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Young women more ambitious than young men, Pew finds

Monday, April 23, 2012  
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For the first time, more young women than young men are putting great importance on having a high-paying career, according to a new report by Pew Research Center. At the same time, more middle-aged women are putting great value on high-paying careers.

In a reversal of traditional gender roles, 66 percent of young women and 59 percent of young men ages 18 to 34 say being successful in a high-paying career or profession is "one of the most important things” or "very important” in life, according to combined data from polls taken in January 2010 and December 2011. In 1997, 56 percent of women and 58 percent of men put great value on high-paying careers.

What’s more, nearly the same share of women (42 percent) and men (43 percent) aged 35 to 64 say career success is "one of the most important” or "very important” in their lives. Fifteen years ago, a much greater percentage of middle-aged and older men than women felt this way (41 percent vs. 26 percent).

On the education front, women now surpass men in both college enrollment and completion. Some 44 percent of women ages 18 to 24 were enrolled in college or graduate programs as of October 2010, compared with just 38 percent of men in the same age group. In addition, 36 percent of women ages 25 to 29 had a bachelor’s degree, compared with only 28 percent of men in the same age group -- a record-high divergence. Women first surpassed men in these realms in the early 1990s, and the gap has been growing wider ever since, Pew reported.

In spite of their educational advantage and increased presence in the workplace, women continue to lag behind men in terms of earning power. In 2010, women who were full-time or salaried workers had median weekly earnings of $669, compared with $824 for their male counterparts. Today’s wage gap is smaller among young workers than among their older counterparts. Among all workers ages 16 to 34, women’s earnings are more than 90 percent of men’s; this ratio drops for women ages 35 to 64, who earn 80 percent or less of what men earn across the board. While this could signal a changing workplace, women have tended to fall behind men as their careers progress, so it remains to be seen whether this is an age or generational phenomenon, Pew concluded.

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