Is 2012 the Year of the Woman?

Guest post written by: Laurie Ruettimann

Twenty years ago, I graduated from high school. This makes me old enough to remember when 1992 was labeled “the year of the woman” in America. In what seemed like an amazing push for equal rights, there were five female senators in our upper house of Congress.


Unfortunately, there are 100 seats in the Senate.

Senator Barbara Mikulski, a Democratic leader and one of the women in the Senate, scoffed at the label. “Calling 1992 the Year of the Woman makes it sound like the Year of the Caribou or the Year of the Asparagus. We’re not a fad, a fancy or a year.”

Thankfully, Ms. Mikulski is correct. Women are not a fad. Twenty years later, there are 17 women serving in the Senate.

Things change. Slowly but surely, life marches forward. And even in dark times when things seems difficult for so many people in the world, there is good news about women. The New York Times recently reported that women have been dropping out of the workforce and going back to school.

Workers are dropping out of the labor force in droves, and they are mostly women. In fact, many are young women. But they are not dropping out forever; instead, these young women seem to be postponing their working lives to get more education. There are now — for the first time in three decades — more young women in school than in the work force.

Why is this good news? For one, education is the single greatest differentiator between those who are employed and those who aren’t. In America, the jobless rate is 8.6 percent. For those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, it’s 4.4 percent. Women are investing in themselves and ensuring future employability.

Another reason why this is great news? Well, the current crop of women serving in the U.S. Senate is a group of well-educated and accomplished leaders and thinkers. They are attorneys, business owners and former treasurers. Women who are educated and accomplished are now making important policy decisions that impact both American citizens and people around the world.

While it’s never good news when women drop out of the workforce, it’s absolutely crucial for women to acquire as much education as possible. And although it’s not required, a degree is absolutely essential for government leaders and representatives who impact the lives of everyday citizens around the globe.

The world needs more women leaders, which is why it’s good to see so many women returning to college and pursuing an education. Maybe we can have another “Year of the Woman” in the not-too-distant future.

Maybe in 2012?

Let’s hope so.

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