We know that unconscious bias plagues women in the workplace — but we hear less about how it affects young children. This week, though, a Wall Street Journal report revealed some disturbing news: two recent financial-industry polls suggest that families save more for boys’ college education than they do for girls.
One study by T. Rowe Price from earlier this year looked at households with all boys and homes with all girls. Fifty percent of the boy-only families had money saved for college, where just 39 percent of girl-only households had money saved. Boy-only families also contributed to their children’s college savings more frequently than girl-only households.
A separate study by LendEDU found that while 10 percent of men had their higher education paid for by their parents, only 6 percent of women said their parents paid for a majority of college. 50 percent of women said their parents paid for none of their education.
“Parents should give a good hard look and make sure they are treating their children fairly and recognizing the potential of both their boys and their girls,” Roger Young, a senior financial planner at T. Rowe Price said to The Wall Street Journal. “We certainly see in society more broadly there are gaps between incomes of men and women.”
While women have a greater likelihood of going to (and graduating from) college, the way parents prepare for their education has a significant impact on a student’s financial life. A recent analysis by the American Association of University Women found that women typically have larger student loans than men.
“The struggles of college graduates with student debt can be significant,” the AAUW study reads. “Women — especially women of color — are most likely to experience difficulties: 34 percent of all women and 57 percent of black women who were repaying student loans reported that they had been unable to meet essential expenses within the past year.”
Because of the gender pay gap, women tend to pay back these debts slower than their male counterparts. Saving for higher education as soon as possible, even if it starts with miniscule amounts, can greatly impact women’s educational and professional futures.
Educational consultant Steven Roy Goodman says that parents’ expectations of their children can both consciously and unconsciously affect how they prepare for their child’s future.
“There is really no way to say this subtly: the parents had different life expectations for their sons and daughters.’ Goodman told The Wall Street Journal, referencing a specific client. “They perceived that the young women were not going to have 40-year-careers in the ways they expected their sons to have.”
Shereem Herndon-Brown, a former college admissions director and founder of Strategic Admissions Advice LLC, has witnessed a similar trend. He told The Wall Street Journal that he has seen parents push their daughters to lower-cost schools because they don’t believe she’ll recoup the costs of her investment.
“I don’t think parents are going to admit to their 18-year-old daughter that they don’t want to pay as much for her education because they are thinking 10 years down the road to her wedding,” Brown said. “It’s an unfortunate reality.”
Despite the persisting bias and whatever reasoning is behind it, parents need to recognize that their college savings decisions have long-term effects on their children’s lives. Girls need just as much financial support as boys, especially when it comes to preparing for the future.