A new report examines declining college interest and gender disparities in high school student preparedness, confidence, and opportunities.

New report reveals persistent gender disparities in college, career readiness

New report sheds light on declining college interest and gender inequalities in high school student preparedness, confidence, exposure, and opportunities

Key points:

Female high school graduates are increasingly pursuing alternative pathways to traditional 4-year colleges or universities, with only 44 percent of female graduates from the class of 2023 opting to pursue a four-year college or university, compared to the 53 percent of female grads from the class of 2022

The 2023 Post-Graduation Readiness Gender Report spotlights gender disparities in college and career readiness and is the second part of a national survey from YouScience, a technology provider dedicated to solving the skills gap crisis for students and employers.

The national online survey polled more than 500 male and female high school graduates from the 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023 classes. Its findings highlight a decline in college interest, as well as differences in confidence, preparedness, exposure, and opportunities between male and female high school students. For instance, male high school graduates exhibited a higher degree of preparedness (60 percent) when it came to making a career choice or declaring a major upon graduation. This is vastly different in comparison to their female counterparts, with 36 percent of females not feeling adequately prepared for this decision.

Previous research, the 2023 Female Student and STEM Career Exposure Gap Report, revealed that female middle and high school students demonstrated a significant aptitude for STEM careers but displayed limited interest. In these latest findings, it becomes evident that female students (69 percent) have less exposure to a diverse array of career options compared to their male counterparts (79 percent). This disparity in exposure reinforces societal biases and prevents highly compatible and skilled individuals from entering certain fields.

“The educational landscape is evolving rapidly due to a variety of factors, influencing the paths that students, particularly females, are choosing,” said Jeri Larsen, Chief Operating Officer at YouScience. “The findings from this new report underscore an alarming trend: there is a significant disparity in career exposure between male and female students. This gap is not only concerning but also problematic, as it limits opportunities and perpetuates disparities in the workforce. There is a pressing need to empower females by helping them recognize their innate abilities and aptitudes and connecting them with careers or educational opportunities that align with their strengths. By doing so, we can break down the barriers that prevent females from exploring diverse career options and taking paths that best suit their potential.”

Additional key findings from the 2023 Post-Graduation Readiness Gender Report include:

  • College enrollment declines: The data reveals a significant shift in college enrollment trends among female high school graduates of the class of 2023 with many female students exploring alternative paths, including:
    • 27% in two-year community colleges
    • 9% have no plan
    • 9% working as part of a career plan
    • 8% working without a specific career plan
    • 6% in technical or trade schools
  • Confidence is key: Boosting students’ confidence and engagement starts with awareness and exposure. The data suggests that male high school graduates are generally better prepared to make postsecondary decisions compared to their female counterparts:
    • 72% of female high school graduates reported lacking confidence in pursuing their chosen career pathways upon graduation.
    • 34% of female high school graduates reported that their schools did not provide support in discovering their aptitudes and aligning them with future career choices.
    • 78% of male high school graduates were informed by their high schools about employers seeking candidates with specific aptitudes, compared to 68% of females.
    • 71% of male high school graduates felt satisfied with their progress compared to 63% of females.
    • 83% of male high school graduates felt better prepared to choose an educational or career pathway based on their identified aptitudes, compared to 75% of females.

An executive summary of the 2023 Post-Graduation Readiness Gender Report with additional findings and the 2023 Post-Graduation Readiness Report Part I, which revealed broader trends, can be found at youscience.com.

This press release originally appeared online.

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Laura Ascione

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