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Women Increasingly Getting Degrees in Science, Business

Women now account for 47 percent of science and engineering degree holders, fields that were traditionally dominated by men. Women are also catching up to men with business degrees; almost 48 percent of graduates were female, according to analysis of new census data done by USA TODAY.

The trend of women enrolling and receiving degrees in these allegedly male-dominated disciplines seems to hold true just for the younger generation, however. The census data show that the 47 percent of women earning science and engineering degrees were ages 25-39, while the number drops to 21 percent for these degree holders in the over-65-years-old category.

Why More Women Are Choosing These Areas of Study

Organizations such as the Society of Women Engineers and American Business Women's Association are working to recruit young women into their respective fields, and one of their main tasks is dispelling the notion that women don't do well in careers that focus on math and science. But as the census data revealed, women also outnumber men in the workforce today, the first time in history this has been true, so it's clear that outdated concepts such as these are lessening their hold on young women today.

The pay for these fields is another big factor that is attracting more women to choose these majors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2009 mean annual wage for some jobs in the science, IT, and business fields were:

  • Chemical technicians: $43,900
  • Physicists: $111,250
  • Chemical engineers: $91,670
  • Civil engineers: $81,180
  • Software publishers: $84,990

In the world of big business, "woman executive" is no longer the oxymoron of decades past; women are at the helm of such Fortune 500 companies as Pepsi, DuPont, Kraft Foods, eBay, and Xerox.

Why Women Should Look to These Non-Traditional Careers

The Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education found that women might actually be better suited to engineering than men because "they were more aware of how an engineering task is situated within and interacts with its context." Women are able to look at problems in a wider context, the CAEE report found, which indicated they had a broader approach to problem solving.

IT is another field where women are rarely encouraged, but like many careers that involve complex problem solving, women may actually be more naturally suited than men to succeed. Some research suggests that women often have more facility in areas of communication and collaboration, both of which are required for these jobs.

Another increasingly popular theory is that these fields, long dominated by white men, are losing their creative edge due to the similarity of the workers. A diverse new workforce of women brings fresh ideas, new approaches to old problems, and a more creative work environment where everyone benefits, helping the USA's industries grow stronger.

Why Getting an Online Education Is Smart for Women

Despite the obvious advancements women have made in male-dominated industries, sadly, pay inequities still exist for women. The census data showed that in 2009, a woman's median earnings were just 78 percent of a man's. The proliferation of educated women in the workforce, demanding and deserving equal pay, can help change this statistic.

Online schools have proven to be extremely beneficial for women, particularly those with families or who are working while in school. Online colleges offer a flexible schedule, the ability to learn at your own pace, and a wide variety of courses and degrees. Online degree programs can be found in business, science, and IT disciplines, and you'll often find online schools offer as much communication and interaction as regular on-campus schools.

It's no longer a man's world. Women are entering and succeeding in any career they choose, but getting the proper education is crucial. In a down economy, higher education is no longer an option, but something the smart student pursues with an eye toward a great future.