Degrees Don’t Mean Jobs

By Lisa Autz

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Stanford University’s graduating class of 1994 entered the workforce precisely when the internet was beginning to influence our everyday lives. The women in that class were eager to not only transform the participation of female leaders in the technological world, but also the developing nature of the work itself.

Nearly half of the 1994 class of 1,700 were women who were as adventurous, inventive, and fiercely competitive as their male classmates. Yet, instead of the new technological industry forging a path for these women to extend their influence, few of the successful females matched the achievements of the opposed gender, according to an investigation by The New York Times.

Women have undoubtedly made great strides in the workplace since the Women’s Rights Movement of the 1900s. Nevertheless, inequality continues to persist–and may even be increasing.

Last week, at a one-day workshop on gendered labor markets at the New School for Social Research in collaboration with the University of Gottingen, academics and policy leaders came together to discuss the surprising stagnation in female workforce participation and the barriers that continue to obscure equity.

Development economists, like Stephan Klasen, posed counter-intuitive ideas of thought.

“Education doesn’t always have a positive effect when an industry has not kept pace with the amount of women educated,” he stated.

Klasen’s presentation illustrated the decline of female workers in India. He noted that the more women earning bachelor and graduate degrees did not have any direct correlation with realizing employment.

As more individuals snag Master’s, the less value these advanced degrees have, and the more competition grows for those really good jobs.

“What we have here, side by side, is not only an economic system but also a gender system of stratification,” explained Mary Borrowman, another economist presenting from the New School.

In situations when a country’s economy is evolving into more advanced technical fields, the gender gap seems to grow. The resolution isn’t the better education of women but changing the cultural biases that choose to build new industries on male employment over female.

Take the Stanford class of 1994 for instance, in which many of the women landed prestigious gigs working for Google, IBM, and Microsoft. However, when it came time for them to start their own business, obtaining funds from venture capitalists–who are predominately white males–proved difficult when they prioritized their investments in male enterprises over female ones.

The next leap to come after the revolutionizing work of the Women’s Rights Movement and the Feminist Movement will hopefully rectify the inequality that persists. Ideological disruptions to established gender norms must come alongside the necessary policy and infrastructure changes.