The economic challenges many Americans have faced the past few years have triggered some unexpected reactions among young women in the USA.  For the first time in the last 30 years we are witnessing a temporary change, we can call it a by-product of a struggling economy, where young women attending school have outnumbered those present on the work force market.

To better understand this phenomenon, we have to take look at a representative landmark, highlighted in her writings by Claudia Goldin, a Harvard economist. She brings to this discussion a new concept “quiet revolution”. According to Goldin, women’s increased involvement in the economy was the most significant change in labor markets during the past century. As a result of this quiet revolution that took place 30 years ago; we can have a meaningful discussion today about women at the top. A shift has occurred, where women don’t want to settle for just a job, they want to have a career. They want to reach for the top. Apparently now, due to a weak economy, many young women took this opportunity to upgrade their skills, by withdrawing from the labor market temporally. The economists compare this phenomenon with the post war economic boom when millions of World War II veterans decided to go to college with the help of the passing of G.I. Bill.

On the other side, their male counterparts have decided to settle with whatever job they can find. According to the economists, this move has advantages and disadvantages.  On the positive side, in the future the next generation of women may have a significant benefit, but also getting a higher education comes with an expensive price tag. In their quest on a very competitive labor market, our young women want to be better prepared and qualified for any kind of career out here.
Among
women today aged 16-24, just fewer than 55 percent are in the labor force. But this is just a short term measure.  

It is admirable that many young women are determined to show that, they too, have the necessary skills to compete head to head with men. Education is a great tool to achieve those goals, but only if it’s feasible, without incurring too much debt. Setting you apart for the next job takes not only hard work and determination, it takes also something different, something more creative and out of the box. Today you have to really distinguish yourself with a marketable skill — software, engineering, medicine, any technical degree. There is a kind of elitist divide in the workforce today, where scarce skills demand superior compensation. More young women out here need to have the courage to peruse careers that, not a long time ago, where labeled as being suitable just for men.

A great example here is offered by the International Atomic Energy Agency where gender stereotypes ruled the nuclear industry in the past: “There have been significant increases in the past ten years of the number of professional women employed at the IAEA, particularly in the nuclear safeguards, nuclear energy, nuclear applications and technical cooperation departments.” Now, more women are working as nuclear engineers, project managers, inspectors, chemists, physicists, environmentalists and management members.

CWEALF is aware that women are still underrepresented in technical fields or the so-called STEM fields (science, engineering, math, and technology). It has been CWEALF’s ongoing mission to educate and bring awareness about the importance of having technical skills as a woman even though women have fewer role models in that area than men. Girls, women can succeed in any field if they set their mind to. Investing in yourself today, will bring many rewards in the future. It is not too early (even if you just started high-school) to think about what career you want to pursue and the advantages of having a degree in a STEM field. 

Under the G2O (Generating Girls Opportunities) initiative, CWEALF wants to bring awareness and engage with young girls, parents and teachers through STEM expos. There is an upcoming STEM expo on February 3rd at Naugatuck Community College. At the event students and professors in STEM fields will led workshops and team-building exercises.

To learn more about STEM Expos, check out an entry written about our Asnuntuck Community College expo last October!

B. Perez