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Are Women Taking Over Higher Education?

According to a study by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), in 2015, women earned more doctoral degrees than their male counterparts for the seventh year in a row in 7 out of the 11 categories.

While men are still outnumbering women in STEM fields such as Engineering, Mathematics, and Physical Sciences, overall, women are earning more degrees. Education, Health Sciences, and Public Administration, show women receiving almost 70 percent of all degrees in those fields. On their website, the AEI wrote,  “2009 marked the year when men officially became the ‘second sex’ in higher education by earning a minority of college degrees at all college levels from associate’s degrees up to doctoral degrees.”

In a perfect world, those numbers are 50/50 for every field. That’s what feminism strives for. Today however, there is more of an outrage over the fact that men outnumber women in STEM than women outnumbering men in everything else.

Stefania Wolicka (1851- 1895) was a Polish historian and the first woman to earn a PhD in Europe in the modern era. Wolicka received her Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Zurich. Despite the efforts of the Russian government to keep women from receiving a higher education, she pursued her degree in History.  In 1873, she ignored a decree that forced Russian women who were studying abroad to quit school.

Eventually, she married and became a noted writer on female equality in Poland, establishing herself as a pioneer of women in higher education.

Wolicka’s story is nothing short of heroic, seeing as women around the world crave education, while western nations tend to take it for granted.

This trend of women outperforming men, however, opens up a dialogue about traditional gender roles, one that many progressives have tried to dismiss.

In an article by the Daily Nation, the author discusses whether the PhD is a blessing or a curse on some women. Faith Kibere, the writer, talks about her experience pursuing her doctorate. She would often be revered, usually by older men who would say things like, “Nowadays, girls are more hardworking than these useless boys.”

While she appreciates the praise, she says that she would rather be appreciated for her hard work independently, than be compared to unambitious men.

She also talks about the search for a partner, and how difficult it can be for older women. For heterosexual women, she says, “When the young woman scales the academic and corporate ladder, whom does she couple up with if she has outperformed her male peers?”

This remark may seem anti-feminist, but it is a reality for many women who still cling to older ideals. Some also feel as if their childbearing years pass them by while they focus on their studies instead of finding a husband.

It’s a tricky thing to discuss, but the fact that women still struggle to decide whether to advance their careers or start a family shows that these archaic gender roles are still alive and well. The important thing is to understand balance, and not get lost in the idea of one gender dominating the other.

Featured Image by Jonathan Daniels on Unsplash

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