On this 100th (!) International Women’s Day, when women all over the world are celebrating the countless accomplishments of women or being honored themselves, I thought it would be fitting to share results of The White House’s just-released report all about women, called Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being. It was prepared for the White House Council on Women and Girls — a council created in 2009 by President Obama to “enhance, support, and coordinate the efforts of existing programs for women and girls.”
A report nearly 50 years in the making
This is the first Federal report that focuses on the progress of women in the U.S. since John F. Kennedy’s Presidential Commission on the Status of Women issued 1963′s Peterson Report, which primarily focused on workplace discrimination and issues of workplace inequality — and which helped lead to the Equal Pay Act.
Fast forward from 1963 to 2011 — how have things changed?
Why women’s issues are important (and not just for women)
President Obama himself has stated that the social and economic issues facing women are not just women’s issues; many of these issues can end up affecting entire families. The report gives a picture of women in America today by focusing on five areas: demographic and family changes, education, employment, health, and crime. Although I’d like to share findings on education and employment specifically, it’s worth perusing the report (PDF) for yourself to get a better sense of how various gender comparisons all fit together in the big picture. Women have achieved so much — and this report reflects that. Unfortunately, in some areas, there is still much progress to be made. Let’s take a closer look.
Women and Education
When it comes to educational achievement in particular over the last few decades, women have made huge strides. This holds true across racial and ethnic groups, and, in some cases, the educational achievements of women have significantly outpaced those of men over the last 40 years.
- Perhaps not surprisingly, high school education rates of women have substantially increased. Between 1970 and 2009, the percentage of women with at least a high school education rose from 59 percent (about the same as men) to about 87 percent (slightly more than men).
- Over the years, we’ve seen a huge surge in the number of women who have paved out careers for themselves and embarked upon that institute of higher learning known as college. The percentage of women ages 25-34 with at least a college degree has more than tripled since 1968, and women earned about 57 percent of all college degrees given in 2007-2008.
- In 2008, women accounted for 59 percent of graduate school enrollment.
- When it comes to doctoral degrees, the tables have completely turned in the past decade alone. In 1998, more doctoral degrees were conferred to men than to women. A decade later, it’s the opposite.
The science and tech gap
While women do earn the majority of degrees overall, they earn fewer degrees than men in science and technology. In the college level of engineering and computer sciences, women possess fewer than 20 percent of degrees earned. The good news is that the lack of women in these fields has not gone unnoticed; women in the tech field, for instance, are banding together and starting conferences, investing money and resources, and engaging in professional networking. These efforts aren’t without criticism, though — some believe that instead making efforts to differentiate themselves, women in these types of fields should be integrating themselves more forcefully into male-dominated events and circles. What do you think?
Women and the Workplace
Over the past several decades, women’s role in the workplace has changed dramatically. But where are women currently excelling – and where are we falling short? Let’s take a look.