Claudia Troncoso is only 25 years old and has just received her degree as an Occupational Therapist from a private university. When she left school, she made an effort to do well in the University Selection Test (PSU) and become a professional in the field she had always liked: children’s rehabilitation.
The case of this young woman is one of many Chilean females who have obtained a university degree, and at an even younger age than the average for males. In fact, women graduates currently outnumber their male colleagues, thus reducing the gender gap in higher education.
According to the latest figures provided by the National Higher Education Information System (Sies), in 2008 women accounted for 52% of the enrollment in university careers. At graduation time, however, six out of every 10 degree-holders of the 18 programs that are exclusively at a university level, such as Medicine, Commercial and Civil Engineering and Architecture, are women. This was unthinkable 10 years ago, because women represented barely 50%.
This trend is also reflected in the average age of degree-holders. While men obtain their degrees at 27, women achieve theirs at 26.
“Women are usually more methodical and orderly than men. They get less distracted and attend classes more”, states Andrés Bernasconi, an academic expert on higher education of the Universidad Andrés Bello.
But this phenomenon goes beyond university. If in 2004 women represented 54% of the higher-education graduates –including universities, technical training centers and institutes–, in 2008 their share had increased to more than 57%. These figures were provided by the Chilean National Education Council (CNE).
Moreover, the figure for women who receive degrees from technical institutions is 62%, against 60% obtained at private universities.
For Claudia Troncoso, this increase simply represents the equal opportunities that the female gender is experiencing all over the world. In addition, “universities and technical training institutes offer careers more traditionally linked to women, such as education, social sciences and humanities, or secretarial training”, she states.
On the other hand, in the area of graduate studies, women have not advanced at the same pace as men. According to Sies, 59% of those who received masters and doctoral degrees in 2008 were men.