I have a few questions when describing ratio. For concreteness, suppose I want to write about the percentage of females in a group of people.

First, is ratio a right word to express in such a case? Searching "female ratio" on the web seems to give results about population. To describe the percentage within something other than population, is it any better to use share of female X or proportion of woman X? (E.g., This OECD site uses share).

Second, what are idiomatic adjectives describing ratio? Should it be ratio is small/large or ratio is high/low? Also, is it okay to say ratio increased/decreased?

  • 1
    A ratio is normally between two things e.g. the ratio of women to men, length to width, inventory-to-sales, tequila to lime juice. So percentage or proportion might be better. Because a ratio normally involves 2 things, saying it increased or decreased is potentially ambiguous if you're not clear how the ratio is defined, but M-W has e.g. "the median-home-price-to-income ratio [was] lower in Baltimore last year than in the nation as a whole".
    – Stuart F
    Apr 16 at 9:11
  • Looking at your linked report, I don't know what "Share of female managers" means. Are the managers shared by different groups? Is it the amount of something each manager has? Apr 16 at 10:29
  • ...but if it said "proportion of female managers" I would take it to mean the ratio of female to male managers. Apr 16 at 10:39
  • @StuartF Political correctness aside, ratio of female is mostly about the ratio of female to male in the given context, isn't it?
    – sundowner
    Apr 16 at 11:02
  • @WeatherVane I suppose the numbers are percentages. This seems another example of 'share' ourworldindata.org/grapher/…
    – sundowner
    Apr 16 at 11:02

1 Answer 1


A ratio can sometimes be another way of expressing something you might also express as a percentage of a population. For example, if a workplace had 100 employees and 60 of them were female, you could say either that 60% of the employees were female or that the male-female ratio was 3:2 (because you express ratios in their lowest terms - 60:40 is the same as 6:4, which is the same as 3:2). However, there are situations where ratios just don't work. Ratios compare two proportions, so they are ideal for binary choices - yes/no, true/false etc. A percentage can represent just one group of a population without the need to break down or even mention the rest of the population. So ratios and percentages are very different, even though they can be used to represent some of the same information.

Because a ratio is the proportion of two groups, you can't simply say 'it' has "increased" without indicating the direction. The ratio is both figures - one can't increase without the other decreasing.

If you are expressing the proportions as a ratio, not a percentage, you could perhaps say:

  • "The ratio of men to women has risen in favour of women"
  • "There are now more women compared to men"
  • "The proportion of women has increased in relation to men"

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .