After College: Women's Work

Do young women who graduate from college get a raw deal in the business world?

Well, the American Association of University Women found that men who are just a year out of college make 20% more than their female peers. And guess what? The women never catch up.

As a group, women college students earn higher grades and participate more actively on campuses than the guys. Lots of other research shows this. Yet employers tend to fall over the graduates with the Y chromosome.

What gives?

That’s exactly the question that Hannah Seligson, a 20something asked when she embarked on writing a book, New Girl on the Job: Advice from the Trenches.

Seligson, who wrote about her post-college job odyssey in a story in The New York Times yesterday, concludes that the experience young women face in the working world can be blamed partly on sexism. Yet she also believes that young women don’t do as good a job as the men in cultivating real world skills that will get them promotions and raises.

Reading the story reminded me of my own experience when I graduated from the University of Missouri. I had never experienced sexism at Mizzou and I certainly hadn’t at my all-girls’ high school.

I was hardly prepared then for what I encountered at the newsroom of the Memphis Press-Scimitar (now defunct) just a couple of weeks after graduating from college. While several young new hires arrived with me, I was the sole woman.

Consequently, I was the only new reporter who was expected to write the newspaper’s obituaries. When the weeks went by and none of the other new reporters were assigned to this task — the obit writer was expected to show up for work at 5:30 a.m. — I discretely started asking people why I was stuck on obits?

The answer I received was stunning: Writing obits is strictly women’s work.

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