Education Dept. Report Notes a Quarter-Century of Strides by Women in Academe
The Chronicle of Higher Education (04/26/00)
By SARA HEBEL
Women have made significant gains in higher education over the past 25 years and are now more likely than men to attend
college immediately after high school, complete bachelor's degrees, and participate in adult education, according to an
Education Department report released Tuesday.
The report, "Trends in Educational Equity of Girls & Women," compares male and female students in 44 categories. (The file is
large and must be viewed with an Adobe Acrobat reader.) In 1994, Congress ordered the department to prepare the report.
Generally, the report shows that in school and in college female students are now doing as well or better than male students in
many areas of educational attainment. Since the early 1970's, women have reversed previous trends and become more likely
than men to enroll in college the fall after graduating from high school and more likely, as high-school seniors, to say they plan to graduate from a four-year college. In 1997, for instance, 70 percent of female high-school graduates and 64 percent of male
high-school graduates immediately enrolled in a two- or four-year college. In 1972, 46 percent of women and 53 percent of
men enrolled in college the fall after graduating from high school.
In addition, a majority of both undergraduate and graduate students are now women. The average salary gap between women
with college degrees and those without them also generally is greater than the disparity for men, the study found. Achieving a
bachelor's degree or higher, for instance, increased women's annual median earnings by as much as 71 percent, compared with
as much as 56 percent for men, the report said.
Women made some of the most significant progress at the graduate level. In 1996, female students represented 56 percent of
graduate students, compared with 39 percent in 1970. Students seeking their first professional graduate degree still are mostly
men. But women now represent 42 percent of full-time students in those studies, compared with 9 percent in 1970, the study
However, the study also had bad news for women. Female students still earn fewer than half of the graduate degrees in many
fields. Women also are more likely than men to earn degrees in fields like education that lead to lower-paying jobs than in fields like engineering that men are more likely to choose. Women with bachelor's degrees still tend to earn less than men with the same level of educational attainment, although the gap is narrowing, the report revealed.
In other areas, the department's study found that:
Women continue to lag behind men in mathematics and science achievement in high school and are less likely to major in
those subjects in college. Women were much more likely than men to earn degrees in education, health, and psychology,
whereas men were more likely than women to earn degrees in engineering, physical sciences, and computer science.
Minority women are more likely than minority men to earn bachelor's degrees. In 1996-97, black women earned 64
percent of the degrees awarded to all black students, and Hispanic women earned 57 percent of degrees awarded to all
The educational attainment of women in the United States is relatively high compared with that of women in other