International Survey Reflects Strong Ambitions of Russian Women | Top Universities

International Survey Reflects Strong Ambitions of Russian Women

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Laura Bridgestock

Updated Dec 03, 2014



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Responses collected as part of our international survey of prospective postgraduate students corroborate claims made about the strong professional ambitions of Russian women. Of female Russian respondents, almost 33% said that in 10 years’ time they aspired to be running their own business, compared to less than 21% of Russian men who participated.

This puts Russian women among the most entrepreneurially minded groups in the survey. Overall, of more than 4,000 respondents worldwide, 25% of women and 22% of men said they aimed to have their own business within the decade following their postgraduate degree. However, Russian men were twice as likely as Russian women to be aiming at CEO positions, and also marginally more likely to be targeting directorships.

These findings are interesting in light of the claims made by Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Ripa Rashid in their book Winning the War for Talent in Emerging Markets: Why Women are the Solution. Following numerous interviews with Russian women, the pair concluded that the old stereotype of a national culture in which “individual ambition and assertiveness were frowned upon” was dying fast – and perhaps even more rapidly among women.

Some 60% of Russian women surveyed by Hewlett and Rashid said they aspired to the top job, while almost two-thirds described themselves as “very ambitious”. The authors surmise, “Today’s Russian women… – often more than their male counterparts – are responding to the open-market economy with enthusiasm and ambition.”

Different priorities when deciding where to study abroad

While ambitious and entrepreneurial, Russian women in our group also placed a high priority on “cultural interest and lifestyle” when deciding where to study abroad. In fact, they were highly unusual among our survey respondents in prioritising these factors above “international recognition of qualifications” when choosing a destination. Compared to the overall global group, they were also more likely to prioritize opportunities to improve their language skills, with this taking precedence over concerns about the availability of scholarships and financial aid. Russian men, on the other hand, aligned with the overall global trends much more closely.

As well as expressing different priorities and motivations when deciding where to study abroad, Russian women were slightly more likely to choose the UK rather than the US, while their male counterparts firmly voted for the US as their top choice. A similar, though less pronounced trend  was seen among Indian respondents to the survey, with Indian women likewise more likely to prioritize “cultural interest and lifestyle” and also to place the UK above the US. In both nations, meanwhile, the largest gender difference remains the STEM subject gap; 31% of male Russian respondents said they were applying for STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), compared to just 10% of Russian women. In the Indian group, STEM subjects were chosen by 45% of men and 26% of women.

The data referred to here was collected as part of an international survey of students applying for graduate-level studies, in partnership with the QS World Grad School Tour. The majority of respondents were attendees of a QS event and/or applicants for a QS scholarship. In 2012-13, more than 4,000 responses were collected, including more than 500 from prospective graduate students in Russia. For more on the survey demographics and methodology, download the full report