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Why UAE women are using the pandemic as an opportunity to upskill online

Why UAE women are using the pandemic as an opportunity to upskill online

Women are turning to online education at higher rates than pre-pandemic, according to Coursera’s latest ‘Women and Skills’ report. The online learning platform reported that in 2020, a peak of 47 percent new registered UAE learners were women. In 2021, this share is at 44 percent, still representing an increase from 42 percent in 2019.

Women are turning to online education at higher rates than pre-pandemic, according to Coursera’s latest ‘Women and Skills’ report.

The online learning platform reported that in 2020, a peak of 47 percent new registered UAE learners were women. In 2021, this share is at 44 percent, still representing an increase from 42 percent in 2019.

With data from over 40 million learners, the report compares pre-pandemic enrolment and performance data with trends observed on the Coursera platform since the onset of the pandemic through June 2021.

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Overcoming disproportionate impacts

While governments and institutions were quick to address the macroeconomic implications of the pandemic, on a micro level, the crisis has brought about profound changes in the professional and personal spheres, often disproportionately impacting women.

“In 2021, there will be 13 million fewer women employed compared to 2019, while men’s employment will have recovered to 2019 levels, so it’s definitely becoming much harder for women,” said Betty Vandenbosch, chief content officer at Coursera.

This data is driven by the fact that women are overrepresented in the hardest-hit sectors, such as accommodation and food services, and the manufacturing sector.

“Many jobs are going away, not just because it’s a pandemic, but also because of automation. So, women are realising that they need to be automation-proof and have an extensive digital skillset. Women are flocking to all kinds of education, but on Coursera, it’s been specifically for STEM and similar fields,” added Vandenbosch.

The share of overall STEM course enrolments by women in the UAE increased from 38 percent in 2019 to 42 percent in 2021. For STEM courses, the gender gap narrowed from a share of 32 percent of enrolments from women in 2019 to 37 percent in 2021.

“It’s promising to see how the gender gap in online learning has narrowed since the pandemic”, said Anthony Tattersall (pictured above), Coursera VP of EMEA.

“We are particularly encouraged by how women in the UAE are embracing online learning in the field of STEM. This can help accelerate their return to work, bolster economic growth, and foster gender pay parity.”

“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,” added Vandenbosch.

Commenting on how women are using mobile phones as an adaptive tool, Vandenbosch said: “Our research has shown that 45 percent of female learners in the country are using mobile phones to learn. I think that’s because mobile phones are accessible and are helping them juggle their education, their duties as caregivers, and their daily life.”

UAE government empowering women

Over the past few years, the UAE’s stance on women’s education and empowerment has been clear, positioning the country at the forefront of the gender equality conversation in the region.

The share of overall STEM course enrolments by women in the UAE increased from 38 percent in 2019 to 42 percent in 2021.

According to the 2021 WEF Global Gender Gap report, the country as a whole has closed 71.6 percent of its gender gaps to date, advancing 48 ranks in the gender gap index in just one year, from 120 to 72 globally. The UAE is also identified as the most improved country in the world for women in parliament.

With that, the Coursera report also highlights the UAE’s investments in educating its women, reporting that 45 percent of government learners in the UAE were female.

The Abu Dhabi School of Government (ADSG), which partners with Coursera to upskill its entire government workforce, is championing online learning among women. In 2020, women accounted for 43 percent of overall course enrolments in ADSG’s learning initiative, up from 39 percent in 2019.

Top skills

Women globally are adopting a wide range of high-demand skills, with females in the UAE showing the strongest inclination for business leadership skills, according to Coursera’s research.

Betty Vandenbosch, chief content officer at Coursera.

“When you look at the type of courses that women are taking, it’s definitely evolved. They’re taking communication courses, which is a course that women often take, but then they’re also delving into leadership, entrepreneurship, and probability courses – these are all really hard-edged programs,” said Vandenbosch.

Over the past year, enrolments in communication courses ranked the highest, receiving 110,000 enrolments from UAE women, followed by leadership and management (100,000), and entrepreneurship (80,000).

Women are also investing in STEM skills, such as probability and statistics (70,000), data analysis (60,000), and machine learning (50,000).

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