Benefits of Education for Women: A Look to the Future
Over the past twenty-five years, the educational advancement made by women has been significant. The gaps for educational attainment between the genders have all but disappeared for the young women being educated today. While girls still lag somewhat behind boys on mathematical and science achievement, girls in high school average higher grades and reach higher achievement levels in reading and writing compared to same age boys. The discrepancies in achievement by subject persist into adulthood. It has been shown that women between the ages of 16 and 65 achieved higher scores on comprehension and interpretation of prose that similar age men. There were also less women (40 percent) scoring at a low level in these areas compared to men (44 percent). Consistent with finding from earlier ages, women do not score as well as men in number related subjects such as mathematics (Sax, 2008).
Females today are also more likely than males to attend college and surveys of educational institutions show that females are just as likely to graduate with a post-secondary degree as are males. This coincides with an increase in the expectations women have for pursuing careers after education as well as increased enrollment in graduate programs. Despite the continued discrepancy in math and science achievement for girls and boys, women are choosing to pursue degrees in the life sciences, physical sciences, and engineering at higher rates than ever before. These changes in women’s goals for their education, underscores the need for continued focus on how best to educate women from the time they first enter school (Ceci, Ginther, Kahn, & Williams, 2014).
Changes in Female Education
A major change in the education of girls, adolescents and women has to do with accountability and expectations (DiPrete & Buchmann, 2013). Many educational experts have recognized that high achievement expectations for boys and holding boys accountable for what was viewed as under-performance was not the same approach taken with girls. Girls, instead, were traditionally praised for their effort regardless of outcome and comforted for under-performance. Achievement and performance beyond a basic skill level was not viewed to be as important for girls as for boys (Sax, 2008). Now education emphasizes reinforcement for high achievement, setting high achieving goals and expectations and accountability for under-performance for girls just as much as for boys.
Additionally, the way science and math education is approached for girls has altered the education of females of all ages. The main shift in education in this arena has been from assuming that girls needed to be changed to better understand difficult concepts, to viewing schools as what needed to be changed. Schools are now being held more responsible for engaging girls in science and math topics in ways that make such topics more attractive (Scantlebury & Baker, 2007).
To this end, pedagogy focused on ending bias and sexism in teaching which discouraged girls from succeeded in math and sciences. New curriculum have been developed to specifically address the specific needs, learning styles and values of girls. Further attempts to improve girl's skills in science and math has taken an intensive approach by focusing more in depth on science and math inside as well as outside the school. It is hoped a more continuous approach will help improve girls' knowledge and skills in science and math (Brotman & Moore, 2008).
Social Change and Advancement for Women Due to Better Education
With the increase in educational approaches targeting female strengths and weaknesses, and the increased number of women completing post-secondary degrees there has been the expectations that with increased competence would come advancement of wages. Unfortunately, the increased numbers of women seeking post-secondary education has not translated to gender equality as far as wages are concerned.
The gender wage gap still exists though it can appear to be less of a problem than it really is. This is due to more women with college degrees ultimately earning more than their less educated male counterparts such that the gender wage gap appears to have significantly narrowed. However, if men were achieving the same level of education at the same numbers as women, men would be earning on average 4 to 5 percent more than women given they are paid more for the same jobs and with the right education are more likely to be hired for advanced positions than women. Additionally, men’s unemployment rate would be one half to one percent lower than women’s rate.
Additionally, even with these changes in education a glass ceiling still exists in terms of promotion and advancement. While there are more women in the workforce able to obtain a job they aspire to the opportunities for advancement continue to be less than for their male counterparts. Women and men in management positions were surveyed about their views related to promotion of women into leadership roles. The overwhelming response was that gender stereotyping continues as it relates to the management role and this strongly influencing negative attitudes about the suitability of women in senior management positions (Wood, 2008).
Despite the continued existence of a wage gap and glass ceiling effect, higher education has been shown to lead to important social change for women. Education does this through the empowerment of women, which encourages them to become more involved in multiple areas of their life outside the home and in the world around them. This means that they have taken increasing responsibility for their own life satisfaction, leading to efforts to change impediments to their success and happiness.
Empowerment can help women institute social change through gaining increased control of household resources and assets, obtaining more visible positions in society, and becoming involved in decision making and implementation of policy on behalf of women in their community, society or nation. Policy decisions influenced by women for women as opposed to by men for women produces a significant difference outcomes. It also influences how beneficial these outcomes will be in leading to social change related to how women are viewed and treated.
Today, there is a good deal understood about the state of education for women and how it needs to be altered to decrease stereotyping and increase knowledge and skills. Yet a more comprehensive understanding of the outcomes of improved education in light of the continued wage gap and glass ceiling needs to be obtained. In part, this might be addressed by a more detailed approach to examining education and increased opportunities for women as well as how education can help women bring about social change to create their own opportunities. Integrating how society and the employment sector views women with how women can be empowered to impact these views could help women obtain an equal opportunity to achieve their life goals.
It is important to determine the best manner for transmitting knowledge, expectations of success and a sense of empowerment to girls as throughout the education process. To this end, research on how women can function in an educational role to encourage these and other important initiatives for girls over the course of their education is being conducted. It is hoped that women educators can contribute to education, employment and social policy both directly and through their influence on girls throughout the developmental process
The Role of Women Educators
As recently as 20 year ago women educators were viewed as glorified baby sitters, with most high school teachers and almost all college professors being male. More recently, there has been a change of view of women teachers and an increase in the number female teachers in post elementary levels and female professors in bachelor and even graduate education. The number of female educators is still dependent on field with far more female teachers found in the humanities, social sciences and helping professional programs. Yet the overall number of female educators has increased steadily in the past decade.
This increase is an important development. Women educators are more likely than their male peers to work to ensure that the advances in women’s education and the associated opportunities. (Greenleaf, 1973). Furthermore, it is female educators that are most likely to stimulate the discussions and debates about policy changes needed for additional improvements in women’s education. These are dialogues as well as others regarding continued gender discrepancies in pay and promotion are necessary if women are to continue to progress towards full equality. This suggests that the responsibilities of women educators don’t stop at the school door but must continue into the community for continued attention to be given to women’s education. Finally, female educators can model the behaviors necessary for these developments to take place, thereby empowering the next generation of women even as they learn about academic subjects.
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Ceci, S. J., Ginther, D. K., Kahn, S., & Williams, W. M. (2014). Women in academic science A changing landscape. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 15(3), 75-141.
DiPrete, T. A., & Buchmann, C. (2013). The rise of women: The growing gender gap in education and what it means for American schools. Russell Sage Foundation.
Greenleaf, Elizabeth A. (1973). The Role of Women In Education — Responsibilities of Educated Women. Educational Horizons 52:: 77-81.
Reskin, B. F., & Roos, P. A. (2009). Job queues, gender queues: Explaining women's inroads into male occupations. Temple University Press.
Sax, L. J. (2008). The gender gap in college: Maximizing the developmental potential of women and men. Jossey-Bass.
Scantlebury, K., & Baker, D. (2007). Gender issues in science education research: Remembering where the difference lies. In S. Abell & N. Lederman (Eds.), Handbook of research on science education (pp. 257–286). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Wood, G. (2008). Gender stereotypical attitudes: past, present and future influences on women's career advancement. Equal Opportunities International, 27(7), 613-628.