Why young women are more ambitious

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Why Young Women are More ‘Ambitious’

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Why Young Women are More ‘Ambitious’

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Young, single women in this country are, on average, out-earning and outlearning their male counterparts.

A study by Reach Advisors found that in most major cities the average median income for single, childless women between 22 and 30 was 8% higher than that of their male cohorts.

“Young women are way more educated than young men, much more likely to get degrees in the knowledge-based workforce, and more of these jobs are going to women, and that’s why the median income is higher,” says James Chung, President of Reach Advisors.

What’s behind the shift? Are young women more “ambitious” than men when it comes to school, career and getting ahead financially? 

It’s true that during grade school girls get higher marks than their male classmates. A joint study from the University of Georgia and Columbia University says this is partly thanks to better “approaches towards learning," including attentiveness in the classroom, eagerness to learn and organization, all “proper” behaviors for which teachers are rewarding their female students. But this isn't really anything new, researchers say. Girls' “attitudes towards learning were always this way,” Christopher Cornwell, head of economics in the UGA Terry College of Business and co-author of the study, told UGA Today. “It didn't show up in educational attainment like it does today because of all the factors that previously discouraged women's participation in the labor force…”

Later, those top grades pay off as college rolls around. More women than men are enrolling and graduating in higher education. In the class of 2013, women earned the majority of Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. The same is expected for this year and beyond.

When it comes to workplace goals young women are also more likely to say that pursuing a “career” is a top priority. About two-thirds of females between ages 18 and 34 rank their professional goals as a top priority, compared with 59% of young men.  

I interviewed financial adviser and therapist Bari Tessler Linden for my new book, "When She Makes More," to better understand this gender-ational gap, as I call it. “For men, the sense of urgency to discover what they are good at and be financially successful is just not there as much as it is for women,” Tessler Linden says.

Could this sense of urgency have something to do with biological clocks ticking and nudging women to get their professional and financial lives in order before taking care of children?

In the accompanying video we hear from Kathleen Gerson, sociology professor at New York University and author of "The Unfinished Revolution." She says that while both women and men think about wanting to have children and being financially ready for them, it's more top of mind for women. “Women are more aware of this, and I do think that they’re also more aware of the importance of being able to support themselves and their families, come what may, in a very unpredictable world,” she says.

For more, check out the video above.

Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance expert and author of the book, When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women (Hudson Street Press, 2014).

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