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More women in higher education, but inequalities persist

The independent Network of Experts in Social Sciences of Education and training (NESSE) has submitted a report to the European Commission exploring the current relation between gender and education in the EU. Some of the impending issues the report attempts to address include: the reproduction of gender inequalities; the relation of gender to social class, ethnicity and minority status; the declining literacy levels, especially among boys and men from socially marginalised groups; etc. Other findings like women’s relatively disadvantaged position on the labour market as well as the remaining gender bias within certain subjects and professions can be related to those found on a global scale. UNESCO’s 2009 Global Education Digest states for instance that while there is an overall increase in female participation in tertiary education worldwide, certain fields like engineering and construction are reserved exclusively for men, while others like education, health and welfare work, are dominated by women in almost all of the countries studied, the latter also affecting employment and career opportunities (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, July 2009).

The NESSE report concludes with a set of policy recommendations towards greater gender equality in education and the wider society. They include among others: a comprehensive EU Literacy Action Plan; devising equality policies in schools and higher education institutions, which take into account the wider social, ethnic and cultural variations with impact on gender; integrating gender education into all school and university programmes; providing equality training for teachers, but also information to parents and peers – to dispel gender stereotypes; and employing systematic institutional strategies to recruit more women to mathematics, science and technology (MST) studies and more men to care work.
The report will be taken up for discussion at an upcoming EU Presidency conference in November, and complemented by a follow-up report published by Eurydice later that month.

European Commission