According to a recent New York Times article, young women are going back to school in record numbers, even if it means leaving the work force while they hit the books. The percentage of women aged 16-24 who are enrolled in school now exceeds the percentage of that same demographic who are employed. The important thing to note about that figure is that these jobless women are not looking for work– they’re looking to hone their skills in school so that they can get the jobs they want later. Economists theorize that the extra education will give women a significant edge over men when more jobs become available.
The shift in the labor force could have some interesting social implications. Many of the jobs expected to experience growth have traditionally been held by women, and women are increasingly tech-savvy. We still haven’t shattered the glass ceiling, but society’s idea of “traditional” gender roles are evolving with the job market. The fact that so many women are choosing to wait to get back into the work force indicates that maybe the ladies are holding out hope for better opportunities.
Of course, there’s a high cost to higher education. I’m currently struggling with the idea of going to grad school myself. At age 24, with a bachelor’s degree from a state school, I have some student loan debt; it’s not enough to cripple me with fear, but certainly enough to stress me out once a month and wonder when it will ever go away and if grad school would only put me deeper in the financial hole. Like one of the young women profiled in the Times piece, I recently quit my job at a coffee shop (and lost the health insurance that came with it) to work towards my career goals; but while she’s in a master’s program, I’m taking on internships and wondering every day if my BS degree (that’s a Bachelor of Science, not “bullshit”) will be enough when the time comes for a paid gig– and when that time will come. I don’t regret my education (I value the heck out of it) ,but I have considered going back to college to get a degree in something different and perhaps more lucrative.
There may be a shortage of jobs, but there’s no shortage of articles and essays like the aforementioned Times piece being written– I feel weird writing one myself, all broad generalizations and speculation about broads. But I think there’s something to be said for the fact that so many women are making education their priority, and I want to know what you all think about where we’re headed. Are you a young woman? Are you in school? Do you want to be in school? Do you envision the future like it’s some kind of Beyonce video? Let me know in the comments section.
[photo of Julie Ruin-era Kathleen Hanna surrounded by literature via Enjoy Your Style.]