I just relived one of the favorite stories of my childhood through the eyes of my daughters. I inhaled Anne of Green Gables when I was a girl – first through the books (all eight of them, twice), then the movies. There’s a lot to be learned from that spunky, verbose, dramatic character, but what stuck out in my mind this time around, is the low expectations for women just a century ago.
Anne was the head of her class – and her reward was a scholarship to a “teacher college.” Her nemesis-turned-husband (spoiler alert!) later in the story becomes a doctor.
I’m happy to report that things are changing. Girls are outpacing boys in class, and consequently the education of women is exceeding men and has been since the 1990’s. Now, 57% of college students are women, and women earn about one-third more bachelor’s degrees than men, says the National Center for Education Statistics.
Beyond academics, boys are having a tough time achieving success in our education system. According to the U.S. Department of Education, boys receive 71% of school suspensions. Boys are also 30% more likely to flunk or drop out of school. I’m happy that girls are making progress in education — but I don’t want our girls’ success to come at the expense of our boys’. Though we are all “princesses” in my house, my friends with sons often talk about the challenges they’re facing in the classroom. It seems like somewhere in our fight for inclusive education for girls, we forgot the opposite sex.
But back to girls and women — we are WOMEN AdvaNCe after all – recent research indicates that while in the past, women who outpaced their husbands in education were more likely to experience divorce, now education has no apparent influence on divorce. Lead author of the study, Christine Schwartz, found that “the relationship between one’s educational attainment, marriage formation, and risk of divorce appears to suggest that couples are adapting to the demographic reality that women have more education than men.”
While we can stop and do a little happy dance that women are making progress, it’s important to remember that success will come when we all have equal opportunities in education. The education system needs to reexamine how it can help boys catch up to girls — without holding girls back. Beyond that, don’t forget the socioeconomic and racial disparities that remain in education.
Lastly – it also comes down to what happens once we become educated. I recently wrote a piece on the disparities that exist in the workplace as a result of a woman’s attempt to have a baby. I won’t jump on that soapbox again today, but it’s all part of the big picture.