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Women dominate at university campuses, National Household Survey shows

Women make up a majority of university students but deal with subtle family issues when they become faculty.

Moe Doiron/Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

Women are dominating university campuses and edging out men for medical and master's degrees.

But men still occupy more seats in post-secondary classrooms where the subjects are engineering, math and computer science. And they are still more likely to pursue a doctorate degree.

Those are the findings of the National Household Survey of 2011 which were released Wednesday.

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Overall, Canada is a well-educated society with 64 per cent of adults between the ages of 25 and 64 claiming some form of post-secondary education including apprenticeships, college diplomas and university.

But it is the women who are increasingly represented at the higher levels of scholastic attainment.

Among Canadians between 25 and 34 years of age, women held 60 per cent of the university degrees. Among the older cohort of 55 to 64, they held just 47 per cent – numbers that reflect a heavy shift in the expected job responsibilities of the sexes.

And younger women now hold 62 per cent of the medical degrees – more than double the percentage of women in the older generation.

Men, on the other hand, accounted for eight out of 10 people holding registered apprenticeship certificates – though fewer young Canadians were opting to take that path than those of their parents' generation.

Governments have been promoting the so-called STEM studies – science and technology, engineering and mathematics or computer sciences. And in 2011, adults with a post-secondary certificate in a STEM field represented 18.6 per cent of the population.

Younger women have made a significant shift into science and technology, accounting for 59 per cent of all people between the ages of 25 and 34 who have university degrees in those areas. But they remain heavily out-numbered by men in engineering and mathematics.

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About half of all people holding university degrees in the STEM fields were immigrants – a statistics that is likely attributed to the government's emphasis on bringing in skilled workers from other countries.

The survey also looked at the educational attainment of Canada's aboriginal population.

Although many aboriginal people are still not graduating from high school, the data suggests that more than 40 per cent of the indigenous population between the ages of 25 and 64 had some post-secondary qualification.

The survey, which was voluntary, is not likely to be as accurate as the mandatory census which preceded it. And those numbers are expected to be especially unreliable among populations like the First Nations on reserves.

But the data do suggest a shift in interest among younger generations of First Nations, Inuit and Metis people in obtaining the credentials that will help them get jobs.

Young aboriginal women especially were obtaining college or university degrees.

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And, among First Nations, those living off reserve were more likely to pursue a higher education than those living on a reserve.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More


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