Equal chances? Girls in higher education and beyond

Buzás Boglárka | 2022-11-11
While the last century has seen an increasing number of people of both sexes starting out on equal chances in many areas of life, the disadvantages they face in education and career development are still a recurring issue. In this article, we look at statistics on higher education and labour market and try to draw conclusions about the situation of sexes.

We have mainly relied on data from the DPR (Graduate Career Tracking System), KSH (Hungarian Central Statistical Office) and Zyntern surveys and reports to examine the situation of sexes in education and labour market.

Money is the main factor

It is worth looking at the career prospects in different fields of training if only because money seems to be one of the main reasons to get a degree. In DPR’s 2018 survey, an overwhelming majority of respondents (75.52 per cent) cited better financial prospects as one of the reasons for applying to university.

War of sexes at campuses?

According to data for the academic year 2021/2022, 46 per cent of higher education students were male and 54 per cent were female. That means there are slightly more girls in the classes, but this proportion still could be seen as roughly even.

What is very striking, however, is the huge difference in the number of male and female students in each field of training. Girls are much more numerous in the field of education, arts, humanities, social sciences and health. Law, agriculture, economics and natural sciences are more evenly spread, while the proportion of boys is overwhelmingly high in engineering and IT.

After graduation

A glance at the KSH data on earnings shows that the average salary for women is lower than for men, and that the difference is 30 per cent for those in white-collar jobs (including graduate jobs). How is it possible that the slight predominance of girls in universities – where, in theory, we apply in the hope of better pay, among other things – does not manifest itself in equal pay?

The reasons could be varied. Students from the ‘girls’ fields of training listed above are more likely to find jobs in the public sector. They work even in positions that are not appropriate to their field of training, where they face lower salaries and even poorer career prospects than graduates working in the competitive sector. Jobs in business, IT and engineering continue to have the highest salaries, but far fewer women are pursuing careers in the latter two sectors.

Another problem may be that a survey of Zyntern shows that girls target lower salaries than boys, so that they start from a worse financial situation after a salary negotiation if they are hired.