There is some good news coming out of the latest census, and I don’t just mean the fact that Texas may be losing a congressional seat.
No, according to new records as the census is being returned, women are now earning just as many advanced degrees as men these days.
Among adults 25 and older, 29 percent of women in the U.S. have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 30 percent of men, according to 2009 census figures released Tuesday. Measured by raw numbers, women already surpass men in undergraduate degrees by roughly 1.2 million.
Women also have drawn even with men in holding advanced degrees. Women represented roughly half of those in the U.S. with a master’s degree or higher, due largely to years of steady increases in women opting to pursue a medical or law degree.
At current rates, women could pass men in total advanced degrees this year, even though they still trail significantly in several categories such as business, science and engineering.
“It won’t be long before women dominate higher education and every degree level up to Ph.D.,” said Mark Perry, an economics professor at the University of Michigan-Flint who is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank. “They are getting the skills that will protect them from future downturn
Unfortunately, just because we are getting more of the degrees, and starting to dominate some levels of education, that doesn’t translate to higher earning.
Women with full-time jobs now have weekly earnings equal to 80.2 percent of what men earn, up slightly from 2008 but lower than a high of 81 percent in 2005.
“I don’t know if we can be heartened by the educational gains, because it is persistent wage discrimination that is driving women to get a higher education,” said Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. “As more women enter the workplace, I think they will realize the unfairness of the situation they’re experiencing and demand change.”
Demanding change is a noble charge, but how exactly does one do it? We’ve known for decades now that women make less than male counterparts, yet there has been little done to fix this issue. True, we have made advances via instances like the Lilly Ledbetter Act, but the Paycheck Fairness Act is still stalled in the Senate, making gender discrimination in pay still hard to prosecute.
Will the great Wal-Mart gender discrimination suit finally be the Waterloo that will make employers see that paying women less and not allowing them access to the same promotions and opportunities male employees receive is a punishable offense?
One can only hope so.