Are sexism and pay disparities sending women to college?

debtI was raised by an educator. My Granny was a teacher and my sister followed her career path, later becoming an assistant principal. Growing up I wasn’t disciplined for too many things  was disciplined the most for fucking up in school. If my mother or grandmother got word that I was even late for a class too many times I could expect to grounded swiftly. For my parents (my grandmother was one of my parents), education was the righteous path and college was the promised land. When senior year of high school came around I had already decided which school I wanted to go, which ones I would apply to so I’d have options, and which program of study I would enter upon my arrival. Back then, when I had dreams of being a fancy OB-GYN, I was sure that my family was right: that a college education was the only right way to go after high school.

Imagine my surprise then to find out that it would really take 2 major changes, one semester off school (and unemployed), plus a transfer to another institution to get me to through the 6 year (SIX YEAR!) struggle that left me $60,000 in debt. Needless to say, I’m no longer wrapped up in the romance novel happy ending that college is supposed to offer. I think that schools and parents should be equipping students with information, support, and resources to develop sustainable plans for their futures, especially if college is not an option.

A recent NPR story, however, is reporting that parents aren’t feeling the support pour in for daughters who might join in on the collective “fuck college” cry.

A new poll from NPR, the Harvard School of Public Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds that the majority of parents feel their child’s school is preparing students for college. But 4 in 10 say that schools do not sufficiently prepare students who will not attend college — and parents of girls are even more likely to be concerned than parents of boys…

Many Trades Remain Male-Dominated

Students today face the same question, and it’s especially frustrating for young women, Simpson says. They face more hurdles, both real and perceived. Women, after all, are still a tiny minority in well-paying trades like plumbing, welding and masonry.”

The gender wage gap is obviously real and can haunt women in the workforce, especially in the long run. But I wonder if this cycle is fed before women even enter the workforce. Is it more feasible for a woman to go on to college right after high school because our society is telling them that they aren’t good with their hands? Is it because they don’t see themselves represented in fields where that’s what’s required? Is it because their families are not supporting their choices to enter fields like “masonry” and plumbing? Or is it because we, as a society aren’t able to create a narrative of success that doesn’t revolve a degree of higher education? I’m willing to bet that it’s a dangerous combination of all of these.

And I think high schools are in on it, adding another layer. Growing up in Chicago schools were always either  considered “college prep” or “trade” schools. More often than not, alternative schools (where students with learning or behavioral problems were sent) offered “trade training.” Entering a trade, as opposed to going to college, seemed to conjure images of dead end jobs for people who couldn’t do the “right thing,” whatever that is. As an adult, I’d like to re-envision the role of guidance counselors at high schools.  One that obviously does not support sexist about where women should/shouldn’t or can/can’t work. Guidance counselors should help students create a sustainable plan for their future, at least for the next few years. And that plan should take their strong skills, interests, and socioeconomic position into consideration; in addition to their grades and behavioral rap sheets.

Feministing's resident "sexpert", Sesali is a published writer and professional shit talker. She is a queer Black girl, fat girl, and trainer. She was the former Training Director at the United States Student Association and later a member of the Youth Organizing team at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She received her bachelors in Women's and Gender Studies from Depaul University in 2012 and is currently pursuing a master's in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta. A self identified "trap" feminist, and trained with a reproductive justice background, her interests include the intersections of feminism and: pop culture, youth culture, social media, hip hop, girlhood, sexuality, race, gender, and Beyonce. Sesali joined the team in 2010 as one of the winners of our So You Think You Can Blog contest.

is Feministing's resident sexpert and cynic.

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