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Women Can’t Rely on Education to Close the Gender Gap

Your parents may have told you “go to college, get a good job with benefits, and you can live the American dream”.

That may have been the story sold to millions of American’s over the last three decades but there’s another chapter that needs to be added to make this story relatable today.

That story needs to include a lesson about education – not one that focuses on the attainment of degrees to gain access but one that focuses on the understanding of money to create opportunities.

Women are Outnumbering Men in Education

More women are making their parent’s proud by walking across graduation stages of the most prominent universities. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of bachelor’s degrees earned by women has increased from 43 percent to 57 percent from 1970 to 2015. And the accomplishments don’t end at the level of bachelor’s degree. Women are receiving more than 60% of master’s degrees and over 51% of doctoral degrees.

Women are Carrying the Majority of Student Loan Debt

Women have depended on education to boost their financial power and earnings potential. Unfortunately, more education hasn’t led to wage parity between men and women; instead, it’s creating a higher accumulation of debt.

In 2017, Lending Tree, a leading online loan marketplace, released findings from a survey of 1,050 millennials to gather the financial health of men versus women. Although women appear to be more financially responsible, they are struggling with tons of student loan debt, causing women to delay many life goals. The survey findings showed that the average student loan debt for millennial women is over $14,000 while millennial men have an average debt of $8,500.

One report released by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) showed that women hold almost two-thirds of the country’s $1.3-trillion student loan debt.

Women Have to Work Harder to Equalize Income

The educational statistics for women have been climbing higher every year but the pay statistics aren’t keeping up with the rate of education.

Women now earn an average of $0.81 for every $1 a man makes. Depending on the major women pursue in college and the occupation they choose, it’s even less. The highest paying occupations (engineering, business, physical science, law, computers, and mathematics) are largely dominated by men while the majority of women steer towards lower paying career opportunities such as psychology, social work, education, communications, and social sciences.

Research from The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce reveals that 75% of bachelor degree holders in clinical psychology are women and the mean earnings are $40,000 (2016). This is an “average” number which means that some degree holders make less, placing women in clinical psychology within the bottom levels of income tax brackets.

Women Have to Move Beyond Degrees

Education isn’t enough. It may increase your income, but the high cost of education coupled with the gender pay discrepancies, makes it harder for women to move up the wealth scale.

On the other hand, education is very useful if you apply it. Before you enroll in a degree program, here are a few questions to consider:

  • How much do I have to pay for the degree?
  • Have I saved enough money to cover out-of-pocket educational expenses?
  • What internship opportunities can I pursue to decrease my educational expenses?
  • What scholarships can I apply for?
  • Can I pay off my student loan debt within 3 years of graduating?
  • What type of job will I be able to get when I graduate?
  • What is my earnings potential after I graduate?

Before you graduate, here are a few more things to consider:

  • What am I going to do with the money I make?
  • How much money will I allocate to a company 401 (k)?
  • What are the best ways to invest my money?

Choose wisely. Find a way to ensure that education works in your favor. 

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About Charlene Rhinehart, CPA

Charlene Rhinehart is a Certified Public Accountant, Founder of Wealthy Women Daily, and Editor-in-Chief of the Dividend InvestHer and The Wealthy Woman Investor. Charlene is currently the Chair of the Illinois CPA Society Taxation Individual Committee. With over a decade of experience in the financial services industry, Charlene is one of the few leaders who design insights specifically for the woman investor. Charlene’s work has been featured in a variety of publications including the Huffington Post, Black Enterprise, and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. In 2019, Charlene released her book “Dividends Are a Queen’s Best Friend”, on Amazon.

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