Editor’s Note: Leading up to the 40th Anniversary of Title IX on June 23, 2012, SWSG is engaging the voices of women of all ages who have been impacted by this groundbreaking legislation. So far, Diana Cutaia, Linda Driscoll, Founder of Dream Big!, and Susan Golbe have contributed. Last month, SWSG’s Director of Process Improvement and Knowledge, Meghan Trombly, reflected on the backlash against Title IX, and this month, she reflects on its broader impact:
It’s easy to forget that Title IX is actually part of the broader Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX has supported girls’ advancement beyond athletics and into education. Girls are doing better in school and earning degrees at a higher rate than boys.  Still, this too is a multifaceted issue.  Before declaring that men are falling behind women, we must explore what happens during those college years and the impact beyond college.
First, in addition to examining the percentage of men and women graduating from college, one must also explore the types of degrees that they are receiving.  In fact, the top ten for degrees that men receive are quite different from those women receive.   The top undergraduate degrees men receive are quite diverse, including Business Administration & Management, Finance, Biology, Psychology, and Engineering.  While Business Administration & Management is also one of the top ten degrees received by women, the majority of degrees tend to be in the social sciences, including Psychology, Sociology, and Communication.  The difference in degrees is even more distinct on the Master’s level.  While Business Administration & Management is number one for both men and women, men again obtain much more diverse Master Degrees.  Other top Master’s obtained by men include Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, Accounting, and Computer Science.  Top Master’s for women, on the other hand, sit decidedly within education and counseling.
Next, we must look at the way in which these degrees play out into the careers that men and women enter.  Many of the fastest growing careers are in science, math, and technology. These careers within science, math, and technology tend to pay more than those in the social sciences.   Yet, in part, as a result of degree choices, women tend to cluster in a narrow range occupational categories, such as teaching, which have the limited earning capacity.  In fact, women hold lest than 25% of all STEM jobs.  However, women with STEM jobs earn 33% more than women in non-STEM jobs.
Finally, after comparing representation of men and women across occupations, we must also examine pay within occupations.  Within STEM, there is a 14% wage gap between men and women.  Women in STEM earn $0.86 to every dollar men in STEM earn.  This wage gap widens in non-STEM occupations.  In non-STEM occupations, women earn 21% less than men, or $0.79 to the dollar.
This gap translates to almost $11,000 less earned per year and over $430,000 over 40 years.  Consequently, while women are indeed earning more degrees than men, the automatic conclusion should not and is not that men are falling behind and that our families are at great risk for falling into poverty.
Finally, in reflecting upon my college experience with Title IX, I can’t help but think more broadly about women’s rights and legislation.   Title IX only applies to education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.  As seen, equality in education, does not automatically translate into other realms.  Title IX, and every aspect of equality is layered and knotty.  Yet, the need for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is striking.  The ERA would support inclusive and uniform protection and standards.  Write or call your Representatives and Senators today, and encourage them to vote for the ERA when it next appears on the floor!