Gender Imbalance of Education to Be Addressed

September 13, 2017
By Liu TianhongEditor: Hewater Liu

Editorial Note: Ensuring that all teachers have an equal access to work and promotion is an important factor for securing the steady development of education, since teachers are actual undertakers and organizers of normal school instruction. However, the teaching occupation has been plagued with gender imbalances for decades and the phenomenon is likely to persist in the coming years.

Ahead of the arrival of Chinese Teachers' Day, which falls on September 10, the New Women's Studies Weekly affiliated to China Women’s News has published an analysis of a report on gender imbalances in the teaching profession from Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries from 2005 to 2014.

The report was released by the OECD in March 2017.

Harsh reality of gender imbalance in the occupation

With the exception of Japan, the phenomenon of gender imbalance in the teaching profession has become ubiquitous in member countries of the OECD. More than two thirds of teachers from preschool education to university-level in these countries are women. The situation in Russia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia is even worse.

Statistics have indicated that the occupation has become more and more women-dominated, evident with a seven percent rise of women teachers' number from 2005 (61 percent) to 2014 (68 percent), in member states of the OECD. It is likely to be aggravated by the fact that women have accounted for a higher percentage of teachers aged below 30 and that a majority of college students trained to be teachers are women.

Various forms of gender imbalances in different stages of education

Although a majority of teachers are women, they are underrepresented in the composition of leadership. For instance, women have constituted 68 percent of the teaching faculty in junior middle schools in the OECD member states, while only 45 percent of leaders in these schools are women. A conclusion can thus be reached that it is more difficult for female teachers to be promoted into leadership in comparison with their male counterparts.

Gender imbalance has taken varying forms in different disciplines and stages of education. As to the composition of teachers in middle schools, the proportion of women in the fields of science, maths and technology-related majors is comparatively low.

With the increase of grades in educational institutes, the percentage of women in teaching faculties has shown an opposite direction of growth. Women have occupied about 97 percent and 82 percent of the teaching positions in preschool and elementary education respectively, while the percentage decreases sharply to 63 percent and 43 percent in senior middle schools and universities.

Feasible explanation for gender imbalance in education

The rise of women’s participation in the labor market has partially contributed to the feminization of the teaching profession in the OECD member states during the same period. Japan, Germany and Greece are the top three countries; the proportion of female teachers in these countries has experienced noticeable growth in parallel with the increase of women’s employment rate.

Meanwhile, stereotypical views and misleading conceptions about gender differences in the labor market has jointly consolidated gender segregation in education. For instance, the conventional belief that men are superior to women in the engagement of scientific research has further discouraged women’s enthusiasm towards the discipline of science and pursuing studies in relevant courses.

What’s more, personal income matters are intertwined in this issue as well. In comparison with their peers having a similar educational background and working in other sectors, teaching will bring equal or higher salaries for women, especially when they work for middle schools. As for male teachers, however, they cannot feel the comparative advantage in personal wages like their female counterparts.

Several countries have already responded to the persistent gender imbalances in education. For instance, the United Kingdom has come up with concrete measures to attract more men to teaching positions and to reverse the profession’s feminization.

(Source: China Women’s News/Translated and edited by Women of China)

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