Higher education opens pathways for equality

Ben IversonBen Iverson, Director of International Programs & Enrolment at Augustana University, South Dakota, USA

Break the bias is the theme of International Women’s Day 2022 a theme that encourages a diverse, equitable and inclusive world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination, where differences are celebrated.

Higher education can highlight, encourage, and foster those differences. It can not only change the lives of the women who attend these institutions, but can, in turn, better the institutions.

According to the Pew Research Center, women in the United States have earned college degrees at higher rates than men since the 1990s. However, women typically earn 84% of what men in similar roles earn, showcasing the gender pay gap that has remained fairly constant in the past 15 years.

Higher education seeks to dissipate the pay gap, as well as encouraging women to find their seat at every table where decisions are being made, use their voices to offer impactful perspectives and support other women as they follow suit.

TIME reported that accessibility of higher education for women was a catalyst for a gender role revolution and progressive movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the U.S. Despite a lack of access to careers, many female college graduates of that time committed to community activism, educational services and public health projects. These movements of activism can be credited to the trailblazing women who took the first steps into the world of higher education — leading to an increase in individual opportunities and social innovation.

According to TIME, the early public investments in higher education made it accessible to women. This ultimately fostered a number of progressive changes that led to increased societal equality and diversity.

When women are an integral part of higher education, the ripple effects are far reaching — producing women in science, politics, entrepreneurship, education, the corporate world and nonprofit sector, to name just a few. The world benefits when women have a seat at the table, or a place in the classroom.

Augustana University is an excellent example of the growth and success that can transpire from the leadership and involvement of women. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is Augustana’s first female president and was the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from South Dakota as well as the youngest woman serving in the House during that time. Under Herseth Sandlin’s leadership, Augustana has created Viking Bold: The Journey to 2030, which is the university’s largest, most comprehensive campaign to support its strategic goals.

Augustana also supports student initiatives like the organization Augie Women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and the university’s chapter of iGNiTE. Augie Women in STEM seeks to empower and uplift female and non-binary students in the STEM fields to gain the confidence, skills and resources needed for professional and academic development. iGNiTE is a nonpartisan organization aimed at creating and promoting female civic and political leaders.

With a countless number of female students achieving great academic, athletic, and artistic successes and women in positions of leadership at the university level, Augustana is proud to support all the women that call Augustana home.

Also read: Covid-19 is additional layer to ‘gender equality in education’ challenge: UNESCO

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