I don't consider it a triumph that more women graduate from high school and college than men. Nor do I find it comforting that more men than women were laid off during 2008 and 2009. I'm certainly a feminist by any stretch of the imagination but to the end of equality and not domination of one group over another. I'm probably sensitive to the issue of gender because it affects me. In researching this post I realized that black and Hispanic men and women are underrepresented in the workforce and as graduates of high school and college. I'm sure that as I leave my twenties, I'll become more sensitive to the concept of ageism as well.
The examples I've cited have fundamentally different roots. As of 2008, 61.5% of women and 59.8% of men obtain a high school diploma and 21.3% of women and 17.8% of men graduate from college. Matriculation rates for women have been dramatically influenced by improved sex education, ease of access to birth control and the empowerment of women who are not financially dependent on others. While I'm glad that the rates of men and women completing twelfth grade and going on to attain a bachelor's degree are approximately equal, there is a trend toward womens' completing these rites of passage at an increasing frequency relative to men. I have to ask myself why it is that men aren't working as hard as women. Is it that men don't have anything to prove anymore since society places the white patriarchal stereotype on a pedestal?
When it comes to race, the disparities are amplified. I couldn't find the statistics for women of color versus men but just shy of 51% of blacks and 54% of Hispanics complete high school. More disturbing, only 13.5% of black students finish college and 9.5% of Hispanics. This extends to these groups in the labor force as well.
Ironically, men were let go more often than their female counterparts during the market crashes of late. This is largely attributed to the disparity in pay for men and women. For every dollar earned by a man a woman will earn only 80 cents. Adjusting this for women leaving the labor force for maternity leave adds only three cents. Again, race compounds the differences. If you're a black woman it's only 68 cents. Latinas only earn 60 cents per dollar earned by a white man. If you're an Asian woman you'll earn 92 cents for every dollar. The slight improvements seen between 2000 and 2009 are attributed to the availability of funds remaining after laying off men who were doing the same job.
For unemployment rates during this recession, joblessness for blacks versus whites is nearly double across the board. That is to say that regardless of level of education, for every jobless white person, there are two black people out of work. Hispanics fell in between: for every white person out of work, 1.5 Hispanics are unemployed.
Equality is still a long way off. The flat rates of unemployment and graduation disguise the gap in genders and races. If you haven't considered these details to be a problem, you're probably white or male: in other words, it hasn't affected you. This should bother you regardless of your race, gender or employment status. I suspect that these ranges of earning and matriculation based on gender and race are cultural, political, educational, and historical in origin and that the prevalence of stereotypes persist to reinforce and maintain these inequalities.
Equality is about educating everyone and giving everyone a shot at contributing to our society as a whole. I won't pretend that people aren't different from one another. It's something we should celebrate and not something that we should use to oppress one another. What makes humans great is our ability to cooperate and build great things that benefit everyone. In order to do that we have to be able to look past petty differences.
I tried to keep this post short to make it accessible to everyone and included links to try and encourage you to do your own research. Please don't take my word for it. Be interested, get involved; educate someone else, write a letter, volunteer.