Well, maybe you should take a closer look at where they completed their undergraduate degree. If your shop is filled with women who graduated from Yale, Princeton, Amherst, Williams, Wellesley, and the like, you're pursuing the type who won't stick around. According to a newly released study, women who go to elite colleges are more likely to drop out of the workforce once they get married and have kids.
That's the finding of Joni Hersch, a professor of law and economics at Vanderbilt University, who analyzed the job histories of 100,000 female college graduates. Here are some key points from her research:
- Female graduates of top colleges marry later, are more likely to have graduate degrees, and have higher earning potential.
- But when these grads have children, they show "substantially lower" activity in the labor market than their sisters who attended less selective institutions.
- Only 68 percent of married moms who went to the most selective colleges were employed, compared to 76 percent of those who went to less selective institutions.
- The largest gap occurred among mothers with MBAs: Those with bachelor's degrees from the most selective schools were 30 percent less likely to be employed full-time than those who graduated from lower-ranked schools.
Obviously, it's not an optimum use of resources when the best-educated women are the ones most likely to throw in the towel. What's going on? Hersch offers some theories about the women who go to elite schools:
- They come from wealthier families in the first place. So working to pay off debt is less of a factor.
- They are marrying men with similar education who have high earning potential. (Remember: Don't leave school without a hubby!)
- They come from a culture and class where going to a select college is a given, while those who attend more pedestrian colleges are motivated by employment prospects.
What all this points to, writes Hersch, is that it's not just the dearth of family-friendly policies that's driving highly educated women out the workforce:
Many observers conclude that women are pushed out by inflexible jobs. . . . But this hypothesis does not explain why labor market activity differs between graduates of elite and nonelite schools.The study doesn't say so explicitly, but it suggests that superbly educated women are dropping out because they can. Maybe they'd rather spend their days going to the museum, lunching at cozy bistros, attending charity events, and running their kids' school auctions. And let's face it: Marrying well can be a far more pleasant job than slaving away in a high-powered salt mine.
So what's the lesson for employers? Avoid those gals with the fancy academic credentials and go straight for the ones who waitressed their way through Fresno State?
Hat tip: Glass Hammer
Photo: Vassar College students, 1957, Vogue.
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