis on innovation and technology, all mean that education is more and more an integral component of economic and social well-being.

At the same time, women in Canada have become increasingly well-educated and today represent a larger share of the labour market than they have ever represented previously. However, women continue to have fewer apprenticeship or trades certificates as well as STEM university degrees than their male counterparts.

The trajectory of women’s education and career path can be understood through the lens of a ‘pipeline’ metaphor. Researchers have used this perspective to talk about women in STEM, noting that there are ‘leaks’ in the pipeline in the earliest years of schooling right through to employment with many women either studying in non-STEM fields or subsequently not working in occupations related to STEM fields of study.

This chapter begins with an overall profile of women’s education in Canada and then examines various points along the pipeline such as mathematics and reading skills in high school, young women who are not working or in school, field of study patterns and labour market outcomes and employment income of STEM and non-STEM fields of study.

Educational attainment among women has increased significantly

Women have sustained a long-term trend toward higher education by increasingly completing postsecondary qualifications (Chart 1a).Note 1

The proportion of women aged 25 to 64 with a university certificate or degreeNote 2 grew at a faster pace than that of men, more than doubling between 1991 and 2015 from 15% to 35%. The proportion of men with a university certificate or degree also grew during that time period, but to a slightly lesser degree than women (19% in 1991 and 30% in 2015) (Chart 1b).

In 1991, 14% of women had a college diplomaNote 3 compared with 26% in 2015. The percentage of men with a college diploma was 9% in 1991, increasing to 19% in 2015.

While women were much more likely to hold a college diploma or university certificate or degree in 2015 compared with 1991, the percentage of women with a trades certificateNote 4 has declined somewhat from 10% in 1991 to 7% in 2015. In comparison, among men, the percentage with a trades certificateNote 5 has remained relatively constant: 14% of men had a trades certificate in 1991 compared with 15% in 2015.

As women have increasingly completed college and university education, the percentage of women with a high school diploma as their highest completed educational credential has decreased from 31% in 1991 to 23% in 2015. The proportion of men whose highest level of education is a high school diploma remained largely unchanged during the same period (26% in 1991 to 25% in 2015).

Finally, the proportion of women with no formal education credentialsNote 6 (no certificate, diploma or degree) showed a large decline from 31% in 1991 to less than 9% in 2015. The percentage of men with no certificate, diploma or degree showed a similar decline (from 31% to 11%).

Women more likely than men to have college or university qualifications, less likely to have a trades certificate as their highest credential

While the proportion of those without formal education credentials declined considerably for both women and men, there was a different pattern by sex. Women aged 25 to 64 were more likely to continue on to postsecondary education, particularly college and university, while a higher proportion of men completed a high school diploma or a trades certificate as their highest level of education.

Women were slightly less likely to have completed only a high school diploma compared with men (23% and 25% respectively), while they were more likely than men to have completed a university certificate or degree (35% and 29% respectively).

In 2015, slightly more than one-quarter (26%) of women had a college diploma as their highest level of education compared with one-fifth (20%) of men (Chart 2). Conversely, women were half (7%) as likely to have completed a trades certificate as their highest level of education compared with men (15%).

The number of new female apprenticeship registrations is growing

Analysis in the previous section examined the proportion of all of the women who had ever completed a trades certificate (including an apprenticeship certificate) as their highest level of education. This measure gives a good indication of the stock of women with a trades certificate, but only presents the proportion of women with a trades certificate as their highest level of education. Women who have both a trades certificate as well as a higher credential are categorized under their highest credential completed; for example a college diploma or university certificate or degree.

Another approach would be to use the Registered Apprenticeship Information System (RAIS), which looks specifically at apprentices and reports on the numbers of new apprentices who register and complete their certification in a given year by major trade group.Note 7

In the period between 1991 and 2013, the number of new apprenticeship registrations increased threefold, while the growth in female apprenticeship was larger; increasing by 6.7 times to about 14,000 in 2013.Note 8 The proportion of women among new apprenticeship registrations also grew from 7% to 15% over the same period.

The type of trades groups in which women participated varied from that of men’s. In 2013, women continued to represent the majority of new registrations in trade groups such as hairstyling (90%), early childhood education (94%) and user support techniciansNote 9 (54%). Although the proportions tended to remain low, women also accounted for a larger proportion of new registrations in trades that traditionally had high concentrations of men such as welding (7.7%), automotive services (6.1%) and machinist (5.1%) - all groups in which the female proportion of new registrations increased from 2.6% or less in 1991.

At least one third of adult women in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta have a university certificate or degree

In 2015, Ontario had the largest proportion of women with a university certificate or degree (36%) followed by British Columbia and Alberta (both at 36%, same as the national average) (Chart 3). The provinces with the largest proportion of women with a college diploma as their highest level of education were Prince Edward Island (33%), New Brunswick (30%) and Ontario (29%). More than double the national average (7%), Newfoundland and Labrador, and Quebec (both at 15%) led the way with the highest proportion of women with an apprenticeship or trades certificate as their highest level of education, followed by Saskatchewan at 12%.

Quebec (18%) had the lowest proportion of women with a high school diploma as their highest level of education,Note 10 followed by Nova Scotia (20%). Notably, while all the western provinces had relatively high proportions of women with a high school diploma as their highest level of education (28% in Saskatchewan, 27% in British Columbia and Manitoba, and 26% in Alberta), the proportions of women with no formal educational credentials were low (7% in British Columbia, 8% in Saskatchewan, 9% in Alberta and Manitoba). In contrast, Newfoundland and Labrador (15%) and New Brunswick (11%) had a higher proportion of women with no formal educational credentials, as well as higher proportions with high school as the highest credential (22% and 28% respectively).

Women account for the majority of recent postsecondary graduates in all provinces and territories

The previous analysis looked at the educational qualifications of the population aged 25 to 64 based on data from the Labour Force Survey, which gives a sense of the educational attainment of the overall working aged population irrespective of whether or not they are in a recent graduating cohort. Examining recent enrolments and graduations from public educational institutions in Canada provides a profile of potential new entrants to the labour market.

As has been the case since the early 1990’s, the majority (56%) of students enrolled in Canada’s public colleges and universities in 2013-14 were women. The proportion of women was even higher among those who were enrolled as part-time students (59%). Similarly, women accounted for 58% of the total number of graduates in 2013.

International students account for an increasing proportion of enrolments in Canadian public colleges and universities, at almost 10% of total enrolments in 2013-14. Unlike among overall enrolments where women accounted for the majority, women were proportionally less represented among international student enrolments (46%).

In 2013, the proportion of graduates from colleges and universities that were women was similar across provincesNote 11 (Chart 4), with Quebec and Saskatchewan having the highest proportion of women among its graduates (both at 60%), followed by Alberta (59%). Just over half of postsecondary graduates in Prince Edward Island (53%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (54%) were women. Among collegeNote 12 graduates in the Territories, over three quarters (76%) were women.

The majority of young women completed their postsecondary education in the same province or territory in which they lived in 2011

The 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) collected information on the location of study (province, territory or country) of the highest postsecondary credential obtained. This analysis of young women who have recently graduated from their postsecondary program is useful to examine the mobility patterns by level of education and also to get an indication of the proportion of graduates who continue to live in the same province as where they completed their credential.

Overall, three quarters (77%) of young women aged 25 to 34 with a postsecondary qualification had studied in the same province or territory in which they lived in 2011. Young women with trades (89%) or college certificates or diplomas (87%) were more likely to have earned their highest certificate, diploma or degree in the province in which they lived in 2011, compared with university degreeNote 13 holders (69%). These patterns were similar among young male graduates.

One quarter of female university degree holders completed their degree outside Canada

Female university degree holders aged 25 to 64 (24%) were more likely than trades (7%) or college (8%) certificate or diploma holders to have completed their degree outside of Canada. Of women who completed their degree outside of Canada, 88% were immigrants.Note 14  The most common locations of study outside Canada among immigrant women with a university degree were the Philippines (9.3%), India (8.2%), and China (5.8%), which were also the three most common countries of origin among female immigrants with a university degree. The locations of study were similar among men, however, a larger proportion of female immigrants completed their degree in the Philippines than among their male counterparts. Among Canadian-born women with a university degree, only 4% had studied outside of Canada and the most common location was the United States. A slightly higher proportion of Canadian-born men with a university degree completed their degree outside of Canada (5%), with the United States being the most common location of study.

Girls score significantly higher in reading than boys, have similar results in science and lower scores in mathematics

Viewing women’s education and career path through the lens of a ‘pipeline’ metaphor can be useful, beginning in high school to identify potential ‘leaks’ in the pipeline. Examining the skills of girls of high school age, particularly in mathematics is important as these early skills may be related to choosing a STEM program at university.

Every three years, as part of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), countries across the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) administer a standardized test to 15 year olds to assess how they apply their knowledge and skills in reading, mathematics and science. Each PISA cycle assesses skills in all three areas but has a principal focus in one area. The focus for PISA 2012 was on mathematics.

Results of the 2012 PISA (Table 1) show that Canadian students scored relatively highly in science, with only seven participating countries having a higher average score. In Canada, and among all provinces, there was no significantNote 15 difference in science scores between girls (524) and boys (527).

However, similar to previous Canadian PISA results and to most other OECD countries, in 2012, girls continued to score significantly higher in readingNote 16 than boys (541 versus 506 respectively, Table 2).Note 17  The difference in reading scores favouring girls was 35 points, comparable to the average difference between the sexes across all OECD countries (38 points). The gap in average scores between girls and boys has remained relatively stable over time. 

In PISA 2012, Canada opted to include a digital-based reading assessment to a sample of students in addition to the standard paper-based reading assessment. The computer-based tool assessed different skills than the paper version such as searching for information in a simulated online environment. PISA noted the pervasiveness and importance of computers in all aspects of home and work life as well as its role as a learning tool as a reason for conducting a computer-based assessment. The subsequent Canadian PISA assessment (PISA 2015) was conducted entirely using computer-based assessment tools.Note 18

Girls performed equally well in reading on each of the assessment modes, scoring significantly higher than boys in both (Table 3). However, boys had better results in digital reading compared with print, narrowing the gap between the sexes. The gap in reading scores favouring girls was 21 points for the digital assessment compared with 35 points for the print assessment.

Provincially, the gap between scores of girls and boys in digital reading ranged from 14 points in British Columbia to 32 points in Newfoundland and Labrador. In the print reading assessment, the smallest gap was 26 in British Columbia and the largest gap was 53 in Newfoundland and Labrador.Note 19

Girls have relatively high achievement in mathematics but gap between the sexes persists

The assessment results in mathematics show that Canadian students at age 15 had relatively high levels of achievement in 2012, with a mean score of 518, which is 24 points above the OECD average.Note 20 Over the past nine years, the Canadian scores in mathematics have declined in all provinces except Quebec and Saskatchewan (where the decreases were not statistically significant).Note 21 However, similar to previous PISA results and to most other participating countries, boys scored significantly higher (527) in mathematics compared with girls (514) (Table 4).

While boys’ mean mathematics scores were significantly higher than girls at the national level, there were significant differences between girls and boys in only half of the provinces (Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba). Despite the gap in scores, the provinces with the highest mathematics scores among girls were in these same provinces. Boys in these provinces also had very high scores.Note 22

Fewer girls than boys score in the upper range of mathematical proficiency

Scores from PISA were divided into 6 levels which were used to determine mathematical proficiency. However, level 2 is considered the baseline level of mathematical proficiency that is required to participate fully in modern society. In this report, performing below level 2 in the PISA mathematics assessment corresponds to low achievement, whereas performing at level 5 or above corresponds to high achievement.Note 23

The gap in overall mathematics scores between girls and boys was not explained by a larger proportion of girls in the lower range of mathematical proficiency. In fact a similar proportion of girls and boys had results below level 2, (13% vs. 14% for boys and girls, respectively). However, a significantly greater proportion of boys scored in the upper range of mathematical proficiency (levels 5 or 6). Among boys, 19% scored at a level 5 or 6 compared with 14% of girls.Note 24

Girls performed equally well on the computer-based or paper-based math assessment

For the first time, in PISA 2012, Canada included a computer-based mathematics assessment tool in addition to the digital reading assessment.  Similar to the digital reading assessment, the computer-based tool assessed additional skills to the paper version such as selecting certain information from a dataset and sorting on the relevant variables.

The impact on scores of the computer-based mathematics assessment was similar to the digital reading option in that girls scored equally well between modes (514 for computer-based math versus 513 for paper-based math), while boys had higher scores on the computer-based assessment (532 on the computer-based mathematics assessment versus 523 on paper-based math)Note 25 (Table 5). The result of the higher scores for boys on the computer-based math assessment was that the difference between girls and boys was larger (17 for computer-based math versus 10 for paper-based math).

With the pervasiveness of technology and the transformation to a screen-based learning environment, it will be important to continue to track these trends.

Girls with higher mathematical ability are less likely to pursue STEM fields at university than boys with lower mathematical ability

The gap in mathematics scores between girls and boys is well documented and has been historically consistent, but how is this related to program choice at university?  Examining the relationship between the mathematics skills of girls of high school age and the relationship with program choice at university exposes another ‘leak’ in the pipeline for girls.

A recent study used PISA scores from 2000 for a cohort of Canadian girls and boys, who were then followed up ten years later to determine if PISA mathematics scores were related to STEM program choice at university.

The 2013 study showed that men were twice as likely to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields at university as women.Note 26  While women were less likely to pursue STEM programs as their first choice at university, those who did choose STEM programs had high mathematics PISA scores (588) compared with the average for women in any field (569) or women who chose health programs (570). In comparison, the average mathematics PISA score among men who chose STEM programs at university was 597; higher than among men overall (589) and  among men who chose health (577) at university. There was no significant difference in the average math scores of women and men who chose STEM programs, however the average scores for men in any field were higher than women in any field.

Controlling for factors that could influence program choice (including immigration status, parental influence variables, and reading scores) to examine the relationship between math ability and STEM program choice revealed that men with high math scores were most likely to choose a STEM program by a margin of 22 percentage points over women with equally high scores.

The key finding of the study was that even young women with a higher level of mathematical ability, (defined as mathematics proficiency levels 4, 5 and 6 at age 15), were less likely to pursue STEM fields at university than young men with a lower level of mathematical ability (proficiency levels 1, 2 and 3).

The study also found that among young women who perceived their mathematics skills to be excellent, 47% chose a STEM program at university compared with 66% of young men with similar positive perceptions. When self-perceived ability and high school marks in mathematicsNote 27 were controlled for, among young women and men with equally high math PISA scores, the gap between women and men in the likelihood of choosing a STEM university program was reduced from 22 to 18  percentage points. The results in this study indicate that self-perceived math ability plays a role in discouraging girls from choosing STEM fields at university. There could be other societal factors at play such as the culture surrounding the study of mathematics and the author noted that the literature points to the potential importance of subject matter interests and occupational preferences.

Women and men have similar literacy skills, while men have higher proficiency in numeracy

This section highlights important issues related to education among adult women in Canada, beginning with skills that are important for success along the education and career pipeline.

The Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) evaluates skills in literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology rich environments (PS-TRE) among adults aged 16 to 65 (versus the PISA assessment of 15 year olds). Research has shown that literacy and numeracy are associated with higher levels of education and better labour market outcomes.Note 28

PIAAC scores of adults in Canada were at the OECD average (273) for proficiency in literacy. Consistent with results from previous PIAAC assessments, sex was shown to be associated with literacy among those in older age groups and across all ages for numeracy. According to the PIAAC first reportNote 29, in 2012, women and men aged 16 to 65 had similar literacy scores. Literacy proficiency scores for both women and men were lower for the older population compared with their younger counterparts (Table 6). There were no significantNote 30 differences in average literacy proficiency scores among women and men except among those aged 55 to 65, where men scored 6 points higher than same-aged women.

The mean proficiency score in numeracy of Canadian adults was 266 compared with the mean proficiency score of 269 among OECD countries. In Canada, unlike literacy scores, numeracy scores of women were lower than those of men in every age cohort. The gap in numeracy scores between women and men aged 16 to 24 was 9 points but was higher at 19.5 points for those aged 55 to 65.

Literacy and numeracy are associated with higher levels of education

Scores from PIAAC were divided into 5 levels which were used to determine proficiency in the given skill. Scoring at a level 4 or 5 in literacy proficiency means that a person ‘can undertake tasks that involve integrating information across multiple dense texts and reasoning by inference’.Note 31

There is a relationship between education, employment and skills proficiency.Note 32 In 2012, more than one-quarter (27%) of women with a university degree scored at the highest literacy proficiency levels (4 or 5), compared with only 6% of women with a high school diploma or less (Table 7). The pattern and rates were similar among male university degree holders, as a higher proportion (31%) had a proficiency level of 4 or 5 in literacy than those with a high school diploma or less (7%).

The percentage of adults in Canada with a proficiency level of 4 or 5 in numeracyNote 33 was 13%, which matched the OECD average.Note 34  However, the proportion of women with a university degree with a proficiency level of 4 or 5 was lower than among their male counterparts. Among women with a university degree, 19% had a proficiency level of 4 or 5 in numeracy compared with 4% among their counterparts with a high school diploma or less (Table 7). In comparison, among male university degree holders, 34% had a proficiency level of 4 or 5 in numeracy compared with 7% among those with a high school diploma or less.

Literacy and numeracy are also associated with employment

A higher proportion of employed women had a literacy proficiency level of 4 or 5 (15%) than women who were out of the labour force (8%) (Table 8). A higher proportion of employed men (16%) had a proficiency level of 4 or 5 in literacy, than their counterparts who were not in the labour force (8%).

The percentage of employed women with a numeracy proficiency level of 4 or 5 was 10% compared with 6% among their counterparts who were not in the labour force (Table 8). Among employed men, 18% had a proficiency level of 4 or 5 in numeracy, compared with 9% among their counterparts who were not in the labour force.

Women and men display similar proficiencies in problem solving

The 2012 PIAAC included an assessment of problem solving skills using digital technology in technology-rich environments (PS_TRE). This assessment measures the respondents’ ability to use digital technology, to communicate with others and to solve problems which are commonly encountered in a technology-rich world.Note 35 Proficiency levels for PS-TRE were determined using average scores and divided into 3 levels.Note 36

Overall, a slightly higher proportion of Canadians aged 16 to 65 had a PS-TRE score of level 2 or 3 (37%) compared with the OECD (34%). Similar to literacy, there was no major difference in the PS-TRE scores of women and men except among those aged 55 to 65, where a larger proportion of men (19%) had a PS-TRE proficiency at level 2 or 3 compared with women (14%).Note 37

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Women and family

The education and career trajectory among women can be impacted at different points in life as women fulfill family commitments associated with marriage and children. This may limit women’s participation in the labour market, or result in different work histories, for women and men.Note 38 The next three sections examine young women who are not working or in school - often out of the labour force with children, educational attainment among female lone parents, and the impact of student debt on family formation.

Lower proportion of young Canadian women not working or in school than average for young women in OECD countries

Since the recent economic downturn in 2008, increased attention has been paid to the economic prospects of young people. The proportion of young people aged 15 to 29 who are neither working nor attending school is referred to as the NEET population. Young people who are NEET are at risk of becoming socially excluded, being in low income and may encounter barriers to improving their economic situation.Note 39 Young women and men had similar rates of NEET in Canada in 2014 (13.6% versus 13.2 %), while the gap is less pronounced than among young women and men at the OECD level (17.9% versus 13.2 %).Note 40

Young NEET women less likely to be unemployed and more likely to be out of the labour force than young NEET men

The NEET population can be either unemployed (available for work) or out of the labour force (not available for work for various reasons such as illness or caring for children). NEET can be further broken down by labour force status to better understand the activities of the NEET population. The majority of NEET women were out of the labour force (72%) compared with less than half (48%) of men (Chart 5).

Previous research examining NEET youth, has shown that women who were married with children were significantly more likely to be out of the labour force, while men who were married with children were significantly less likely to be out of the labour force.Note 41 In 2015, over one-third (37%) of women with childrenNote 42 were NEET compared with only 9% of those without kids.Note 43 The percentage of men with and without children who were not enrolled in school nor employed was much closer at 16% and 13% respectively. It may be that many young NEET mothers are out of the labour force to provide care for their children.Note 44

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Women and family (continued)

Proportion of female lone parents with university degrees has increased at a slower pace than among female parents in couples

In 2011, almost one fifth (19%) of women aged 25 to 54 with children were living in a lone parent family.Note 45 Female lone parents have different educational outcomes than female parents who are part of couples, and face economic challenges such as a greater prevalence of low income.Note 46 The proportion of women in both types of families with no formal credentials has decreased dramatically (Table 9). In 1991, just over one third (34%) of female lone parents had not completed high school or any postsecondary qualification (no certificate, diploma or degree). In 2011, this proportion had decreased 21 percentage points to 13%. In comparison, 24% of female parents in couples had not completed high school or any postsecondary qualification in 1991 compared with 8% in 2011 (16 percentage points).

The proportion of women with a university degree in both types of families has increased over time, however at a slower pace for female lone parents. The proportion of female lone parents with a university degree more than doubled between 1991 and 2011 to 20% (a difference of 11 percentage points). The proportion of female parents in couples with a university degree also doubled in that time period to 33% (a difference of 18 percentage points). The gap in education levels between female lone parents and female parents in couples may be partly explained by the tendency for female lone parents to have had their children at a younger age.Note 47

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Women and family (concluded)

Women with student debt less likely to be married or have children

In order to cover the costs of postsecondary education, many students take out student loans. Rising tuition fees and concern over the opportunities available to new graduates in terms of returns to education have highlighted issues around student debt in Canada. This section looks at the student debt from all sourcesNote 48Note 49 among graduates in 2009-2010 with college diplomas or university degrees and its impact on family formation.

At graduation, female college graduates owed somewhat more than male graduates ($15,900 and $13,400 respectively) (Table 10). Moreover, three years after graduation, women had not repaid as much of their student debt (45%) as men (53%), with women and men owing $8,600 and $6,200 respectively. Three years after graduation, female college graduates had lower average incomes ($35,200) than their male counterparts ($46,500). The higher debt loads and lower income of female college graduates resulted in a higher debt to income ratio, as women owed debt equivalent to 24% of their average income in 2012, three years after graduation, compared with only 13% among their male counterparts (not shown in chart).

The debt load of female college graduates may be impacting other major life decisions, as a lower proportion of women with student debt at graduation were married (49%) than their counterparts with no student debt (56%). Similarly, one third (33%) of female college graduates with student debt had dependent children, while more than half (54%) of their counterparts without student debt had children (Table 11). The patterns among men were similar.

At the university levelNote 50 on the other hand, female graduates owed a slightly lower amount upon graduation in 2009-2010 ($26,100) than male graduates ($27,900) (Table 12). Women had repaid a slightly higher amount of their student debt than men three years after graduation (53% compared with 51%) contributing to the average remaining debt among female university graduates being slightly lower ($12,300) than male graduates ($13,600). However, women had lower average incomes ($51,100 versus $60,300). Despite the lower incomes, the average debt remaining three years after graduation as a proportion of income three years after graduating was similar among female and male graduates (24% and 23% respectively)(not shown in chart).

Among female university graduates, a lower proportion of women with student debt at graduation were married (56%) or had dependent children (27%) compared with their counterparts without debt (72% and 43% respectively) (Table 13). Again, the patterns among men were similar.

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Fewer women among earned doctorate holders than among bachelor’s or master’s degree holders

Pipeline theory can demonstrate the extent to which women are continuing to flow through academic progression at university in a similar way to men. Leaks in the pipeline can be seen because while women represent the majority of university graduates overall, there is a smaller proportion of women among those at the graduate level particularly among those with a doctorate. According to the 2011 National Household Survey, women accounted for over half (54%) of all university degree holders aged 25 to 64, 55% of bachelor's degree holders, 51% of master's degree holders, but only 39% of earned doctorate holders.

The proportion of graduates that are women is different across generations. In 2011, a much larger proportion of younger doctorate holders were women compared with older degree holders. Among younger earned doctorate holders aged 25 to 34, almost half (47%) were women, compared with almost one third (32%) among doctorate holders aged 55 to 64.

Of the provinces, Nova Scotia had the largest proportion of doctorate holders aged 25 to 64 that were women (43%). Saskatchewan, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador followed, each at 40%; slightly higher than the national average of 39%. Women accounted for 39% of earned doctorates in Ontario while Alberta, Manitoba (both at 37%) and Prince Edward Island (31%) had the lowest proportion of earned doctorate holders that were women.

In some fields of study at the doctorate level, women accounted for more than half, for example, education (62%) and social and behavioural sciences and law (51%). Within this latter group, a smaller share of doctorates in social science were earned by women (39%) than in psychology (67%). Almost half (49%) of doctorates in health and related programs were earned by women, while 43% of those with a doctorate in humanities were women.

Women account for a relatively small share of doctorate holders in fields of study such as architecture and engineering

Women accounted for one third of doctorates in physical and life sciences (34%); and represented a larger share among doctorates in the sub-grouping of biological and biomedical sciences (43%) compared with among physical sciences (22%). The fields of study at the doctorate level among which women represented the smallest proportion, were in architecture and engineering (15%) and mathematics, computer and information sciences (21%). Women represented a smaller share of doctorates in the latter two fields of study at the doctorate level then they did at the master’s or bachelor’s level.

Immigrants accounted for a large proportion of those with a university degree (34%), particularly at the doctorate level. Immigrants accounted for half (50%) of doctorate holders overallNote 51, but this proportion was somewhat lower among female doctorate holders (45%), compared with among male doctorate holders (54%).

Female doctorate holders were slightly less likely to be employed in 2011 than male doctorate holders (83% versus 87%), though the gap was smaller than among those with a master’s degree (79% versus 85%) or among those with a bachelor’s degree (80% versus 86%). Employment rates at the doctorate level were high among women who completed their degree in psychology (89%), social sciences (85%) and biology and biomedical sciences (84%).

The 2013 National Graduates Survey asked graduates from a master’s program in 2009-2010 their reasons for pursuing an earned doctorate. At just under half (49%), women were less likely to report that the reason they intended to pursue a doctorate was to become a university professor compared with 55% among their male counterparts. About three in ten women (29%) and men (27%) indicated that they wanted to pursue a career outside of academia.

Over one quarter of women with a doctorate working as university professors

Examining the occupation of women with a doctorate can help to evaluate how women are using their education and skills in the labour market and the extent to which there are ‘leaks’ in the pipeline from academia to career. Among female doctorates holders aged 25 to 64, over one quarter (28%) worked as a university professor in 2011. The proportion of women and men with a doctorate working as a professor was very similar (27.8% and 27.9% respectively). However, younger women with a doctorate were less likely to be working as a professor than their older counterparts. Among female doctorate holders aged 25 to 44, 26% were working as professors, compared with 31% of their older counterparts aged 45 to 64. In comparison, a slightly larger proportion of younger male doctorates (30%) were working as university professors compared with their older counterparts (27%). There are many reasons women may enter tenure track earlier or later including the timing of family formation.

While women form the majority of enrolments at universities, they are less likely to be taught by women. According to the 2010-2011 University and College Academic Staff System (UCASS), among all professors, 37% were women, while only 23% of full professorships were women. Women accounted for a larger proportion of assistant professors at almost half (46%) while over half (54%) of those working as teaching staff without tenure (below assistant professors) were women.

The median age of female professors was younger than that of male professors. This difference may play a role in the proportion of professors that are female, as they could be early in their career and not have reached tenure as of yet. For example, the median age of female professors overall was 3 years younger in 2010-2011 than their male counterparts. However, among full professors, the median age of men was only one year greater (at age 57) than that of women (at age 56). The median age of female assistant professors was 40 compared with age 39 among male assistant professors and the median age of both female and male teaching staff without tenure was 49.

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Women and men complete their qualifications in different fields of study at the trades, college and university level

According to the 2011 National Household Survey, women were in the minority among those with an apprenticeship certificate as their highest certificate, diploma or degree (2 in 10 apprenticeship certificate holders were women).

In 2011, the top three fields of study among women with an apprenticeship certificate as their highest certificate, diploma or degree were quite different than among their male counterparts (Table 14). The three most common fields of study among women aged 25 to 64 in 2011 with an apprenticeship certificate were personal and culinary services (38%), health professions and related programs (23%) and business, management, marketing and related support services (19%). Examples of specific trades in these fields are hairstyling, health aide, and accounting technology. These are important to note because their outcomes tend not to be as strong as the most common fields among men with a certificate of apprenticeship.

The top three fields of study for women accounted for the majority (80%) of all female apprenticeship certificate holders, while these three fields (personal and culinary services, health professions and business, management, marketing and related support services) accounted for only 7% of the trades fields among their male counterparts. On the other hand, the majority (79%) of all male apprenticeship certificate holders were found in construction trades (34%), mechanic and repair technicians (29%) and precision production (16%). Examples of specific trades in these fields are carpentry, auto mechanics and welding. Less than 6% of female apprenticeship completers held a certificate in these areas.  

Among women with a college diploma, the most common field of study was business, management, marketing and related support services

In 2011, one-third (34%) of women aged 25 to 64 with a college diploma as their highest level of education had completed their diploma in business, management, marketing and related support services. This grouping accounted for almost one fifth (18%) of men with a college diploma (Table 15). Within this field, women were much more likely to have completed their diploma in administrative assistant and secretarial science, whereas men were more likely to have studied business administration and management and business/commerce.

Apart from business, women and men with a college diploma had fairly dissimilar field of study choices. The second most common field of study grouping for women with a college diploma was in health professions and related programs (27%). A much smaller proportion (4%) of men had completed a diploma in this grouping. Examples of specific fields completed by women with college diplomas in health and related programs were registered nursing, licensed practical nurse and health aide.

The third most common field of study grouping for women with a college diploma was family and consumer sciences (7%). Most women who completed their college diploma in the family and consumer sciences/human sciences grouping studied in the sub-group of child care services. Almost all college diploma holders in this sub-group were women (94%) (not shown in chart).

The top fields of study among women with a college diploma as their highest level of education are subject to high degrees of segregation between the sexes. For example, among those who completed their college diploma in registered nursing, 94% were women. Similarly, among those who completed their diploma in one of the most common business sub-groupings of accounting technology, 74% were women. College programs tend to be occupation-driven and thus subject to occupational segregation by sex.

On the other hand, women were less likely to study engineering technologies than men. Engineering technologies and engineering related fields ranked first among men (19%) but tenth among women (2%). Similarly, a lower proportion of women completed their college diploma in computer and information sciences and support services (3%), ranking seventh, compared with men (8%) ranking fourth.

The most common field of study among women with a degree was education

Among university degree holders aged 25 to 64, business, management, and marketing and related support services was an important field of study for both women (ranks 2nd) and men (ranks 1rst). For women with a university degree, the most common field of study was education (19%), while health professions and related programs was the third most common field of study. These three fields accounted for almost half (47%) of female university degree holders compared with about a third of men (35%) (Table 16). Specific examples of fields in these groupings are business administration, primary school teaching, and registered nursing.

Some fields of study that were common among male university degree holders, were not as common among their female counterparts. For example, female degree holders in engineering ranked 7th, while they ranked 2nd among male degree holders. Male degree holders in computer and information sciences ranked 6th, compared with 15th among female degree holders. Similarly, physical sciences ranked 8th among male degree holders compared with 17th among female degree holders.

While women represent the majority of university degree holders in most fields of study, they are still the minority among STEM degree holders

As noted by the Canadian Council of Academies in their 2015 report on STEM skills in Canada, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics and computers) skills lead to improvements in the standard of living and are central to innovation and productivity growth.Note 52 Encouraging STEM participation among underrepresented groups such as women and Aboriginal people is important to diversify and expand the supply of STEM educated individuals in Canada.Note 53

At the individual level, previous reports have also suggested that a STEM degree would lead to better labour market conditions and higher earnings, especially for those with a background in engineering and computer science.Note 54Note 55

In 2011, women accounted for the majority of both university degree holders and non-STEM university degree holders (such as education and health), but were underrepresented among STEM university degree holders. Among adults aged 25 to 64 with a non-STEM university degree, 6 in 10 (61%) were women, while among STEM degree holders 3 in 10 (33%) were women.Note 56

Women account for a higher share of degree holders among younger STEM graduates than among older ones

Comparing the proportion of women among older STEM degree holders with that of younger ones demonstrates that a higher proportion of young STEM degree holders are women compared with older generations (Chart 6). Women represented 39% of university STEM degree holders aged 25 to 34, compared with only 23% of STEM degree holders aged 55 to 64. In non-STEM fields, women accounted for 66% of younger university degree holders, compared with 54% of older ones.

The proportion of women among younger STEM degree holders was particularly pronounced among those in science and technology. Women accounted for 59% of younger science and technology degree holders compared with 35% of their older counterparts. The proportion of women among younger engineeringNote 57 degree holders aged 25 to 34 (23%) was almost triple that of engineering degree holders aged 55 to 64 (8%). For degree holders in mathematics and computer science, the proportion aged 25 to 34 (30%) and aged 55 to 64 (29%) that were women was similar.

Women account for twice as many physical science degree holders among younger graduates compared with older ones

The STEM category of science and technology can be further broken down into two sub-groups: biological and biomedical sciences and physical sciences. Women accounted for a larger share of those who completed their university degree in biological and biomedical sciences (56%) than in physical sciences (33%).

Among young biological and biomedical science degree holders aged 25 to 34, young women accounted for the majority (64%). In comparison, women accounted for 40% of biological and biomedical science degree holders aged 55 to 64. The proportion of physical science degree holders aged 25 to 34 that were women was almost double (41%) that of among those aged 55 to 64 (22%).

In 2011, the proportion of women among STEM degree holders aged 25 to 64 varied little across Canada, with most provinces being within 4 percentage points of each other. In all provinces, the share that women accounted for among younger STEM degree holders was at least 13 percentage points higher than their share among older STEM degree holders.

Aboriginal women account for more than one-third of Aboriginal STEM university degree holders

The 2011 National Household Survey showed that similar to their non-Aboriginal counterparts, Aboriginal womenNote 58 accounted for the majority of Aboriginal people with a university degree.  Almost two-thirds (65%) of Aboriginal people with university degrees aged 25 to 64 were women, compared with just over half (54%) of same-aged non-Aboriginal degree holders.

Over one-third (37%) of all Aboriginal STEM degree holders aged 25 to 64  were Aboriginal women, compared with 33% of non-Aboriginal STEM degree holders (Chart 7). Among First Nations STEM degree holders aged 25 to 64, 4 in 10 (40%) were First Nations women. Métis women accounted for just over one-third (35%) of all Métis STEM degree holders.Note 59

Similar to non-Aboriginal women, young Aboriginal women accounted for a higher proportion of young Aboriginal university degree holders (68%), compared with among older ones (60%). Among non-Aboriginal university degree holders aged 25 to 34, women accounted for 59%, while among older non-Aboriginal degree holders, 47% were women.

Among Aboriginal women with a STEM degree, the majority had studied science and technology (76%). (Chart 8). Engineering was the second most common STEM field for Aboriginal women representing 13% of all female Aboriginal STEM degree holders, while the remaining 11% completed their degree in mathematics and computer science. Similarly, the most common STEM field among non-Aboriginal women was science and science technology (57%), followed by engineering (24%) and mathematics and computer sciences (19%).

Young female immigrants account for 4 in 10 young female university STEM degree holders

Young female immigrants aged 25 to 34 accounted for a larger proportion of young women aged 25 to 34 with university degreesNote 60 (27%) than they did of the young female population with a university degree in 2011 (22%). In particular, 41% of young female STEM degree holders were immigrant women. Young immigrant women represented a large share among young female mathematics and computer sciences degree holders (65%) and young female engineering degree holders (54%). On the other hand, young immigrant women accounted for a smaller proportion of young female science and technology degree holders (30%).

The provinces with the largest proportion of female immigrants among female STEM degree holders were Ontario (48%) and British Columbia (46%). On the other hand, the provinces with the lowest proportion of female immigrants among female STEM degree holders were New Brunswick (6%) and Prince Edward Island (8%). This order reflects roughly the prevalence of the immigrant population by province.Note 61

Young Canadian-born and immigrant women with STEM degrees have similar unemployment rates to their respective counterparts with non-STEM degrees

The unemployment rate of young Canadian-born women aged 25 to 34 with a STEM degree (4.7%) was slightly higher than among same-aged Canadian-born women with a non-STEM degree (4.3%) (Table 17). The unemployment rates of young immigrant women were higher than their Canadian-born counterparts, but the pattern between STEM and non-STEM disciplines was similar. Young immigrant women with STEM degrees had an unemployment rate that was slightly higher (10.7%) than that of young immigrant women with non-STEM degrees (10.2%).Note 62

The higher unemployment rate among all young female STEM degree holders may be at least partly explained by the fact that young immigrant women accounted for a larger proportion of young female STEM degree holders, and their unemployment rates were higher, than Canadian-born STEM degree holders (Table 17). Immigrant women accounted for a larger proportion (41%) of young female STEM degree holders than young female non-STEM degree holders (25%).

Among the STEM fields, the unemployment rate of young female Canadian-born engineering degree holders was lower (3.8%) than among mathematics and computer science (4.8%) and science and technology degree holders (4.9%). In comparison, among young immigrant women, there was little difference between the unemployment rates of STEM sub-fields. The high proportion of Canadian-born women who completed their STEM degree in science and technology and the fact that the unemployment rate of graduates in this field is higher can help to explain the higher STEM unemployment rates among Canadian-born women.

Young Canadian-born women who completed their degree in common non-STEM fields had low unemployment rates. For example, the unemployment rate of young female Canadian-born women was 3.1% for degree holders in health and related programs, 3.4% for education degree holders, and 3.6% for business, management, marketing and related support services. Among young female immigrants with university degrees in non-STEM fields, the unemployment rate of those with a degree in education was 7.9%, 9.0% for health and related programs and 10.2% for business, management, marketing and related support services. Almost half of both young Canadian-born and immigrant women completed their university degree in these three fields of study (not shown in chart).

Less than one fifth of all young women with a university degree are overqualified, however this rate rises to one third among their immigrant counterparts

In addition to the importance of finding employment, working in an occupation which requires a skill level corresponding to the level of education is also very important. A 2014 study looked at overqualification among young women and men aged 25 to 34 with a university degree. A university degree holder was defined as being overqualified when they worked in an occupation usually requiring a high school diploma or less.Note 63Note 64

Overall, a similar proportion of women and men were considered overqualified based on the definition above (18.3% compared with 17.7%). However, immigrant women had higher rates of overqualification than both Canadian-born women and immigrant men. Almost 3 in 10 (29%) immigrant women with a university degree were considered overqualified for their occupation compared with less than one-quarter of immigrant men (23%) and 15% of Canadian-born women.

Young visible minority women who are immigrants are more likely to be overqualified than Canadian-born visible minority women

In 2011, the majority (73%) of female immigrant women aged 25 to 34 with a university degree were visible minorities, compared with 11% of Canadian-born women with degrees in the same age group.

Young visible minority women were more likely to be overqualified than non-visible minority women, but the difference was more pronounced among immigrants than among Canadian-born women (Table 18). Young visible minority women who were immigrants were more likely (31%) to be overqualified for their occupation than immigrant women who were not members of a visible minority group (21%). On the other hand, the overqualification rate of Canadian-born visible minority women was only slightly higher (17%) than Canadian-born women who were not visible minorities (14%).

Similar to women, visible minority men who were immigrants were more likely (26%) to be overqualified than immigrant men who were not visible minorities (19%). Among the Canadian-born population, the overqualification rate of male visible minorities was only slightly higher (17%) than those of men who were not visible minorities (16%).

Among immigrants, young Filipino women had the highest rates of overqualification (50%) compared with Chinese women who had the lowest (22%). One fifth (20%) of female immigrants who were overqualified for their occupation in 2011 were Filipino women, while they only accounted for 12% of the female visible minority population. Among Filipino women, 44% had a university degree, but many immigrated to Canada as live-in caregivers.Note 65

Overqualification higher among immigrant women who complete their degree outside of Canada or the United States

Overqualification has been shown to be positively associated with completing a university degree outside of Canada or the United States (U.S.)Note 66 The overqualification rate for immigrant women who completed their degree in Canada or the U.S. was lower (20%) than among immigrant women who completed their degree outside of Canada or the U.S. (43%). However, the overqualification rate of immigrant women who completed their degree in Canada or the U.S. (20%) was notably higher than among Canadian-born women (15%), whereas the differences between the corresponding male groups was negligible (16% versus 15%). Similar to immigrant women, immigrant men who completed their degree outside Canada or the U.S. also had much higher rates of overqualfication (35%), compared with immigrant men who completed their degree in Canada or the U.S. (16%).

Female degree holders in health, architecture and engineering, and education have lowest rates of overqualification

The overqualification rate among degree holders aged 25 to 34 also varied by field of study. Among female Canadian-born graduates, the three lowest rates of overqualification were among those in health and related fields (5%), architecture, engineering and related technologies (7%) and education (7%). Among young male Canadian-born degree holders, the lowest overqualification rates were among those who graduated in architecture, engineering and related technologies (5.1%), mathematics, computer and information sciences (6.3%) and education (7.8%). The rate of overqualification among Canadian-born men who completed their degree in health was considerably higher than among their female counterparts at 9.1%.

The highest rates of overqualification among young female Canadian-born degree holders were in non-STEM fields such as humanities (29%), visual and performing artsNote 67 (28%) and social and behavioural sciences and law (22%). These three fields accounted for more than 5 in 10 (54%) overqualified young female Canadian-born degree holders. Among young male Canadian-born degree holders, the highest overqualification rates were among those who graduated in humanities fields (30.5%), and social and behavioural sciences and law (22.9%) and visual and performing arts (22.6%). These three fields accounted for almost half (48%) of young Canadian-born overqualified men (not shown in chart).

While the rates of overqualification were much higher among female immigrants than their Canadian-born counterparts, the fields of study with the lowest rates of overqualification were the same. Among young female degree holders who were immigrants, the fields of study with the lowest rates of overqualification were architecture, engineering and related technologies (18.1%), health (22.4%) and education (22.8%); the same fields of study as among young Canadian-born female degree holders. The two lowest rates of overqualification among young male immigrants were and mathematics, computer and information sciences (12.7%) and architecture, engineering and related technologies (15.7%), the same fields of study as among young Canadian-born male degree holders.

The most common occupation group among young female STEM degree holders is natural and applied sciences and related occupations

While previous sections examined the distribution by field of study among STEM graduates to look at the supply of STEM graduates, the following section examines the occupational profile of these recent graduates. This analysis can evaluate leaks in the pipeline to determine in which occupations young STEM educated women are working.

In 2011, the most common major occupational grouping that employed young women aged 25 to 34 with a STEM university degree was natural and applied sciences (Chart 9).Note 68Note 69 Almost 3 in 10 (29%) young women with a STEM university degree worked in natural and applied sciences. In comparison, over half (52%) of young male STEM degree holders worked in natural and applied sciences occupations.

Apart from natural and applied sciences occupations, the two occupation groups accounting for the highest proportion of young female STEM degree holders were occupations in education, law and social and government services (22%) and business, finance and administration (14%).

Over half of young female engineering graduates are working in natural and applied sciences

Among young female STEM degree holders, those who studied engineeringNote 70 were the most likely to be working in natural and applied science related occupations. Just over half (53%) of young women with a degree in engineering were working in natural and applied sciences, while this proportion was higher among their male counterparts at nearly two thirds (62%). Over one third (36%) of young women with a degree in mathematics and computer science were working in natural and applied science occupations, compared with 61% of young men with a degree in mathematics and computer sciences.  

Finally, almost one fifth (19%) of women with a degree in science and technology were working in natural and applied science occupations compared with just over one quarter (26%) among their male counterparts. While this proportion was smaller than among the other STEM sub-fields, the most common occupational grouping among female science and technology degree holders (other than natural and applied science) were occupations in education, law and social and government services (27%) followed by health occupations (17%).

The occupations in the grouping of sales and services are primarily low skillNote 71, and include sales occupations, personal, security and tourism services. The proportion of women working in sales and service occupations was the same among those with a STEM degree (11.4%) as among female degree holders overall (11.5%). On the other hand, among men with a STEM degree, fewer (7.4%) worked in sales and service occupations compared with male degree holders overall (10.9%).

The most common occupation among young women with a university degree is elementary/kindergarten teacher

The extent to which the pipeline from education to career path has some ‘leaks’ along the way can be evaluated by comparing at the most common occupations among women and examining which occupations have become more or less segregated by sex.

A recent studyNote 72 looked at whether the significant growth in the proportion of younger employed women with university degrees had translated into corresponding changes in women's occupational profile since 1991. While the proportion of young employed women aged 25 to 34 with a university degree doubled between 1991 (19%) and 2011 (40%), the top three occupations among young women with a university degree remained the same. In 2011, the top three occupations held by young female workers with a university degree were elementary/kindergarten school teachers, registered nurses and secondary school teachers (Table 19).

These top three occupations represented a large proportion of employed women over time: at least one-fifth of employed women in both 1991 and 2011. The percentage of elementary or kindergarten teachers decreased slightly from 12% in 1991 to 10% in 2011, while the percentage of registered nurses increased somewhat from 4% to 6%.

In 2011, the top three occupations among young employed men with a university degree were computer programmers and interactive media developers, financial auditors and accountants and secondary school teachers. These were similar to the top three occupations among young employed men with a university degree in 1991. However, moving beyond the top 5 occupations, the occupational profile of young male degree holders reflects the expansion in the information technology sector between 1991 and 2011. In 1991, there were just two categories related to information technology in the National Occupational Classification (NOC). Together, they accounted for 6% of young employed men with a university degree (not shown in chart). In the 2011 NOC, there were 5 categories related to information technology. The 5 categories combined accounted for 9% of young employed men with a university degree.

Share of female workers rising in occupations held by university graduates

Given the rapid increase between 1991 and 2011 in the proportion of young employed women with university degrees (19% to 40%), compared with that for young employed men (17% to 27%), it is to be expected that the proportion of women in occupations held by university graduates would naturally rise. This section examines changes in the  composition by sex between 1991 and 2011 by regrouping the occupations held by young workers aged 25 to 34 into three categories: those in the top 25 occupations for both women and men, those in the top 25 occupations for women only, those in the top 25 occupations for men only.

Within occupations shared by both male and female graduates (the top 25 occupations for young women and men aged 25 to 34 with university degrees in 2011), the proportion of degree holders in sales, marketing and advertising managers that were women rose 17 percentage points from 1991 to 2011 (from 35% to 52%). Similarly, women accounted for 58% of lawyers in 2011 (an increase of 16 percentage points).

Two thirds of general practitioners and family physicians are women

Women made even larger gains in the second grouping (occupations only appearing among the top 25 occupations for women with a university degree in 2011). For example, women increased their share of health policy researchers by 29 percentage points to 76%. Women became the majority (62%) of general practitioners and family physicians in 2011, up from 43% in 1991.

Female degree holders also accounted for a larger proportion of those with a degree in several of the occupations in the third grouping (occupations which appeared in the top 25 occupations held by young male degree holders in 2011). For example, the female share of civil engineers increased 15 percentage points to 26% and increased 14 percentage points to 34% of police officers. While the female share of mechanical engineers (12%) remained relatively small in 2011, it doubled from 6% in 1991.

The study also looked at the concentration of women and men in the top occupations among those without a university degree. Some of the occupations of those without a university degree that had a high female concentration remained highly concentrated. For example, the large majority (86%) of nurse aides were women in 2011, an increase of 8 percentage points since 1991. Other occupations that continued to be largely female were early childhood assistants and secretaries (both 97%).

Some occupations of those without a university degree that previously had a large female share became somewhat less female concentrated. For example, the share of women declined by 15 percentage points among customer service representatives in financial services (from 95% to 79%), and by 13 percentage points among food counter attendants and kitchen helpers (from 79% to 65%). On the other hand, in 2011, women accounted for less than 5% of young employed people without a university degree in occupations that already had a high proportion of men such as heavy equipment operators, truck drivers, plumbers and carpenters.

Employment income among women is more comparable with men's at the university level than other levels

Over time, women have increasingly completed higher levels of education. Among paid workers aged 25 to 64 employed full time and full year,Note 73Note 74 the earnings ratio between women and men was generally positively associated with level of education (Table 20).

While the proportion of women with no formal education credentials has been decreasing, this population could be considered vulnerable as many occupations now require a higher level of skill. Women with neither a high school diploma nor any postsecondary qualification earned 70 cents for each dollar earned by their male counterparts.

The earnings ratio between women and men increased with most levels of education to 0.87 among those with an earned doctorate. In general, the earnings ratios were at 0.80 or higher at the university level of education, while they were below 0.80 at other levels of education.

Earnings of graduates from fields of study with high female concentration are generally lower than in male concentrated fields of study

The earnings ratio (0.57) between women and men among those with an apprenticeship certificate was the lowest of all levels of education. There was a substantial earnings advantage (26%) for male apprenticeship certificate holders ($61,034) compared with those with only a high school diploma ($48,510), and a slight advantage (3%) over those with a college diploma ($59,304). In comparison, women with a college diploma had 24% higher earnings ($43,415) than women with an apprenticeship certificate ($34,959) and 15% higher earnings than those with only a high school diploma ($37,859).

The lower earnings ratio between women and men with an apprenticeship certificate as their highest level of education can be partly explained by field of study differences. For example, the most common field of study of female apprenticeship certificate holders who worked full time and full year was personal and culinary services (35%), for which the annual median employment income was $30,898 (Table 21). The majority of women in this field studied hairstyling. This compared with the median earnings of $61,526 for the top apprenticeship field of study for men, namely mechanic and repair technologies/technicians. This field accounted for just over one third (34%) of male apprenticeship certificate holders who worked full time and full year.Note 75

While the overall difference in employment income a between women and men with an apprenticeship certificate may be partly explained by the fact that women complete their apprenticeship in lower paying fields, even among the same field of study groupings, women tend to earn less. For example, examining the most common fields of study among male apprenticeship certificate holders, the employment income of women with an apprenticeship certificate in mechanics and repair technologies was $43,605. Similarly, the employment income of women with an apprenticeship certificate in construction trades who worked full time and full year, earned was $44,002 while the employment income of women who completed their certificate in precision production was $34,962.

Women with a college diploma earned 73 cents for each dollar earned by their male counterparts. Field of study preferences again played a role (Table 22). The most common field of study among male college diploma holders was engineering technology, a field associated with high employment incomes among men ($66,962), while the employment income of the most common field of study of their female counterparts was business, management, marketing and related support services with a median employment income of $43,645. Even among graduates in the same field of study grouping, women earned less; male college graduates in business, management, marketing and related support services earned $56,816. This could be partly explained by differences in the sub-fields of study between women and men. The most common sub-field among female business graduates at the college level was administrative assistant and secretarial science. Among male business graduates at the college level, the most common field of study was business administration and management.

One quarter of women with a college diploma studied in health and related fields and earned higher than the overall median employment income for college diploma holders ($46,047 compared with $43,415). After business and health, female college diploma holders were distributed in small numbers across many fields of study. The third largest field of study at this level was family and consumer sciences with median employment income of college diploma holders at $36,266. Women who studied in this field did so primarily to become a child care provider/assistant.

As stated earlier, the earnings ratio between women and men at the university level was higher than among those with a trades or college diploma. Women with a bachelor's degree or a certificate above the bachelor's level earned 83 cents for each dollar earned by their male counterparts. This ratio increased to 0.87 among those with an earned doctorate (Table 20).

The earnings ratio between women and men of those with a degree in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or optometry was notably lower (0.75) than master’s (0.85) or doctorate graduates (0.87). These ratios are calculated on the employment income of paid employees and excludes the self-employed. A higher proportion of individuals aged 25 to 64 among those with a degree in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or optometry, were self-employed in private practice (41%) compared with the overall population aged 25 to 64 (10%). Female degree holders in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or optometry were less likely (33%) to be self-employed than their male counterparts (47%). The earnings ratio of women and men who were self-employed with a degree in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or optometry was much higher (0.94) than among paid employees (0.75). Both female and male self-employed degree holders in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or optometry had much higher median annual earnings ($117,988 and $126,023 respectively) than their paid employee counterparts.

Graduates in health and related fields are the highest earners among female university degree holders

The earnings ratio of women and men aged 25 to 64 who had a university degree at the bachelor’s level or above varied by field of study (Table 23). Women with a degree in health and related fields (working full time and full year) earned 91 cents for each dollar earned by their male counterparts in 2010 and earned $70,288. Half of women with a degree in health (excluding those with a medical degree), had completed their degree in the sub-field of nursing. Nursing graduates working full time and full year had higher employment income ($73,399) than the median for all female degree holders who worked full time and full year ($62,508).

Women with a degree in education who worked full time and full year had higher employment income than the median for all female degree holders who worked full time and full year ($66,335 compared with $62,508) and had the second highest earnings ratio (90 cents for each dollar earned by their male counterparts).

The earnings ratio between women and men was the lowest among those with degrees in business, management and public administration, architecture, engineering, and related technologies, and physical and life sciences and technologies, (all three fields at 0.78). The employment income in 2010 of female Canadian-born university graduates tended to be higher than the female immigrant population with degrees ($65,366 compared with $54,165). The median employment income of female Canadian-born graduates of architecture and engineering was $73,791, ranking first).

The employment income reported in this section reflects that of paid employees working full time and full year but beyond that the numbers are ’unadjusted’ for other determinants. Researchers have analyzed a number of other factors that play a role in determining the gap in employment income between women and men such as occupation, work experience and career interruptions, unionization, family gap, and job preferences. The impact of these factors on the gap in employment income between women and men are beyond the scope of this chapter.Note 76Note 77

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