All OECD countries have increased the level of education of their whole population during the last four decades and this increase has been strongly driven by the increase in the proportion of women leaving education with a tertiary qualification. As a result, even where the proportion of men with tertiary qualifications is higher than that of women among 55‑64 year‑olds, this is no longer the case among 25‑34 year‑olds in 33 of the 36 countries.
Women are increasingly well qualified: more women than men graduate from universities in Europe.
The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has consistently found that in general at age 15 girls have higher expectations for their careers than boys, but less than 5% of them are contemplating a career in engineering or computing. This explains why women are still under‑represented in tertiary education in certain fields of study, such as mathematics and computer science.
However, despite their attainments, young women do not feel as free in their choice of jobs or do not get the same job opportunities as men and they usually prefer fields, such as education, health and welfare.
Some choose this career to improve the society they live in, others have strong desire to work with children, and others in order to have flexible working hours.
Many teachers enter the profession by chance while other had made the decision deliberated. The reasons for entering teacher education appear to include both push factors (e.g., changes in the work environment) and pull factors (e.g., career development).
Countries where female labour participation in general is low also have the smallest shares of female teachers.
Stereotypical views of teaching as a profession that, at times, resembles parenting, probably play a role, especially with younger generations of women who value motherhood more. Labour provisions that allow teachers to work part time and to flexibly combine work, family life and the care of one’s own children also seem to be more appealing to women.
Women in primary education earn over 90% of the salaries of other tertiary-educated female workers. While men and women doing the same teaching job in public schools earn nearly the same, the relative value of their earnings in the professional labour market is strikingly different. This is probably why more women are interested in teaching, especially at the lower levels of education.
The education sector could do much more to ensure that women are promoted into leadership positions, and to end the stereotyping that prevents women from breaking the glass ceiling in specific subject areas and in universities. It could also do more to attract young men into teaching by offering them better career prospects and labour conditions that can make teaching a more competitive career choice, even if teachers’ salaries still lag behind those of other professionals (Van Damme, 2017).
In a profession where women are the majority, the mere presence of men -mainly in primary education- is necessary, as both male and female teachers can contribute to a well-rounded education and to a child’s social and emotional development. Accordingly, a diverse workforce of teachers can help combat gender stereotypes.
The presence of male teachers in the early year of schooling may help promote gender equitable versions of masculinity. By working in roles that are typically viewed as being more appropriate for women, men can break down the polarised differences that foster gender inequalities.
Accordingly, people of different gender may see the same problem in different ways, leading to innovative solutions. Workforce diversity has also been linked to improved school performance and job satisfaction.