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Women ‘more likely to take up online learning during Covid-19’

Online training provider FutureLearn says women are taking a lead in science, engineering and maths courses
Online training provider FutureLearn is reporting a rise in women turning to online training. Image credit: Persnickety Prints/Unsplash

The Covid-19 pandemic has given women the opportunity to become more ambitious about their careers with online learning allowing them to target male-dominated industries, according to training provider FutureLearn.

A YouGov survey carried out on behalf of the firm found 40 per cent of British women say they are more likely to take an online course over the next five years to boost their career, compared to 35 per cent of men.

The pandemic has had an impact on attitudes to learning over a computer, tablet or phone – 27 per cent of women told the researchers they were more interested in taking an online course as a result of Covid-19 while 23 per cent of men said the same.

FutureLearn reported 55 per cent of people enrolling on science, engineering and maths courses last year were women. Female students also drove a 350 per cent increase in enrolments in tech and coding courses between 2019 and 2020, comprising the majority of applicants.

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“Online learning grew in popularity during the pandemic and is set to continue doing so as technology advances,” said Matt Jenner, director of learning at FutureLearn.

“We explore the latest technological innovations but they must be provided within universal access to learning; ensuring their utilisation is integrated with our understanding of the issues that impact our world today, as evident by the proportion of people wanting to learn about environmental issues, inclusivity and diversity.”

University of Exeter professor Anna Mountford-Zimdars explained that the flexibility of online education suits women and warned women must aim high to overcome the gender pay gap.

“The flexible style of online education suits us women. Despite more equality in terms of sharing caring, childcare and households chores, it is still more likely that women do many of these tasks. Women may thus particularly love the opportunity to develop themselves in flexible ways.

“Unfortunately, in the UK, we continue to have a most regrettable pay-gap in employment.  Women who have the same qualifications as men earn less.  This is often around 20 per cent.  So, a less happy interpretation of women’s zest for more education is that we simply have to achieve higher than men to make the same money.”

With 1.7 million now out of work in the UK and redundancies rising during the pandemic, The Big Issue’s Ride Out Recessions Alliance has teamed up with FutureLearn and jobs board Adzuna to provide free training and job searches to people looking for work.

Lord John Bird, founder of The Big Issue, said: “We set up RORA to aid and abet the Government and society to prevent mass homelessness caused by Covid-19 poverty. Talking about what is happening to the newly unemployed is no longer enough.

“Now, with the RORA Toolkit, we have an action plan to directly benefit those who are dealing with unemployment. Because we appreciate that things are tough right now, we want to help those facing unemployment with discounted and free training and thousands of job opportunities, all in one place.”

Head to RORA Jobs and Training to find out how you can access free online training and advice and look through thousands of job opportunities on The Big Issue Jobs site.