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Women in Canada: Education, qualifications, skills and technology

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Released: 2016-07-06

Young women account for a larger share of graduates with a degree in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) compared with their counterparts of previous generations.

For example, in 2011, women accounted for 39% of STEM degree holders aged 25 to 34, compared with 23% of STEM degree holders aged 55 to 64.

These findings are taken from "Women and Education: Qualifications, Skills and Technology," a new chapter of Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report, released today. This chapter examines women's educational experiences, highlighting STEM education and skills, which are integral to innovation and competitiveness in Canada.

The proportion of women aged 25 to 64 with a university certificate or degree grew at a faster pace than that of men, more than doubling from 15% in 1991 to 35% in 2015. In comparison, the proportion of men with a university certificate or degree increased from 19% to 30% over the same period.

Women comprised the majority of non-STEM (such as education and health) degree holders, but accounted for a smaller proportion of those with a STEM degree in 2011. Among adults aged 25 to 64 with a non-STEM degree, 6 in 10 (61%) were women, compared with 3 in 10 (33%) among those with a STEM degree.

Within STEM, women account for a larger share of young graduates in science and technology than engineering

The proportion of women among STEM degree holders aged 25 to 34 was particularly high for those with a degree in science and technology compared with other STEM disciplines. Women accounted for 59% of science and technology degree holders in this age group, compared with 23% of those with an engineering degree, and 30% of those with a mathematics and computer science degree.

The most common occupation group for young female STEM degree holders is natural and applied sciences

In 2011, the most common major occupational group that employed young women aged 25 to 34 with a STEM degree was natural and applied sciences. About 3 in 10 (29%) young women with a STEM degree worked in natural and applied sciences, compared with just over half (52%) of their male counterparts. More than one in five young female STEM graduates worked in education, law and social and government services, while 14% worked in business, finance and administration. Among young female STEM graduates, those with a degree in engineering were the most likely to be working in natural and applied sciences at 53%. In comparison, 62% of young men with engineering degrees worked in natural and applied sciences.

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

Employment income increases with education level. Overall, median annual employment income for female degree holders aged 25 to 64 working full time and full year was $62,508. Women with a degree in health and related fields were the highest earners among female graduates at $70,288, while women with an education degree earned $66,335.

The employment income of women with a degree in mathematics and computer science ($66,679) and architecture and engineering ($63,593) was above the median, while earnings for women with a degree in physical and life sciences ($59,714) were somewhat lower.

  Note to readers

In this release, a person with a university certificate or diploma includes those with a certificate below the bachelor level, as well as those with a bachelor's degree or higher, while a person with a university degree includes those with a bachelor's degree or higher.

The National Occupational Classification does not contain groups of occupations in the sciences, unlike the Classification of Instructional Programs, which has a group of fields of study referred to as "science, technology, engineering and mathematics" (STEM). This release identifies the occupations of persons with a STEM degree. While in reality the occupations of those who hold a STEM degree go beyond the occupational group of "natural and applied sciences," this occupational group is the one that most closely corresponds to the STEM field of study.

The findings on earnings from the 2011 National Household Survey examined the employment income of women and men aged 25 to 64 with a degree at the bachelor level and above. All median annual employment income reported in this release is among full-year, full-time paid employees with employment income in 2010.


The chapter, "Women and Education: Qualifications, Skills and Technology," which is part of the publication, Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report (Catalogue number89-503-X), is now available from the Browse by key resource module of our website, under Publications.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

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