Did you know that 72% of Utah’s adult women work? In Utah, women make up 44% of the total workforce. Ignoring their needs, education and strengths would be a divestment from the entire state economy.
Benefits of an Education
Utah Women and Education researchers have conducted in-depth research to shed light on why more young women around the state are not attending and graduating from college. We discovered that many young women in Utah do not understand the broad value of a college edu
cation. Most women understand that a college degree can benefit them financially, and they knew they could potentially get a “good” or “higher paying job” if they had more education. Some also said additional education would help them have a better life, be successful, or have better future opportunities. Participants with college degrees felt more secure and prepared for the future. However, for many young women in Utah, the financial value of being educated is the only advantage they see. Therefore, if they do not plan to work outside the home after marriage, many do not perceive a need to be educated. Many women believe that they would never use a degree, so there’s no reason to pursue a post-secondary education. However, this notion is far from reality for many young females; researchers have found that a college degree can positively influence nearly all aspects of a woman’s life. The benefits of receiving an education are well documented and include a higher likelihood of:
• Living a longer and healthier life
• Having healthier and more educated children
• Increased critical thinking skills
• And many more, as seen here.
Economic Road Blocks
Because of cultural and social norms, getting a college degree is often not top priority for many Utah women. Women are also disproportionately responsible for unpaid care work, including childcare, eldercare, housework, and other tasks. Utahans have traditionally placed a great emphasis on family, and hence it is unsurprising that women in the state prioritize the work of caring for children and other loved ones. This is a good thing in most respects. However, there may be some detrimental effects that come along with the uneven distribution of such work between men and women. When women are disproportionately responsible for unpaid care work, they are less able to complete college and pursue professional interests. Utah women rank highest in the nation for part-time work which is likely related to unpaid work as women are 9 times more likely to choose part-time work because of childcare issues than men. Women can face professional setbacks because of care duties, including taking time off, refusing promotions, and choosing less demanding jobs, all of which could leave women financially vulnerable. Such by-products of caregiving are much more common among women; for example, mothers are twice as likely as fathers to report that being a parent has made it harder for them to advance in their careers. In addition to economic risks, women who bear a heavy share of unpaid care work may also struggle with physical, emotional, and mental health issues, especially those who are also working for pay.
Improving the Economy
It wasn’t long ago when inequality between men and women was widely apparent, in classrooms, workplaces, and homes. Lives of women and girls around the world continue to improve in many respects; they are going to school more, living longer, getting better jobs, and acquiring more legal rights and protections. However, large gender gaps remain, especially for minorities. To diminish gender differences, efforts must address the combined influence of social norms and beliefs, women’s access to economic opportunities, the legal framework, and women’s education. By lowering barriers and increasing the number of women in the workforce, overall productivity will increase so long as their skills and talents are used more fully. Greater control over household resources by women, either through their own earnings or cash transfers, can enhance countries’ growth prospects by changing spending in ways that benefit children. Finally, empowering women as economic, political, and social actors can change policy choices and make institutions more representative of a range of voices.
See the following Research Snapshots: