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Are Women Schooling the System? More Education Doesn’t Always Guarantee Success

I graduated from college in May of 2008 and was very fortunate to have gotten a job straight out of college. But not everyone was so lucky. I watched droves of friends and acquaintances struggle to find (and keep) jobs. Some settled for stop-gap measures in fields wildly different from their interests, some wound up unemployed for a large stretch of time, and some ventured back to school.

So, especially amid all the recent chatter about job creation in America, the article “Instead of Work, Younger Women Head to School” in the New York Times caught my eye. According to the Times, the volatile and sparse labor market is pushing more women — particularly young women — to head back to school.

And there’s an interesting economic hypothesis: as the recovery continues, once these women with more advanced education leave school and re-enter the workforce, they’ll be better off than their male counterparts. Great news, right?

Not so fast.

Intriguing as this notion is, it’s not entirely safe to jump to the conclusion that the expected ‘boom’ will give all women a much-needed boost into the workforce. Unfortunately, not all women get a fair opportunity to succeed in schools. For almost 40 years, Title IX has done a lot to level the playing field for women and girls. However, gender-based discrimination still persists today, particularly when it comes to access to training and education for women in traditionally male fields (which pay far more than traditionally female fields).

Additionally, the author notes that women “earn significantly less than men” (23% less on average, to be exact). Especially with the burden of additional student debt, fair pay for women once they exit school and re-enter the workforce full time is a critical issue.

Discrimination in schools persists, and the wage gap hasn’t budged for a good while now. Until both of these things shift, it’s not quite so safe to say that more-educated women will universally be better off than their male counterparts after the recession ends.