Advanced Degrees Higher amongst Women For First Time

Hannah Baker

The decision for who heads off to work and who stays home with the kids may be redefined.

For the first time ever, there are more women receiving advanced degrees than men in the United States — a trend also seen at SDSU.

Census data shows among adults 25 and older, 10.6 million American women have master’s degrees or higher, compared to 10.5 million men.

Ronald Stover, professor of sociology and rural studies at SDSU, said this is no surprise to him, as women have continued to be successful in universities and the workforce since the “Baby Boomer times.”

“If you look around women have destroyed any idea of glass ceiling. It’s gone,” he said. “Women are doing extraordinary things.”

Like the national trend, there are also more women enrolled in advanced programs at SDSU, with the exception of doctorate degrees.

In 2011 there were 527 women enrolled in the SDSU graduate program, compared to 438 men. There were also 99 women enrolled in the Doctor of Pharmacy program, as opposed to 41 men. However, men still lead the doctorate degree category by 46 students, with 185 men and 139 women.

Women first exceeded men in bachelor’s degrees over a decade ago, a trend that has increased steadily in recent years. Roughly 20.1 million women have bachelor’s degrees, compared to an approximate 18.7 million men.

“Some [women], after they finish their undergraduate, will think ‘Why stop there?’ and go on to more schooling,” Stover said. “There was condemnation for women who would do that in the ‘50s, but not anymore.”

Becca Swords, a senior exercise science, pre-physical therapy major from Rosemount, Minn., is one of those women. Although she will be taking a year off after she graduates in May, she is currently applying to graduate schools to pursue a doctorate degree in physical therapy in the fall of 2013.

“Even when I was in high school I knew I wanted to have a career that involved getting more schooling and keep going after four years,” she said. “Taking a year off will be difficult and people say ‘good luck going back,’ but I know I will because it’s something I’m really passionate about and want to do.”

Although more women are now earning advanced degrees, there are still a high number of stay-at-home-mothers despite the declining rates. As of 2010, there were 5 million stay-at-home-mothers, down from 5.1 million in 2009 and 5.3 million in 2008.

Stover said although there are many mothers choosing to stay at home, he expects this number will continue to decrease until the stay-at-home-mother role is almost obsolete, or at least much lower.

“Stay-at-home-moms may disappear,” he said. “Anytime you drop out of workforce there are disadvantages, and women aren’t going to want to do that. If you have blank spots in your work history the employer is going to want to know why and if there’s a good reason, and sometimes taking time off for family isn’t considered a good reason.”

Because women are staying in school longer to further their education, Stover said this could be a contributing factor to the reason why young people are waiting longer to marry and have children. He said this is a “huge change” from 50 years ago when women felt extreme pressure to hurry and find a husband and begin a family based on the concern of a ticking biological clock.

The tick-tock of the biological clock is still a factor, but Stover said women today are more inclined to put off marriage and starting a family so they can begin careers first.

“I think people are concerned with being well-trained and then coming out of school, settling down and having careers and then having children,” he said.

As the number of stay-at-home-mothers declines, the number of stay-at-home-dads is increasing slowly. In 2010, Census data showed there was an estimated 154,000 stay-at-homes-dads, with children under the age of 15, who remained out of the workforce for at least one year while their wives worked outside the home—an increase from approximately 140,000 fathers staying at home in 2008.

Also, now that the normal family dynamic no longer necessarily consists of women staying at home, Stover said it’s possible men might choose to stay home because it’s more financially feasible for the family if the woman makes more money.

“Before, men who had wives who worked were viewed as failures because they couldn’t solely provide for their families,” he said. “This is no longer the case.”

Now that the roles for men and women of who goes to work and who stays home are changing, Stover said a positive effect could be the lessening of “mean prejudices” toward women.

“The glass ceiling is gone,” he said, “and that’s a good thing.”