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Published: Thursday, 8/27/2009

Ohio lags in women with 4-year degrees


COLUMBUS - Women are less likely to serve in the Statehouse and pursue college degrees in Ohio than they are in many other states, according to a report released yesterday.

The report by Ohio State University's Institute on Women, Gender and Public Policy found that Ohio ranks 39th among the states for the percentage of women with four or more years of college.

The findings were presented yesterday during a Women's Equality Day celebration on the 89th anniversary of the passage of women's suffrage.

"Can't we make Ohio a better place to live for women and girls?" said Julie Graber, the institute's senior associate for strategic planning. "[The numbers are] evidence that barriers still exist."

The report used 2007 U.S. census data to make comparisons between states and genders.

While 26.8 percent of women nationwide 25 years and older had four or more years of college according to 2007 data, the same was only true for 23.3 percent of Ohio women 25 and older. For men in Ohio, the percentage of those with a bachelor's degree or higher is 25 percent.

Ohio also lags in the percentage of state legislative seats held by women, ranking 33rd among the states. The number peaked at 24 percent in the 1990s but then dropped to almost 16 percent in 2007.

Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, one of two female statewide officeholders, would be the first woman U.S. senator in Ohio's history if she is elected next year. Ms. Brunner said three reasons explain why women aren't as involved in running for politics as they should be: concerns about family obligations, doubts about their qualifications, and lack of encouragement by others to run for office.

Women still fall considerably behind men in earnings power overall. Men earned an average of $44,443 in full-time jobs in the last year, while women working full-time earned $32,853.

In 2007, 2 percent of women working full-time in Ohio earned $100,000 or more, compared to 7 percent of men.

About 58 percent of female-headed households with children under 5 years old are living in poverty, Ms. Graber said.

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