Education impacts on employment and income opportunities, and provides the skills and knowledge necessary to improve health needs and access to appropriate service providers. In highlighting education as a determinant of health, the World Health Organization, identifies gender inequality as limiting women’s access to basic education and educational resources.
Some information about women and education in Australia includes:
- In 2007, 53% of all persons aged 15-64 attending any course of study in a school, TAFE or higher education institute were female.
- Girls comprise just under half (49%) of the population enrolled fulltime in all government and non-government schools in Australia. In 2003, this equated to almost 60,000 fewer girls than boys.
- Overall, more girls (57%) than boys enrolled part-time in schools.
- Girls generally outperform boys in reading and writing, yet there is little difference in the proportion of girls and boys achieving numeracy benchmarks.
- Girls are also more likely than boys to complete year 12 and go on to university.
- In senior high school, girls are more likely to enrol in humanities, languages other than English, home studies and arts, while boys are more likely to enrol in technical studies, physical education, science and computer studies.
- Changes in educational attainment can be seen with age; women aged 45-64 years hold a lower proportion of non-school qualifications than their male counterparts. This can be attributed to women of this generation having less educational and vocational opportunities along with an expectation that child-rearing and non-paid work would be their predominant role.
Women with disabilities
- Of 45,863 responses received from a potential 478,050 students who completed vocational education training (VET) in 2006, nearly half were women (48.7%). No gender breakdowns are available to determine the number of women with disabilities. However, overall, nearly 9% (3944) of graduates were people with disabilities. Another 11.1% (5,091) of students who completed modules were people with disabilities.
Women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds
- The 2007 Australian vocation education and training (VET) report states that of 45,863 responses, just over 17% of those who had graduated and 16.5% of those who had completed modules were from people who spoke a language other than English at home.
- Graduates from CALD backgrounds experience longer delays in finding fulltime employment post study than all graduates overall (79% compared with 84.5%).
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are disadvantaged across a multitude of factors, including education.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women compare poorly with non-Aboriginal women across all levels of qualification attainment. In 2001, only 18% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women completed year 12 or the equivalent in comparison to 38% of all women.
- In 2003, there were over 2,000 fewer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls than boys enrolled in Australian schools (62,014 and 64,381 respectively).
- The 2007 Australian vocation education and training (VET) report states that of 45,863 responses, only 2.7% of those who had graduated and 3% of those who had completed modules were from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Same-sex attracted women
- Education for same-sex attracted (SSA) people is greatly affected by homophobia and discrimination.
- School bullying and homophobia are major obstacles for young SSA people, with many having a disrupted school career because of homophobic abuse and some dropping out of school because of this.
- Abuse in schools directed at SSA people has not decreased over the years.
- 40% of young SSA females in one study reported being abused at school. Abuse reported by males and females ranged from having clothes and possessions damaged, to rape and hospitalisation for injuries.
 DEST (2007) Australian vocational education and training statistics: Student Outcomes 2007 – Summary. Viewed 12 May 2008, http://www.ncver.edu.au/publications/1937.html
 Graduate Careers Australia (2007) (GCA) annual Australian Graduate Survey (AGS). Viewed 12 May 2008, http://www.graduatecareers.com.au/research/researchreports/
 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2007) Labour Force Characteristics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, Experimental Estimates from the Labour Force Survey, 2006. Australian Bureau of Statistics . Cat. No. 6287.0. Viewed 8 April 2008, http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/allprimarymainfeatures/203A6267794D53EECA2570AB0082C2F0?opendocument
 Dyson, S., Mitchell, A., Smith, A., Dowsett, G., Pitts, M. & L. Hillier (2003) Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS). Viewed 12 May 2008, http://www.latrobe.edu.au/ssay/assets/downloads/dontaskdonttell.pdf
 Hillier, L., Turner, A. & A. Mitchell (2005) Writing Themselves In Again: 6 years on. Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS). Viewed 12 May 2008, http://www.latrobe.edu.au/ssay/assets/downloads/writing_themselves_in_again.pdf
 Pitts, M. Smith, A., Mitchell, A. & S. Patel (2007) Private Lives: A Report on the Health and Wellbeing of GLBTI Australians. Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS). Viewed 12 May 2008, http://www.glhv.org.au/node/412