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The Impact of Education on Women's Careers

This past weekend, I flew back to college and started my first day of junior year just yesterday. When brainstorming ideas for my W.I.N. blog post this week, I got to thinking about education and how it impacts women and their careers. But before that, I want to start off by covering a brief history of women in higher education.

Before the 19th century, women were strongly prevented from going to college. In 1836, Wesleyan became the first college in the world for women and in the following years, other women’s colleges started opening up, such as Barnard and Wellesley. Most Ivy Leagues refused to admit women, hence why they put together sister schools as a compromise. Between 1836 and 1875, around 50 women’s colleges started opening up. This shift in women going to college challenged historical gender roles because it gave women more opportunities in terms of careers that they didn't have before.

Back then, women were blatantly treated with inequality from men in both coed and women’s only colleges. Though gender biases and stereotypes still do exist, the disparity is no longer as severe. Furthermore, the number of women attending colleges is constantly increasing. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, in the fall of 2022, about 8.3 million women were undergraduate college students, versus 6.1 million men. Women also outnumbered men in graduate programs — 1.8 million versus 1.1 million.

While college might not be for everyone and that it is definitely still possible to have a successful career without an expensive degree, I do believe that college poses numerous benefits for women. For one, it provides women with access to a wider range of career opportunities. With advanced degrees, women can pursue careers in fields that were traditionally dominated by men, which can contribute to breaking down gender stereotypes and promoting diversity in the workforce.

Additionally, it allows for academic empowerment, since education equips women with the skills and knowledge needed to secure well-paying jobs and achieve financial independence. This empowerment allows women to make informed decisions about their careers, finances, and personal lives. Higher education institutions also provide opportunities for networking and building social connections that can greatly benefit women's careers. Networking allows them to connect with mentors, peers, and potential employers, leading to better job prospects and career growth.

To conclude, it is important to make higher education more accessible for women because it is a valuable resource and can lead to a successful career journey. Education is a catalyst for personal growth and confidence, equipping women with skills to excel in diverse careers and leadership roles. When women have equal access to higher education, they contribute to innovation and enrich the workforce with diverse perspectives.


Divya Sarkar

Purdue University: sarkar42@purdue.edu


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