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Utah has the biggest graduate degree gender gap in the country

A person with long wavy hair is wearing a cap and gown.
Bronson Teichert

The Utah Women & Leadership Project released a new research brief on Sept. 21 concerning gender disparities within higher education in Utah.

The study was led by Dr. Sojung Lim, associate professor of sociology at Utah State University. Lim said this quantitative report is a component of a larger research project to address the lack of data regarding the gender disparity in Utah. The findings suggest unique characteristics in Utah’s community may influence womens’ pursuit of advanced degrees.

“Women have really strong motivations to pursue advanced education,” Lim said. “The question is: What’s the gap between the aspirations in planning and the reality?”

Lim was surprised to find that when asked if they considered going to graduate school, almost half of respondents said yes — yet only 9.3% of females in Utah actually obtain a graduate degree.

Dr. Emily Darowski, associate director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project, said concerns regarding financial resources and familial time commitment could be what is preventing women from investing in higher education.

“Students maybe aren’t quite understanding that they can balance graduate school and a future career with family,” Darowski said. “They need a ‘yes, and’ perspective.”

Darowski said a better understanding of the challenges women face when obtaining higher education will mitigate other areas of inequity, such as the gender wage gap, and will result in more security for women as a whole.

“They’re just going to set themselves up for greater success and greater stability throughout their life,” Darowski said.

Expansion of grants and scholarship programs, instituting childcare services for graduate students and raising awareness of resources available to these women are just a few of the study's recommendations to confront the gender gap in Utah higher education.

A long time lover of NPR and radio reporting, Clayre Scott joined UPR in August of 2021 as the producer of the weekly podcast UnDisciplined. She began reporting in 2022 and now enjoys telling stories through sound and getting weekly texts from her family after hearing her on the radio. Along with her work at UPR, Clayre is attending Utah State University to get her degree in Broadcast Journalism, with time on the side to study Political Science and Art History.