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New research by leading online learning platform reveals what women think about education and career development as well as what changes still need to be made.

  • It’s never too late 39% of women believe you can have a successful career at any age
  • Learning without age limits32% of women believe people are never too old to learn a new skill 
  • But, the top three issues women felt had a negative impact on a person’s education were, having a disability (35%), appearance (34%), and socioeconomic background (33%).
  • Businesses need equality – 41% of women believe that equality and diversity training should be essential for all CEOs and business leaders 

Online learning platform has released new data that highlights what women think about the future of education and the workplace. Through understanding that there is no age limit to new skills or successful careers, that training for all is essential, women have made their voice clear on how educators, universities and employers can reshape the new future of learning to be inclusive for all. 

According to the research, women are the leading group (39%) in understanding there is no age limit for when anyone could complete a career change and still be successful. Further to this, three in 10 (33%) women agree there is no age barrier when investing time into getting a new qualification. 

This can be seen in the 1 in 5 (17%) women who have already changed careers since the start of the pandemic with 72% having used an online course to help them do so, upskilling has already had a direct impact on women and how they build their careers.  

Themes of self-development as a means of elevating your career can be seen, yet again, in the 39% of women who would consider starting their own business or side hustle alongside their full-time job. For these entrepreneurial women, online short courses (21%) and self-guided learning on platforms such as Youtube or TikTok (17%) came out top.  These platforms are the top two methods individuals would use in order to learn skills needed to be successful in pursuing new careers. 

Interestingly, according to a UK House of Commons briefing paper on Women and the Economy, men are more likely than women to be involved in “total early stage entrepreneurial activity,” which includes owning or running a business less than three and a half years old *. However,  when asked what industry they would like to move into if they were to change their job as a result of the pandemic, women respondents opted for self-employment as the second-highest choice. 

Professor Kiran Trehan, Director of the Centre for Women’s Enterprise, Leadership, Economy & Diversity, University of York, said: We often think of disruption as a negative but innovation is making a change. Disrupting existing systems to inform and engage as a potential innovation allows people to take a closer look at all of the protected characteristics which play into these disruptions. I wonder if we went back to this notion of inclusivity, how do we create inclusive virtual learning environments.  We might then also be able to tackle an ongoing issue that moves us from governance and compliance to one that’s embedded in action”

When it comes to the current education system, women show an understanding of what factors can affect an individual: The top three issues they felt had a negative impact on a person’s education were, disability (35%), appearance (34%), and socioeconomic background (33%). 

With appearance sitting as the second-highest reason to impact a person’s education, it is perhaps unsurprising to see a third (33%) of British women would have liked to have been taught by a Black, East Asian, South Asian or ethnic minority woman growing up compared to the 15% who were.   

The research suggests that women understand the importance of working and learning in an environment that takes equality and diversity seriously.. More women (41%) than men (32%) believe that equality and diversity training should be required for all people in positions of leadership – teachers, CEOs, managers, business leaders etc. 

Yvonne Chien, Chief Growth Officer at FutureLearn, said: “FutureLearn’s mission is and has always been to transform access to education. We strongly believe that ambition should not be hampered by gender, circumstance, appearance or other such factors. Online learning empowers people from all walks of life to pursue their goals.  Many of the barriers to education that women have cited can be lowered by the safe space that social learning platforms like FutureLearn have created to support a global and diverse learner base. We hope that educators and businesses will lean in to ensure important topics like equity, diversity and inclusion training are prioritised, and that it will foster more equitable spaces for learning and working.”

Notes to Editor

​​The research was conducted by Censuswide to a representative sample of n=2000 adults aged 18 +

* Data taken from 2021 Government briefing paper

About FutureLearn

FutureLearn is a global learning platform with a mission to transform access to education by offering top online courses from the world’s leading universities and brands. From microcredentials and degrees to ExpertTracks and short courses, FutureLearn offers accredited and unaccredited world-class education that is 100% online, on-demand, and social. Founded in 2012 by The Open University, FutureLearn has built a global network of over 18 million learners, hosted over 5,000 online courses, and partnered with more than 250 top universities, leading global brands, and government departments – such as the University of Cambridge, the University of Glasgow, Deakin University, Samsung and Health Education England. The wide-ranging courses available allow learners to expand their interests, unlock highly skilled new career paths, and help change the world.

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