Women who work in places where women have achieved high executive levels are more likely to earn more money than women who work in male-dominated companies. Last weekend, the American Sociological Association released this new study by Dr. Philip N. Cohen of the University of North Carolina. Dr. Cohen noted that his study shows that women who break through the glass ceiling then help other women move up the pay ladder. However, after nearly four decades of emphasis on women’s equality at work, pay equity remains a serious problem for most women in the workplace.
In a coincidential group of articles last week, the Washington Post and the New York Times both revealed the ongoing barriers to women’s advancement in business and the professions. The Washington Post article talks about why women are still dramatically under-represented in executive suites and board rooms. One New York Times article explored why women find Wall Street careers to be unattractive today. The New York Times website also carried an Associated Press report on the dearth of minority women lawyers in big law firms.
These articles appear on the heels of news reports over the summer about the declining number of men enrolled in colleges and universities, and the tendency of some men at middle age to drop out of the workforce entirely. These articles have suggested that three decades of focus on academic achievement for girls and women have somehow discouraged boys and men from persisting through higher education. Some commentators have even gone so far as to suggest that women’s higher education and socio-economic advancement have prevented some men from getting married because they might not want to marry women who are more intellectually and economically advanced than themselves.
Blaming women’s achievements for declining male enrollments or even the choices of men who drop out of work or marriage is perverse. Women continue to be scarce in executive suites, boardrooms and the real corridors of power in our society, while, at the same time, women are working harder than ever to finish their degrees, support their families and advance professionally as far as reasonable, given their multiple responsibilities.
Today’s news about the impact on women’s earnings when women achieve executive status reveals that women do lift as we climb. But to get into those positions in the first place, we must continue to emphasize the highest possible educational attainment for women. The graduates of Trinity and other colleges and universities that promote women’s education, advancement and leadership continue to demonstrate that women who earn degrees in an environment that encourages women’s achievement can make a real difference for all women at work and in the community.