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More Singaporean Women Upskilling for New Economy

by K. Vatsala Devi
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The gender skills gap in Singapore narrowed during the pandemic, according to a new global study that examines the pandemic’s impact on skills and learning trends among women. Coursera, Inc., one of the largest online learning platforms in the world, has shared results from its Women and Skills Report 2021 for Singapore today.

The Study on Singaporean Women

The study compares pre-pandemic enrollment and performance data with trends observed on the Coursera platform since the onset of the pandemic through June 2021. It reveals that women in Singapore are learning online at higher rates compared to pre-pandemic, representing 48 per cent of new learners in 2021, up from 44 per cent in 2019. More women are also participating in certificate training programs aimed at entry-level digital jobs.

“Our research suggests that gender gaps in online learning narrowed during the pandemic, even as gender employment gaps widened,” said Jeff Maggioncalda, Coursera CEO. “We are encouraged by how women are embracing online learning to develop new skills that can help accelerate their return to work and promote economic mobility.”

Singapore insights from the Women and Skills Report include:

•            Women are turning to online education at higher rates than pre-pandemic. In 2020, a peak of 51 per cent of new registered Singaporean learners were women. While this share is at 48 per cent in 2021, it still represents a significant increase from 42 per cent in 2018.

•            More women are enrolling in STEM courses and entry-level Professional Certificates. In Singapore, the share of overall course enrollments by women increased from 36 per cent in 2019 to 42 per cent in 2021. For STEM courses, the gender gap narrowed from 30 per cent enrollments by women in 2019 to 35 per cent in 2021. Women’s enrollments in entry-level Professional Certificates have gone up from 30 per cent in 2019 to 39 per cent in 2021. This is higher than the global share of 25 per cent in 2019 to 37 per cent in 2021. These certificates, from industry leaders such as Google, IBM and Facebook, are designed to prepare learners without a college degree or technology experience for a wide range of high-demand digital jobs.

•            Top skills among Singaporean women show a balanced investment in human and digital skills. Top 10 skills from the past year include leadership skills, like communication (110,000 enrollments among women in Singapore), leadership and management (90,000), entrepreneurship (90,000) and business analysis (80,000).  Women are also investing in STEM skills, like probability and statistics (110,000), machine learning (90,000), computer programming (90,000) and data analysis (80,000). Top courses teach job-relevant and personal development skills, including The Science of Wellbeing (Yale University), Programming for Everybody – Getting Started with Python (University of Michigan), AI For Everyone (DeepLearning.AI), Financial Markets (Yale University) and Excel Skills for Business (Macquarie University).

•            Product innovations help grow women’s participation in online learning. Mobile is an incredibly powerful tool ensuring flexibility in learning. 41 per cent of women learners in Singapore access Coursera on mobile devices, as compared to 38 per cent men. Other factors contributing to enrollment increases from women include adding practice quizzes before challenging assessments, listing most common mistakes for peer-reviewed assignments and distributing assessments throughout a course.

“I earned my computer science degree with only a handful of women alongside me, and while a great deal has changed since then, we still have important work to do to increase women’s representation in technology and leadership,” said Betty Vandenbosch, Chief Content Officer, Coursera. “Access to flexible, job-relevant education can help women learn the new skills they need to enter high-demand roles and achieve better gender balance in the workforce.”

With over 87 million learners and 5,000 courses on the platform, Coursera has one of the largest data sets for identifying and measuring skill trends. The Women and Skills Report includes data from 40 million new learners who registered during the pandemic between January 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021.

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