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TD Magazine

Globally, Women’s Use of Online Learning Surges

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Despite their reduced employment, women are expanding their skill sets.

The pandemic-induced exodus of women from the workforce isn't stopping them from learning and gaining new skills. As noted in Coursera's 2021 Women and Skills Report, women's learning activities in multiple categories have spiked. For example, their participation in entry-level professional certificate programs as well as science, technology, engineering, and math courses increased to 37 percent for each, up from 25 percent and 31 percent, respectively, in 2019.


This learning trend isn't limited to one locale or region either. Coursera researchers confirm a global wave of women building their skill sets through engagement with online learning activities. At 8.6 million, the US leads the world with the biggest cohort of women learners, followed by India (4.8 million) and Mexico (2.4 million).

The Philippines leads with the greatest year-over-year increases in online learning enrollment. When compared with last year's figures, the country saw a dramatic 774 percent increase in women participating in online learning programs. Lebanon follows with a 729 percent increase, and Uruguay rounds out the top three with a 565 percent increase.

In analyzing enrollments in its learning offerings, Coursera researchers identified health, humanities and social sciences, business, data science, and technology as the top five domains that captured women learners' attention in 2021. Globally, communications, leadership and management, probability and statistics, entrepreneurship, and computer programming are the skills women learners focused on the most last year.

However, even though more women are gaining skills today than prior to the pandemic, they are underemployed. In 2021, less than half of working-age women around the world, compared with nearly 70 percent of men, were employed. Jeff Maggioncalda, Coursera CEO, notes that "While education is not a panacea, the Women and Skills Report indicates the gender gap in online learning narrowed during the pandemic, even as the gender employment gap widened." Talent development professionals can keep those data points in mind as they look to ensure their organizations have the right skills to meet business demands.

About the Author

Derrick Thompson is a former writer/editor for ATD.

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