Women and Higher Education

Every country needs to utilize the potential - productivity, entrepreneurship and creativity - of its people to the maximum, if it has to grow. Faced with growing competition brought about by globalization, the U.S. needs to do the same to maintain leadership in the fields of science and engineering. Ironically, the women here still face hindrances when they want to undertake higher studies in science and engineering. The academic institutions across the country have an important role to play in this regard.

Another issue that becomes important in this context is that women face discrimination even when they join the workforce after their education. Although women put in an equal amount of hard work, the skewed pay structure in many industries acts against them. The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, signed on 29 January 2009, will be the first congressional step to correct this situation. Employees will now be able to challenge any discriminatory pay check that they receive.

A Statistical Review
The gender disparities existing in employment opportunities and salaries are very real. The Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2007 reports that the ratio of the median earnings of men and women is $1 to 78 cents. This wage gap has been bettered by one cent from that of 2006. A research, 'Behind the Pay Gap', also released in 2007 by the American Association of University Women, reports that women passing out of college earn less than the men in the same field - and this gap widens over time.

Interestingly, if women have to match the earnings of their male colleagues for the year 2008 (assuming all other factors remain same), they have to put in an extra four months of work. There is a huge disparity in the academic setting itself. Women not only earn less but also hold lower positions. The decision making procedures are not transparent; only 27 percent of women are awarded tenure in institutions offering bachelor's degree programs. It is just not the faculty which faces these issues. Women in science, engineering and computer science (CS) programs are still a minority. The latest data available from the Computer Research Association Taulbee Survey shows that only 12 percent women were enrolled in CS programs at the Ph.D. level in the academic year 2006-2007. For an interesting insight on women's higher education over the years, log on to: ResearchNews.edu.

Traditionally women dominate the fields of education, healthcare (nursing) and social work. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that women are still an overwhelming majority (75 percent) occupying jobs in these fields. However, traditional male dominated fields such as law and medicine have seen an increased presence (29 percent) of women, according to the same report. For more insight into this, log on to: TheFreeLibrary.com.

Women into Higher Education and Career - The Changing Scenario
The year 2008 has experienced women making up 48 percent of the labor force; in 1988 this figure was 45 percent. If this is any indication, then the future looks better. Title 1X of the 1972 Education Amendments states that no U.S. citizen will be discriminated against in any way under any education program or activity that receives financial assistance from the government. Prior to this, quite a few professional institutions had quota systems that limited the entry of women. Several engineering courses still limit the entrance of women. However, the trend has reversed for good. Harvard College, in 2004, admitted more women than men, according to reports. Other institutes are also following the same trend; the percentage of women in veterinary colleges increased to 75 percent in 2003, while approximately 50 percent of medical and law colleges now have women students.

Single Mothers going back to College
More people in the U.S. are going back to college for higher education, women and single mothers included. It is slowly becoming a way of life in campuses across the country. The popularity of higher education is not just for higher wages and a better standard of living, but also for greater economic independence and self-worth. Please read Making a Career Change if you are an adult in the workforce looking to change your field of expertise and learn a new set of skills.

Single mothers, particularly, are multitasking to achieve their goals. They raise their children, manage a home, and also attend classes and submit assignments - all this while working part-time to make ends meet. To manage this daunting set of responsibilities, priorities and schedules are very important. It is important to set up timetables for yourself and for the children. A little advice for single moms could be as follows: Do not wait for the last date, whether it is for your college submission or your child's project work. It is good to delegate some work to children according to their managing capabilities. This way they learn to handle responsibility and you get some extra time on your hands. You will need determination to make it work.

How Can Women Balance Life and Work?
However much the equality factor is brought into education and employment, some things will be inherently different between men and women. Generally, for women, family and work are equally important. So, you need to balance the two and not feel guilty about giving your time to either. Follow some basic rules; cardinal among them - do not attempt to do everything on your own. You are not a super woman and to try to be one will only cause discord. Rope in all the help you can afford and build. Get domestic help for things like washing and gardening. Get help from the neighborhood support-system for babysitting. Delegate duties around the house, so that everyone is involved in some way. Do not set impossibly high standards for yourself for things like housekeeping, cooking and the like. Get associated with other double-income families; this helps you to exchange information and get valuable tips on various time-saving techniques. For more reading on women balancing family and career: The-APS.org.

An interesting phenomenon has been seen in the recent economic recession. Men are losing more jobs than women, as the traditional women-oriented sectors such as education and healthcare are less affected by the recessive economy than male strongholds such as engineering and manufacturing. Should this trend continue, then women may soon assume a different role as the bread winners.

For some interesting reading on the changing role of women as earners, log on to:

NYTimes.com- Women in Business

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