The value of education is boundless and for many it grants the opportunity to have a fighting chance in the competitive and increasingly selective arena of the professional world. The rise in female university attendees and graduates is now a growing global trend; educated women outnumber educated men in many parts of the world.
According to a Yale University study, women in the US account for 60 percent of the annual university graduates and hold 60 percent of master’s degrees and 52 percent of doctorate degrees. Far from the antiquated mould of uneducated female homemaker, it’s evident that a woman’s passion and dedication to succeed in academia can be just as zealous as - and apparently now even more so than - a man’s. And since women make up half of the world’s total population, it’s fair to say that to place less emphasis on women’s participation in higher education and the subsequent greater career opportunities that it abounds overall hinders a country’s prosperity — economically and otherwise.
As no great achievement can exist without its challenges, we must note the threat that exists to women's education in countries where misogynistic or extremist ideals maintain the counter-progressive outlook that women must remain subservient to men. This is a reality which has proven all too horrifying in the case of over 200 young girls who have been recently abducted in Nigeria for attending school. Their oppressors, the Boko Haram (a name which means, disturbingly, Western Education is a Sin) exist as a mournful reminder that education — that which breeds and nurtures individualism, global consciousness, and personal fruition — can prove a dangerous thing to despotic reigns of power as it counters their stratagems of control.
But despite obstructions, the rise in women pursuing higher education is a pivotal achievement of our era. It's especially noteworthy when we consider that women in the US were granted the right to vote just less than a hundred years ago, or that in Saudi Arabia, for instance, that right wasn't introduced until 2005.
The rapid advancement of women’s rights signifies the import of female leadership in a world hitherto strictly governed by men. Women are now empowering themselves through education, taking hold of all its limitless advantages and keeping a firm grip.
While there's always more to be done in the pursuit of equal rights, the following list features countries in which women now surpass men in university attendance and graduation rates while also drawing attention to the disparity that still exists for women in the labor force around the world.
10 Saudi Arabia
The Saudi Embassy reports that there are currently 1 million students enrolled in universities in Saudi Arabia and of that number, over half of attendees are women. A Yale University study reports that women make up 51 percent of those enrolled in university—a highly progressive achievement, considering the fact that Saudi women aren't even allowed to operate a vehicle alone. Despite the fact that a higher percentage of Saudi women are educated compared to Saudi men, women in this country still constitute a very slim minority of the labor force.
Since the 1990s, the percentage of female university attendees and graduates in Argentina has hovered above 50 percent. Despite this steady achievement, 74 percent of Argentine men participate in the workforce compared to 47 percent of women.
8 United States of America
In the US, women make up 57.4 percent of all university attendees. Since 2008, the rate of master’s degrees awarded to women has increased by 54 percent. In 2010, the US department of education noted that women now surpass men in “enrollments at higher-education institutions at every degree level.” Yet, women only hold about 3 percent of the highest positions in corporate America and are still paid less for the same work - an average of 77 cents to every dollar earned by men. The employment rate for women in the US is just above 60 percent.
In 2009, women made up 60 percent of university graduates and postgraduates in Brazil according to a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an international think-tank that works toward advancing economic growth and employment rates globally within 34 countries constituting its members. The employment rate for women in Brazil is slightly over 50 percent but despite the fact that there are more female university graduates than men, women still earn 30 percent less than men for the same work. Of the 594 seats in the Brazilian Congress women occupy only 56.
In Spain, women made up 60 percent of all university graduates and postgraduates in 2009 according to the OECD’s report. In Spain, 65 percent of working-age men are employed and only 51 percent of women.
In Estonia, a Northern European country, more than two-thirds of university graduates are women. This marks the country as having the highest percentage of female graduates of the 34 countries that are members of the OECD. Estonia also has a comparatively high female employment rate of slightly over 60 percent.
In 2009, women made up almost 60 percent of female graduates and postgraduates in Chile. The female employment rate in Chile is at slightly over 40 percent and this is attributable to a number of factors. A notable contributing cultural factor to women's absence from the labor force is that in Chile, women must often choose between working or raising a family. The notorious ‘machista’ or male perspective that women should remain at home common in Latin American countries tends to discourage women from joining the labor force, despite their level of education.
In 2003, more than 60 percent of all college attendees in Iran were women. That year, every 6 out of 10 college graduates were women as well. A graduate degree increases an Iranian woman’s chance of joining the labor force by 28 percent but only a quarter of female graduates actually participate in the workforce. This is due to the fact that the country’s strict traditional and religious values continue to stifle women’s independence and often deter their participation in the workforce by offering poor compensation, exhibiting workplace abuse and exploitation, or simply not hiring women.
In Canada, 64.8 percent of women have higher education compared to 63.4 percent of Canadian men. In 2006 and 2007, women made up 57 percent of all college enrollments and were also 62 percent of all university graduates in Canada. The female employment rate in Canada is relatively high at 70 percent.
In Finland, 80 percent of women are enrolled at a higher education institution. Finnish women also make up over 60 percent of all university graduates and postgraduates in the country. The female employment rate in OECD countries averages at 55 percent and in Finland it’s 66 percent, the highest of all OECD countries.