Norway is one of the OECD, or Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, countries with the lowest proportion of women studying vocational subjects at upper-secondary level. This is according to the OECD’s Education at a Glance report for 2021.
Vocational careers are those which apply trained practical skills related to broad areas including business, engineering, IT or health and social care. Examples of such professions include plumbing, hairdressing and catering.
In total, women make up less than 40 percent of students on vocational courses—this is more than five percent below the OECD average.
Among Norway’s Nordic neighbours Finland has the highest proportion, 51 percent, of women studying vocational subjects followed by Denmark, 43 percent, and Sweden, 41 percent.
However, depending on the subject, the gender disparity could vary massively. For example, women made up just 8 percent of people studying electrical engineering. This is around half the OCED average.
The report indicated that the gender differences in vocational programs could be attributed to traditional perceptions of gender roles.
For example, women made up the overwhelming majority, 83 percent, studying social sciences and health-related subjects.
“The gender gap is equally striking for students in health and social sciences. In Norway, as many as 83 per cent of students were women in 2019,” Statistics Norway said about the report.
Another reason for the potential disparity is that vocational occupations traditionally associated with men, such as carpentry or plumbing, are taught at upper-secondary school, whereas jobs such as nursing are taught at higher education.
“In Norway, many-male dominated vocational educations are taught at upper-secondary level, while women-dominated educations such as in the health care system are primarily at university and college level,” Statistics Norway said of the OECD report.
When it came to more general studies, women made up the majority of those graduating from upper-secondary level, with 57% of all graduates being female.