Udemy courses reflect the world we live in.  The most popular courses reflect current lifestyle and career trends.  The most popular instructors reflect what we value nowadays in terms of entertainment and information dissemination.  We all live according to “ratings” and so do Udemy course instructors.

Over this past year, the media has been flooded with all kinds of headlines about the progress of women. This year a record number of women will be working in the US Congress. 2018 was dubbed the “Year of the Woman”.

We at Teachinguide got to thinking, “what does our data tell us, if anything, about how gender plays a role in Udemy courses?” 

Our Gender Analysis

So, we decided to have a little fun with our database and see what an analysis of Udemy course instructor gender showed, if anything.

We looked at the relative percentages of various course categories and topics taught by men vs. women.  We then looked at the differences in course length,  engagement and ratings between men and women instructors.  We were surprised by some of the insights we found.

In the article we present some of the data and insights generated by our “gender analysis”. We attempt to propose some theories or conclusions about what the data tells us regarding instructor gender differences for Udemy courses.

Note:  The data and analysis presented hereafter in no way reflects or represents Udemy’s policies, procedures, or opinions. In no way is Udemy, its employees or instructors using the platform liable for the contents herein. The contents of this article solely reflect the analysis and opinions of Teachinguide.

Percent of Udemy Courses Taught by Men vs. Women

As of December 2018, a whopping 77% of all Udemy courses were taught by male instructors – with just 23% of courses on Udemy taught by women.  The differences in some of the following course categories are staggering.

Udemy Course Category  % Male Instructors % Female Instructors
Academics 73.5% 26.5%
Business 80% 20%
Design 82% 18%
Development 86% 14%
Health and Fitness 61.5% 38.5%
IT & Software 88% 12%
Language 67% 33%
Lifestyle 56% 44%
Marketing 79% 21%
Music 83% 17%
Office Productivity 82% 18%
Personal Development 66% 34%
Photography 80% 20%
Teacher training 71% 29%
Test Prep 75% 25%

Male teachers taught over 80% of the Udemy courses within 51 subcategories out of the 134 sub-categories we looked at.  A further 74 sub-categories were dominated by male instructors by a factor of between 51% and 79%.

What’s going on here?  We don’t know!   But if we had to take a stab at it, here would be our top 5 major lines of reasoning:

1. Technology/Software/Development courses are the most popular and numerous courses on Udemy. With just 20% of jobs in tech held by women, it follows that there would be a prevalence of men teaching Udemy courses in this field.

In one extreme example of male dominance in Udemy tech courses, not a single course of the 61 courses on Oracle is taught by a woman. We wondered if this has anything to do with the fact that Oracle is not to be found on Forbes list of Best Places for Women to Work 2018.

2. Women might be less inclined to film themselves and put that video online. Let’s face it, like it or not, society judges women more harshly than men on their appearance.  Women may be less apt or willing to put themselves on camera for 2 hours and risk judgment on their physical appearance. As we’ve mentioned in our most recent article,  in today’s world if you want to be an online instructor, you need to go on camera.

3. Women are too busy being an online student! As this article and numerous other studies point out, women dominate the online learning space as the students/learners.  There are many reasons for this – most relate to women trying to juggle raising a family, work and career aspirations. So if women are busy learning online, there may not be much time for teaching online.

4. Just as in the real world, men tend to be the bread winners. They are maybe generally more motivated to go out and develop passive or even active income through avenues such as teaching on Udemy.

5. Women are too busy teaching in actual physical classrooms. “Real life” teaching is by far dominated by women. So, women may simply not have the time nor the inclination to create courses online.

All that said, the truth is, we really don’t know why there is such a disparity between male and female instructors on Udemy.

Udemy Course Categories Dominated by Female Instructors

With such a low female representation on Udemy, it begs the question, “In what course categories do female instructors dominate, if at all?”  Following are the only sub-categories in which we found that females dominate.

Category Percent of courses taught by women Total number of courses in category
Parenting and Relationships 56% 420
Beauty and Make Up 76% 108
Russian 63% 38
Yoga 68% 230
Fashion 56% 63
Pet Care and Training 52% 91

While it may come as no surprise that these Udemy course categories are female dominated, with the exception of Beauty and Make Up (hard to believe that 26 courses are taught by males!), even in the women-dominated categories their margin is small. Three of the six subcategories shows female instructors just a tad above 50%.

Do Men or Women Make Longer Courses?

As we’ve mentioned in our previous blog on rankings, we know that course length is a factor in Udemy course ranking.   So, we looked at this factor as well.   Once again, men prevail with longer courses in EVERY course category – even for those categories for which women dominate soemm subcategories.

On average, Udemy courses taught by men are 3.3 hours long vs. 2.6 hours for courses taught by women.  Let’s look at some of the more extreme differences in course length.

Course Category

Average course length

male instructor (hours)

Average course length

female instructor (hours)

Difference in hours (approx.)
Development 5.9 4.2 1 ½ hours
Business 3.1 2.2 1 hour
Design 4.1 2.4 1 hour 45 minutes
Office Productivity 4.5 3.1 1 ½ hours
IT and Software 4.3 3.5 50 minutes
Language 3.1 2.2 1 hour

The only reasoning that we can muster for this disparity is that subject areas such as Development and Business which are dominated by male instructors are quite complex and presumably cover more information.  A course on Java will likely be more intense content-wise than a course on Beauty or Pet Training.

There may also be more intense competition in these male-dominated course categories, and hence a need to provide more “value” content-wise.

It could also have something to do with women being busy balancing work, family, career, education, etc. as we mentioned previously. They may simply have less time in general to devote to course creation.

Do Male and Female Course Ratings Reflect the “Offline” Reality?

Numerous studies have shown that female teachers receive largely more critical reviews and ratings than their (rare) male counterparts.  The theory is that in person, students cannot separate the whole person from criticism of the course content and methods, and that generally in society we are more critical of females than males.

A recent 2018 study  stated,  “Students tend to comment on a woman’s appearance and personality far more often than a man’s.  Women are referred to as ‘teacher’ [as opposed to professor] more often than men, which indicates that students generally may have less professional respect for their female professors.” Ouch. Does this hold true online as well?

Good news! Teachinguide data indicates that for online courses, it’s a different story.  For the approximately 280 subcategories that we looked at for purposes of comparing rankings, female Udemy instructor courses were rated equal to or higher than their male counterparts for about 180 (64%) of those courses.  And on average across all Udemy course categories, male and female ratings are similar – 3.7 for men and 3.6 for women.

Some extreme examples of female instructors ranking well above their male counterparts include:

Subcategory

Female instructor

 average rating

Male instructor

average rating

Portuguese 4.5 3.9
Photography Other 4.5 4.0
Gaming 4.7 4.2
Public Relations 4.5 4.1
Interior Design 4.2 3.8
Safety and First Aid 4.3 4.0

Why is this?  We have three theories (and once again, they really are just theories):

1. Most of the subcategories where women significantly rated higher than men were the “soft” skills categories reflecting fields in which we typically see women working in the “real” world. Marketing (i.e branding or social media), Design, Lifestyle, Photography (i.e. Portraits), Languages, Teacher Training and Test Prep are a few. They may simply produce better content in these areas.

2. As mentioned previously women on average create shorter courses, which may promote more students finishing the course, thereby increasing the number of reviews. Even if a student doesn’t finish a course, they may have gotten through a higher percentage of the (shorter) course before leaving a review – which would also positively influence ratings.

3. Women are better at engagement. Engagement drives ratings.  Which brings us to our next analysis..

Are Men or Women Better at Online Course Engagement?

We found that on average, female instructors engage students better than male instructors. The average engagement score across all categories is 8.3 for women and 7.6 for men.

If we take some of the subcategories from our ratings examples above, here are the engagement scores:

Subcategory

Female instructor

 average engagement

Male instructor

average engagement

Portuguese 8.2 6.7
Photography Other 13.1 9.8
Gaming 11.9 9.9
Public Relations 12.7 3.7
Interior Design 14.7 7.1
Safety and First Aid 28.7 10.9

Let’s face it, women are notoriously better communicators than men.  Women also dominate the Marketing/PR categories, so they know a thing or two about marketing a course through engagement tactics.

That said, because of the large number of male instructors on Udemy, there are many cases where men instructors outdo their female counterparts in engagement – but yet still receive lower average ratings.

Subcategory

Female instructor

 average engagement

Male instructor average engagement

Female

Average rating

Male average rating
Music techniques 3.2 8 4.7 4.3
Portraits 5.5 7.7 4.5 4.1
Music Fundamentals 4.9 7.9 4.6 4.4
Software Engineering 8.5 10 4.1 4.0

We would attribute this to the fact that males tend to create longer courses than women, which helps engagement, but doesn’t necessarily improve ratings.

Bottom Line – Who Wins the Udemy Instructor Battle of the Sexes?

Well, to help answer this question, we summarize our main findings below.

Factor Compared Male instructors Female instructors Who wins
Percent of Udemy courses taught 77% 23% Male instructors
Average Course duration 3.3 hours 2.6 hours Male instructors
Average rating 3.7 3.6 Male instructors
Average engagement score 8.3 7.6 Female instructors

On the surface, it appears that for now, male instructors “win” on Udemy.  Although we’ve proposed some theories for why this is – many of which reflect the reality of today’s world – one can’t help but wonder why such a disparity exists between male and female instructors on Udemy.

If you have any thoughts or ideas, please send them along, we’d love to hear from you!

4 COMMENTS

  1. This article is very interesting from a number of perspectives. I am male and teach emotional intelligence based courses on Udemy.

    One of my courses is one of the very few courses on Udemy on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (Inclusive Leadership). This course covers unconscious bias, which will be driving a lot of behaviour behind these results.

    • Hi Robin, I would assume that our (obviously existing) unconscious biases definitely drive how we engage and rate course. On the other hand, creating courses in specific areas is what people are free to choose and often relates to what they do best. We should not forget however that many other market and business aspects are driving those stats. Thank you for your comment and definitely need to look into your course on inclusive leadership as many people should!

  2. I also think it is about unconscious choices that we women make sometimes. As a working women also busy raising a family and trying to find time for myself, I think women may very well be less inclined to spend 3 months working full time to make a course to make some extra money, whereas men may see it more as “a job”. That said, the stats are pretty surprising!

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