Anthropology in Canada: Number of Students, Female Percentage

According to the latest issue of the CAUT Almanac (2010-2011, see p. 31), published by the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the following are the available nationwide statistics on the number of anthropology students  (full time equivalents) in Canada, and the percentage that is female:

  • Bachelor’s and Other Undergraduate Degree: 4,005.4 students, 73.9% of which are female.
  • Master’s Enrolment: 597.4 students, 67.9% of which are female.
  • PhD Enrolment: 422.6 students, 64.3% of which are female.

Those 4,005.4 students are categorized among students in the Social and Behavioral Sciences and Law, of which there are 134,706.1, out of a total number of Canadian undergraduates which is 676,122.9. Thus, 0.59% of all Canadian undergraduate students are in anthropology, and 2.97% of those in the Social and Behavioral Sciences and Law are in anthropology.

For 2009-2010 (see p. 31), the figures were:

  • Bachelor’s and Other Undergraduate Degree: 4,236 students, 74.8% of which are female.
  • Master’s Enrolment: 557.6 students, 73.2% of which are female.
  • PhD Enrolment: 381 students, 65.9% of which are female.

Those 4,236 students are categorized among students in the Social and Behavioral Sciences and Law, of which there were 136,309.3, out of a total number of Canadian undergraduates which was 669,970.7. Thus, 0.63% of Canadian undergraduate students were in anthropology, and 3.11% of those in the Social and Behavioural Sciences and Law were in anthropology.

For 2008-2009 (see p. 30), the figures were:

  • Bachelor’s and Other Undergraduate Degree: 4,340.6 students, 75% of which are female.
  • Master’s Enrolment: 537.4 students, 72.2% of which are female.
  • PhD Enrolment: 366 students, 64.6% of which are female.

Those 4,340.6 students are categorized among students in the Social and Behavioral Sciences and Law, of which there were 133,476, out of a total number of Canadian undergraduates which was 657,788.1. Thus, 0.66% of Canadian undergraduate students were in anthropology, and 3.25% of those in the Social and Behavioural Sciences and Law were in anthropology.

For 2007-2008 (see p. 30), the figures were:

  • Bachelor’s and Other Undergraduate Degree: 4,314 students, 74.4% of which are female.
  • Master’s Enrolment: 536.6 students, 73.3% of which are female.
  • PhD Enrolment: 315.4 students, 62.6% of which are female.

Those 4,314 students are categorized among students in the Social and Behavioral Sciences and Law, of which there were 132,303, out of a total number of Canadian undergraduates which was 622,655. Thus, 0.69% of Canadian undergraduate students were in anthropology, and 3.26% of those in the Social and Behavioural Sciences and Law were in anthropology.

For 2006-2007 (see p. 30), the figures were:

  • Bachelor’s and Other Undergraduate Degree: 4,113.6 students, 73.1% of which are female.
  • Master’s Enrolment: 539.6 students, 70.7% of which are female.
  • PhD Enrolment: 298.6 students, 61.8% of which are female.

Those 4,113.6 students are categorized among students in the Social and Behavioral Sciences and Law, of which there were 120,702, out of a total number of Canadian undergraduates which was 622,652. Thus, 0.66% of Canadian undergraduate students were in anthropology, and 3.41% of those in the Social and Behavioural Sciences and Law were in anthropology.

For 2005-2006 (see p. 32), the figures were:

  • Bachelor’s and Other Undergraduate Degree: 3,550 students, 73.4% of which are female.
  • Master’s Enrolment: 486.4 students, 69.6% of which are female.
  • PhD Enrolment: 290.4 students, 62% of which are female.

Those 3,550 students are categorized among students in the Social and Behavioral Sciences and Law, of which there were 101,079, out of a total number of Canadian undergraduates which was 539,711.4. Thus, 0.66% of Canadian undergraduate students were in anthropology, and 3.51% of those in the Social and Behavioural Sciences and Law were in anthropology.

Earlier data take a different form, with data missing for some years, with some numbers available for enrollments by province, and none on sex.


For 1999-2000:

  • The total number of anthropology students at the Undergraduate level was 3,494.6 (see p. 26).
  • By province, Undergraduate numbers (assuming that zero means no data collected): Newfoundland 105.9, Prince Edward Island 0.0, Nova Scotia 0.0, New Brunswick 0.0, Quebec 956.6Ontario 1,566.9, Manitoba 76.0, Saskatchewan 141.6, Alberta 375.4, British Columbia 272.3 (see p. 26).
  • Master’s level: 512 students, 63.4% of which are female (see p. 29).
  • Ph.D level: 322.9 students, 61.9% of which are female (see p. 29).
  • Number of doctorates awarded: 27, 63% of recipients being female (see p. 33).

For 1998-1999:

  • The total number of anthropology students at the Undergraduate level was 3,891.4 (see p. 20).
  • By province, Undergraduate numbers (assuming that zero means no data collected): Newfoundland 123.0, Prince Edward Island 6.0, Nova Scotia 62.7, New Brunswick 42.0, Quebec 1,095.3Ontario 1,614.4, Manitoba 95.4, Saskatchewan 162.0, Alberta 433.1, British Columbia 257.4 (see p. 20).
  • Master’s level: 570.4 students, 60.7% of which are female (see p. 23).
  • Ph.D level: 363.4 students, 60.8% of which are female (see p. 23).
  • Number of doctorates awarded: 44, 52.3% of recipients being female (see p. 26).

No earlier data are available, and the CAUT Almanac for 2002-2003 simply repeats the same numbers above relating to 1998-1999.

For statistics on the gender of anthropology students in the United States, see:

Gender imbalance in anthropology, at Decasia

For trends in the UK, see:

“Quantifying the Discipline: Some Anthropology Statistics from the UK,” by David Mills, Anthropology Today, Vol. 19, No. 3 (Jun., 2003), pp. 19-22

6 thoughts on “Anthropology in Canada: Number of Students, Female Percentage

  1. One question I have is where all of this optimism and enthusiasm for Anthropology PhDs comes from since 2005, when the academic job market for anthropology in Canada has deflated to such an extreme that we are lucky to see even a handful of full time positions advertised nationwide, with a few more as part-time faculty. Indeed, it seems long periods have passed without a single full time position advertised anywhere. It would seem as if we are busying ourselves at creating longer unemployment lines, or, these PhD students are independently wealthy, not concerned about employment, very adventurous, and in it for the sport of it.

    Also, given the consistently very high percentage of female students, around the 74% mark, it is interesting that gender studies and courses on women do not seem to occupy any place more special than that of any other courses, neither in number of courses nor in the number of students wishing to take them, nor does it seem to have shaped the nature of research topics chosen or developed by students.

  2. Hi there,

    I think this question about the significance of gender imbalance is extremely interesting, and I’ve certainly seen similar patterns happening in American anthropology, as you’ve noted in that post of mine you linked. Why do you think we see the gender imbalance that we do see? And what drives its evolution? That to me still seems like a major unanswered question (see Susan Philips’ reflections on this shift in the USA). Not to mention that it’s interesting that the relative share of women systematically and noticeably declines at the PhD level compared to bachelor’s and MA. That to me is a sign that there are gendered principles of selection at work as one climbs up the degree hierarchy — is it the case, for instance, that women are a lower proportion of anthropology faculty than they are of the anthropology students? That wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

    One last thing that strikes me in passing — it’s interesting to see that there are sometimes fairly large jumps in enrollment from one year to the next, as in the jump from 3550 to 4100 between 2005 and 2006. Do you think that’s purely random variation?

    yrs, eli

  3. Thanks for the comment Eli, and I am a great fan of the work you are doing on your blog.

    In terms of the sudden jump from 3550 to 4100, this might be partly related to the end of Grade 13 in Ontario high schools…but that actually happened in the 2002-2003 academic year. For a while it seemed most universities, almost everywhere, experienced a mini boom, as Ontario high schools were now simultaneously sending forth two cohorts: grade 12 graduates, and those who had completed grade 13 just as it was terminated.

    The question of why so many women at the undergraduate level is extremely interesting, and I hope it gets more attention because explaining it will be a great challenge. Since this post went up, an academic in computer science in UK said it was the mirror image for their situation: 75% male.

    Men are probably over represented at the faculty level, compared to what we see in the student body. My department might be among the exceptions, since we have three male anthropologists, and five female anthropologists (at the full time, tenure-track or tenured level), and the proportion of female anthropologists increases when we consider part time faculty. However, in other units, where women have historically dominated in great numbers–in university libraries–the directors of libraries are almost always male (and I know that librarians are well aware of this pattern).

    There is a lot to think about here, and hopefully more research will be done. In fact, it is a little shocking that this area is so under researched. Thanks for the great work you are doing on your site.

  4. Thanks, Maximilian. I am glad to hear my work has been of interest! I thought your post was great for comparative purposes; I wish I could find these sorts of figures for a wider international sample across our discipline. It would be good to know if the changing gender balance we see in Canada and the US is true across the board, or in some countries more than others (which I guess is the mostly likely scenario)…

    I suppose I have a sort of default hypothesis about changing gender balances across the disciplines, which is that it can be explained at least in part via culturally specific gender markings of particular fields of study — computer science and technical work in general seem to be marked masculine in comparison to the liberal arts. These cultural patterns manifest themselves in, but are also reproduced and reinforced by, existing gender patterns of enrollment and hiring (with all that this can entail about peer relations, role models, possible overt sexism, etc). Even within the social sciences, some fields seem to have different gender markings than others: economics seems to be marked as deeply masculine in comparison to anthropology, or at any rate it certainly is much more male dominated in demographic terms (women got 32% of US econ phds in 2007, vs. 69% in anthro).

    Finally, in addition to these sorts of cultural and local sociological explanations, I think we have to think about the kinds of vocational outcomes people want from their degree programs, and whether these vary with gender. I don’t have a clear reading on how this affects enrollments, myself; obviously women’s career expectations have changed dramatically in the last 50 years, but the little bit of data I’ve seen suggests that professional aspirations are currently about the same for male and female grad students, again at least in the American social sciences (though career outcomes are definitely not the same).

    I guess while I’m at it I’ll just mention my one thought about why there might be continued enthusiasm for going into academia even if the job prospects are objectively not great. It seems to me that academia has the advantage of offering at least the fantasy of a very structured professional lifecourse, with fairly clear stages, fairly clear barriers to cross for advancement, etc. In a world where many jobs tend not to provide a well-defined professional life with a clearly structured future, I think there can be something comforting about the idea of escaping from (or avoiding from the start) the sort of generalized indeterminacy that characterizes so many “flexible” employment regimes. I don’t really have systematic evidence to support this partial explanation, though, and there are certainly lots of other factors – a generally bad labor market, supportive parents, poor information about real job prospects, faculty desire for grad students who provide intellectual stimulus and cheap teaching labor regardless of what happens post-phd, gamblers’ fantasies that one will beat the odds and get tenure, etc…

  5. Those are excellent hypotheses Eli, well articulated and compelling. I am hoping that we will see more research done, both survey and ethnographic research, of students and larger university structures, and the formation of the kinds of cultural predispositions that may lead women into particular areas more than others. What is also striking to me is that when comparing the academic performance of females and males I have known as students in anthropology, the female ones tend to outperform their male colleagues, and I don’t think that this is simply a reflection of any feminist bias on my part. Even the body language in class differs, with the female students most often busily writing or typing notes, staring straight at you, asking all the questions and making comments, while their male counterparts tend to be more in the background–and I hate to say this, but even asleep (the only students I have had falling asleep in my classes have been male). Obviously I cannot generalize from my experiences alone. I also have spent little time personally observing the socialization and enculturation of pre-university females in Canada, to be able to clearly say that X and Y are their reasons for choosing to enter anthropology, and why anthropology and not sociology or communication studies.

    So many questions. This is another of the reasons I, along with others, say that we need to seriously consider doing anthropological studies of the academic practice of anthropology, which is also why I am glad to see your work.

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