WASHINGTON — Dozens of countries, including the United States, are making progress in reducing gender gaps in areas like education and employment, according to a study released last week.
The study, conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), based in Paris, found that of the 42 countries analyzed, 40 made “significant progress” in narrowing or closing differences between men and women in areas such as educational attainment, pay and employment rates.
Many of the countries in the survey have advanced economies, as well as higher educational standards, so it follows that their gender gaps with higher education attainment is closer than it has been.
Based on analyses of two groups of men and women, one made up of subject ages 55 to 64 and the other of subjects 25 to 34, the organization found a reversal of the educational attainment gender gap. In the older group, two percent more men had attained a degree in higher education than women. In the latter group, roughly 10 percent more women held degrees in some level of higher education.
The United States had a slightly closer gap between the genders than average for countries participating in the study: on average, 46 percent of women had attained a higher education degree versus 35 percent of men, whereas in the United States, 50 percent of women had attained higher education and 40 percent of men had a degree.
Japan and Turkey didn’t follow the pattern: Japan had gap sizes similar to those of the United States, but with 10 percent more men having degrees in higher education, and women in Turkey were only slightly behind the men in terms of educational attainment.
Despite women in the United States having higher levels of education than men, young women were found to have lower employment rates than young men. The study also found that women are still underrepresented in math, physical science and computer science. Men were five times more likely to study engineering, manufacturing and construction, and women were three times more likely to study education.
The authors of the study wrote that “as women now surpass men in many aspects of education in OECD countries, there is growing concern about the underachievement of young men in certain areas, such as reading. Gender differences in student performance, as well as perceptions that some fields of education are more ‘suitable’ for either women or men, need to be addressed if greater gender equity in education outcomes is to be achieved.”
Parents surveyed in all countries were more likely to expect their sons rather than their daughters to work in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, even between children with similar math performance levels. Additionally, 15 year-old boys were found to generally have lower levels of academic achievement than females of the same age.
American women also still experience the short end of the stick with the gender wage gap, which exists no matter how the data is analyzed. That’s according to the National Partnership for Women & Families, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that advocates for policy changes that advance women’s rights.
Even though women have greater rates of higher education attainment, those numbers don’t make a difference. Women who work full-time, year-round with master’s degrees earn 70 cents to every dollar men with master’s degrees make, according to the partnership.
The organization looked at the rate that women’s pay is increasing, and based on the current rate of change predicted that women’s pay won’t be equal to men’s until 2058.
Rachel Lyons, senior government affairs manager for the organization, said that number represents the time it will take for pay to be equal if nothing is done to speed up the process.
“We have seen (that) the gap (decrease) has stabilized over the last few years,” Lyons said. “In the meantime, women can’t wait, they’re losing money.”
“If we wait 50 years, all those women will lose tens of thousands of dollars each year to support their families and improve the economy,” she added.
Benefits such as high-quality, affordable child care and an increased minimum wage “would benefit both men and women, and would go a long way toward closing the wage gap,” Lyons said.