chapter  4
25 Pages

The Ambiguous “Female Advantage”

WithNancy S. Niemi

Americans have witnessed a four-decade rise in women's enrollment and success in higher education due to years of changed policies and procedures in higher education, financial necessities of families, and evolving expectations for women's career pursuits, combined with strong legal pressures for equal opportunities for women and men representing racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversities. Interestingly, and mostly unnoticed in female advantage arguments, the primacy of women's college degree earning in the case of black and Hispanic populations is a long-standing reality. A school's curriculum and culture, the ethos associated with the school, whether cultivated, ascribed, or both are essential elements for understanding how gender differences in men's and women's expectations of their futures influence their academic and social behaviors during college. Cultural expectations of gender and definitions of masculinity and femininity create powerful messages about the importance of schooling in one's life, even beyond its financial impact, in ways that differ significantly for men and women.