Education Doesn't Open Every Door
Education has long been viewed as the pathway to economic success. But while women have made great strides in advancing their educations in recent decades, they have not been as quick to reap the economic benefits of their college, graduate and professional degrees.
Today, women receive:
- 61% of associate degrees
- 57% of bachelor’s degrees
- 59% of master’s degrees
- 48% of both medical and law degrees
Yet despite this, women still do not have access to all of the same opportunities and experiences as men on campuses. Research finds women are still largely “tracked” to lower-paying fields or areas of study. A 2017 study found that men dominate 9 of the 10 college majors that lead to the highest-paying jobs, all ten of which are in STEM fields. Women, by contrast, dominate 6 of the 10 lowest-paying majors, and are at or near parity with men in two others.
Alternate Career Paths
Women who do not continue their academic education past high school also face barriers: Men generally have more viable alternative job-pathways open to them than women do. For instance, men participate in significantly greater numbers in the military, in the police force, as firefighters, in manufacturing and transportation jobs, and in such industries as construction and plumbing. Additionally, men hold 3/4 of the jobs requiring only a high school diploma that pay at least $35,000 a year (a higher wage than most entry-level service roles).
Other obstacles hindering women’s success include:
- Women continue to experience high levels of bias in education, particularly in the high-paying STEM fields.
- Female students are at a high risk for sexual harassment and assault on campus.
- Many women combine childrearing responsibilities with higher education: Single mothers constitute around 11% of undergraduate students.
- Women are disproportionately burdened by student debt: They hold almost two-thirds of outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. That’s about $929 billion.
Where We Stand: Higher Education
AAUW is committed to making the dream of higher education and career and technical education a reality for all women who wish to pursue it. Read more about the specific policy measures we support.
There are lots of ways to get involved with AAUW’s work to advance gender equity. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of women and girls.
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