Complex Made Simple

A new Coursera report shows UAE’s online learning gender gap tightening

Abu Dhabi School of Government, a key Coursera customer in the region, is among the organizations leading the way in this trend

Women in the UAE are learning online at higher rates compared to pre-pandemic 45% of government learners in the UAE are women For STEM courses, the gender gap narrowed from 32% of enrollments from women in 2019 to 37% in 2021

Coursera, one of the largest online learning platforms in the world, recently released a new study that examines the pandemic’s impact on skills and learning trends among women. The Women and Skills Report compares pre-pandemic enrollment and performance data with trends observed on the Coursera platform since the onset of the pandemic through June 2021. The new study found that women in the UAE are learning online at higher rates compared to pre-pandemic, with the share of STEM course enrollments from women increasing from 32% in 2019 to 37% in 2021. 

One of the key objectives of the Dubai Plan 2021 is to create an ‘inclusive and cohesive society’. The country as a whole has closed 71.6% of its gender gaps to date according to the 2021 WEF Global Gender Gap report, advancing 48 ranks in the gender gap index in just one year, from #120 rank to #72 globally. The UAE is also identified as the most-improved country in the world for women in parliament.

This aligns with Coursera’s findings in the report. The overall share of Coursera for Government learners in the country is nearing parity with 45% of government learners in the UAE being women. The Abu Dhabi School of Government (ADSG), which partners with Coursera to upskill its entire government workforce, for example, is championing online learning among women. In 2020, women accounted for 43% of overall course enrollments in ADSG’s learning initiative, up from 39% in 2019.

Anthony Tattersall, Coursera VP of EMEA said: “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.”

Key UAE insights from the Women and Skills Report include: 

  • Women are turning to online education at higher rates than pre-pandemic. The UAE has 220,000 registered women learners on Coursera. In 2020, a peak of 47% new registered UAE learners were women. While this share is at 44% in 2021, it still represents an increase from 42% in 2019. Forty-five percent of female learners in the country also use mobile to learn.
  • More women in the UAE are enrolling in STEM courses and entry-level Professional Certificates. The share of overall course enrollments from women increased from 38% in 2019 to 42% in 2021. For STEM courses, the gender gap narrowed from a share of 32% of enrollments from women in 2019 to 37% in 2021. Women’s enrollments in entry-level Professional Certificates have also gone up in the country from 26% in 2019 to 32% 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 UAE women show a strong inclination towards business leadership. Top skills UAE women have developed over the past year include communication (110,000 enrollments from UAE women), leadership and management (100,000), and entrepreneurship (80,000). Women are also investing in STEM skills, like probability and statistics (70,000), data analysis (60,000), and machine learning (50,000). The most popular courses among women in the UAE teach job-relevant and personal development skills, including The Science of Wellbeing from Yale University and English for Career Development from the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Businesses, governments, and campuses can play a key role in reducing gender gaps in learning. In 2021, programs, where Coursera is used by various governments and campuses in the UAE, saw the share of women registered learners was nearing parity, standing at 45% and 48% respectively. Better gender share is likely to contribute to more diverse talent pipelines for employers. Among businesses, women now constitute 36% of UAE learners.

Key global insights from the Women and Skills Report include:

  • Women learners enroll more than men in courses taught by women instructors. Instructor representation is one of the most important factors contributing to increases in women’s enrollments. Forty-nine percent of enrollments from women learners are in courses with women instructors, compared to 38% for men learners. The most popular women instructors on Coursera include Laurie Santos (The Science of Wellbeing, Yale University), Seung Hae Kang (First Step Korean, Yonsei University), and Dr. Rosa I. Arriaga (Introduction to User Experience, Georgia Institute of Technology).
  • Product innovations help grow women’s participation in online learning. Factors contributing to enrollment increases from women include adding practice quizzes before challenging assessments (+12% increase in the share of lifetime enrollments from women), listing most common mistakes for peer-reviewed assignments (+16%), and distributing assessments throughout a course (+8%).

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.

For the full report, click here.