Women make up the majority of academic students in Israel. Fifty nine percent of the students (158,372) in the previous academic year were women, according to data from the Council for Higher Education for the academic year 2019/20. This percentage has not changed significantly since 2000. One of the reasons for the majority of women among students is probably the desire for upward mobility among women living in a patriarchal society or in poverty.
The fields of study in which women constitute the largest majority are para-medical studies (14,320 female students, constituting 83% of all students in this field); Education (36,080, 80%); and social sciences (31,750, 69%). It is easy to see the reflection of these fields of study in the workforce, in the nursing and teaching professions. The only areas in which women are the minority are the physical sciences (38%); mathematics, statistics and computer science (33%); and engineering and architecture (32%). There is not a large difference in the proportion of women between universities and academic colleges, and they constitute 55% in universities, and 59% in academic colleges.
Among students who resided in localities in a low socio-economic cluster, there is an even larger majority for women. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics’ data, among localities in cluster 1 (the lowest), which includes mainly ultra-orthodox and Bedouin localities, women make up 74% of students, and the percentage gets smaller as the cluster is higher, until it reaches 55% in clusters 9 and 10, including localities such as Ramat Hasharon and Shoham. It can be assumed that this is due to the choice of men in the lower clusters to go to academic studies at lower rates, as well as the aspiration of women in these clusters for social and economic mobility, through the academic degree.
Women in the lower clusters choose mainly the academic field of the humanities (which includes education), which in the lowest cluster it is also the common choice of men. The higher the cluster, the higher the proportion of women who study the social sciences, while the study fields of men become more diverse, and also include higher rates of students in the natural sciences and engineering. In cluster 5, which includes localities such as Bat Yam, Ashkelon and Beer Sheva, the percentage of women in the social sciences is equal to the one in the humanities, and the most dominant field among men is engineering and architecture. In Cluster 9, a third (32%) of the women students study social science, a quarter (26%) are majoring in the humanities, and 13% in the natural sciences.