Department of Family and Community Services

Key findings

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NSW women and girls have made substantial progress in educational attainment and achievement in the last few decades. The percentage of women with qualifications at Certificate III and above has increased by 20 percentage points since 2003, from 39 to 59 percent in 2012. This is a faster rate of growth than among men, and today, NSW women have fewer formal qualifications than men only in the 45 and older age groups.

In 2011, for the first time in the last 10 years, boys had higher Year 12 completion rates than girls. Girls’ Year 12 completion rates were 71 percent compared to 73 percent for boys. Boys made up considerable ground in the last year: in the period 2002-10, the gap in favour of girls was considerably larger, with around 72 percent of girls completing Year 12 compared to 62 percent of boys.

While the educational outcomes of girls and women are positive overall, the increased participation of girls in education is not uniform across the disciplines. Participation in trades training remains low by comparison with boys and men and is largely unchanged over 30 years. Women made up just 17 percent of technical and trade apprentice and trainee commencements in the 12 months to September 2012, and 28 percent were in hairdressing apprenticeships.

Just 31 percent of girls’ HSC course completions are in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects compared to 45 percent of course completions by boys. A similar gender difference is evident in women and men’s course enrolments at university; engineering and related technologies made up 12 percent of men’s undergraduate enrolments but just 1.4 percent of women’s.

Many women lose economically in the course of making transitions between study, work and family. In 2012, a graduate pay gap of $5,000 per year (an increase of $1,000 from the previous year), had emerged between young women and men by the time they obtained their first full-time job after university. Female vocational education and training graduates are less likely than men to work in a field for which they are qualified.