The Covid-19 pandemic not just took away millions of lives, it took away livelihoods too. In India, more women (23%) lost jobs than their male (17%) counterparts. The good news, however, is that Indian women have emerged more resilient than ever before. Instead of blaming it on destiny, women in the past year-and-a-half took to online education in large numbers to reskill themselves. A recent report on women and skills released by online learning platform Coursera Inc says that there has been a steep rise in women enrolling in online courses in the pandemic era.

In 2021, 44% of new online learners in India are women, compared to 37% in 2019. Overall, 38% of the total learners in India are women, up from 24% in 2016. In fact, India is the second-largest in terms of women learners on Coursera, with 4.8 million registered users. The United States leads the pack with 8.6 million users.

While Indian women are certainly the front-runners, women are turning to online courses at higher rates the world over. The Coursera report says that in 2020, women accounted for 54% of the newly registered learners on Coursera globally. Though 2021 has seen a 4% (50%) dip in the enrolments, it is still a 5% (45%) increase than what was in 2019. “It is a story of women taking over the world,” says Betty Vandenbosch, chief content officer, Coursera.

While their counterparts in matured economies, such as the U.S., enrolled in courses such as Covid-19 contact tracing and science of well-being, Indian women learners increasingly enrolled in tech-based courses such as computer programming (2 million), machine learning (1.9 million) and probability and statistics (1.8 million). “In India, more women opted for technology courses than anywhere else in the world. They recognised that they needed skilled jobs that were automation proof. What this says to me is that women recognize that they need to learn a craft to get a job,” tells Vandenbosch.

She also says that India has more business learners than the U.S. Around 35% of the business learners in India are women, while 41% of the Government learners are also women. “This points to a great future for Indian women, it also gives organisations an opportunity to hire more women as they would have the required skills.” The share of entry-level professional enrolments of women has gone up from 29% in 2019 to 35% in 2021.

Women are also learning more on mobile devices than men. In fact, 62% of Indian women are learning on their mobile devices. “The Coursera programmes are available in 10-minute chunks. Women invariably try to learn in between their household chores,” says Vandenbosch.

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