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Lean Away: Elite College Graduates Leave the Workforce

Jun 17, 2013 • Education, Gender Issues, Households, Uncategorized • 215 Views    No Comments

By Lilli DeBode, guest blogger and senior at Kent Place School

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, has become quite famous since the release of her recent book, ‘Lean In.’ In it, she urges women to take on careers even if they have families to take care of.

There is one group of women that seems to be ignoring Sandberg’s advice: graduates of elite universities.

Yes, according to a recent study from Vanderbilt, 60% of women with bachelor’s degrees from prestigious colleges work full time, while 68% of women with degrees from less selective schools work full time.

Even more surprising; one third of married mothers with MBAs from top colleges work full time, compared to two-thirds who earned their MBAs at less prestigious colleges.

Why do these women with so much potential in the workforce choose to stay home? If they chose to continue pursuing their careers, there is no doubt that many of them would have upper management positions.

There are two somewhat obvious reasons these women are leaving their jobs:

1. Women who attended prestigious schools often have highly successful spouses that went to similar universities. Because of the spouses high-paying jobs, the women are able to spend time with their children and leave their jobs.

2. Many attendees of top colleges are often affluent, and receive degrees regardless  of whether or not they choose to use them in the future. Women who go to lower-tier colleges, however, often are counting on their college education to pay off.

How is this affecting the workplace? Many women who attend top colleges are set up for success, and could effectively take powerful positions in companies. When these specific women leave the workforce, they allow more men to take their positions and lose footing in the climb to upper management positions. In addition, if these women choose to return to the workforce after they raise their children, they cannot simply return to where they left off. They end up receiving lower positions than they would have had they stayed in the workforce the whole time.

Sources and resources: To read the Vanderbilt study, click here. To read more about this topic click here.

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