On Sunday, Keli Goff published a piece in the Guardian where she argues that female Ivy League graduates have a duty to stay in the workforce. She asks: "[D]o the best-educated women in America have a responsibility to use the tools they acquire at top educational institutions to stay in the workplace and shatter glass ceilings?" Goff's answer? Yes.
Now I have a few questions.
1. How are you defining "staying in the workforce?"
There is a clear difference between taking time out of the workplace to bear and raise children before going back at a later time and making the decision not to work at all. I personally think both choices are equally admirable regardless of what stamp is on your diploma -- or if you have a diploma at all. But to say that a woman who does not participate in the professional world for a few years of her entire life is "wasting" her degree seems very harsh. And even if you're financially able at 22 to decide not to work, only you can know if you're "wasting" your degree.
2. How are you supposed to know exactly what you want to do with your degree before college?
Because I know I didn't. Research has shown that many students go into college undecided on their major, and an estimated 50 percent either major in a subject they hadn't planned to or switch their major during college. Goff claims that "the next frontier of the admissions should revolve around asking people to declare what they actually plan to do with their degrees." When it comes to liberal arts degrees, we all know a major doesn't always line up nicely with a future career. Would anyone have guessed that I'd use my cultural anthropology degree to work in online media?
3. Why does your college degree have to be for the greater good?
Goff bemoans the tragedy that is an Ivy League graduate deciding to stay home with her kids, claiming: "[That] degree could have gone to a woman who does want to spend her entire life using it to advance the cause of women -- or others in need of advancement -- not simply advancing the lives of her own family at home, which is a noble cause, but not one requiring an elite degree." So any 18-year-old who thinks she might want to have kids and stay at home with them should just give up the ghost after going to high school and disregard further education entirely, because the experiences and learning she might get at college are completely irrelevant, am I right?
I think what any individual chooses to do with her degree is her own business. I personally went to college to learn, shocking as that might sound, and have no idea where life might take me next. I do think that we should strive to lead mindful lives and to do good things for other people. But I do not think having a certain name on your diploma means you have a specific "duty" to society at large beyond what we expect in terms of human decency. Yes, people who went to good schools should be grateful for the opportunities they were offered -- but so, I think, should anyone lucky enough to pursue higher education. And more people are going to college than ever before. 63 percent of U.S. high school graduates have completed some college work, and a 2010 Gallup poll showed that three-quarters of Americans consider higher education "very important."
4. Should non-Ivy League women doing important things in the workplace just give up and go home?
Do their "lesser" degrees mean they aren't doing as much for the good of women? Do they not have the same "duty?" Maybe those pesky non-Ivy Leaguers like Nancy Pelosi and America's first self-made female billionaire, Sara Blakely, should just quit now.
5. Are you saying that a woman's value is only linked to how "useful" she is to society as a whole and the advancement of other women?
Because it really sounds like it, and that's a shame.
What do you think about this topic? Tweet us @HuffPostWomen, or sound off in the comments below!
ALSO ON HUFFPOST WOMEN: