According to an analysis done by Pew Research center on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, university educated women now outweigh the number of university educated men for the first time in  U.S. history.

The research done finds that 29.5 million women in the workforce had at least bachelors degrees while the number for men was 29.3 million, putting women in a slight lead.

This comes after women in the U.S. had long time surpassed men in a sense that they had been in the lead with obtaining college and university education.

The study reports that by 2007, there had already been more women graduates who had bachelor degrees than men.

According to Courthouse news, senior researcher at Pew Richard Fry says that he foresees educated women will progress even further than educated men by the end of 2019, taking up more roles in the labour force.

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This achievement, according to the research, is a milestone for women who will reach higher earning potentials because they are educated, unlike women in the workforce who do not have college or university education.

The wage difference according to the research is approximately $15 600 (about R225 000) a year, with educated women getting paid $51 600 (about R743 000) a year, while women who did not receive a college education earn about $36 000 (about R447 000).

There is a vast difference.

While the news of there being more college-educated women in the labour force than ever before is refreshing, the research also came with many questions. One of which is that why, after so many years, have educated women only just became equal with their male counterparts?

According to this study, The Gender Gap in Employment, the way society has assigned gender roles has a lot to do with this.

READ MORE: Stats reveal that women are more likely to be involved in unpaid work than men

The result of stereotypes such as "a woman's place s in the kitchen" and "building is for men" have meant that a very small number of women were actively part of the workforce.

"Gender roles and the pressures to conform to these roles for women vary across regions, religions and households. One way the pressure to conform manifests itself is through marital status.

"For instance, in developed and emerging economies, women who have a spouse or a partner are less likely to be employed in a paid job or be actively looking for one," the authors of the study wrote.

When we take a look at South Africa's woman-to-man workforce participation ratio, this becomes increasingly true about the world's labour force stats.

According to Stats SA, the South African labour market is "more favourable" to men than it is to women, reporting that women accounted for only about 43.8% of the workforce by the end of 2018.

It also reported that graduates were among the most vulnerable after the first quarter of of 2019 saw an increase in unemployed graduates who are between the ages of 19-24.

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"The youth aged 15–24 years are the most vulnerable in the South African labour market as the unemployment rate among this age group was 55,2% in the 1st quarter of 2019. Among graduates in this age group, the unemployment rate was 31,0% during this period compared to 19,5% in the 4th quarter of 2018 – an increase of 11,4 percentage points quarter-on-quarter.

"However, the graduate unemployment rate is still lower than the rate among those with other educational levels, meaning that education is still the key to these young people’s prospects improving in the South African labour market," reports Stats SA.

While the questions that arrive with the Pew study leaves a bittersweet taste in ones mouth and the South African employment stats leave a lot to be desired, we welcome any good news and strides toward pushing women toward their full potential.

Now we're keeping fingers crossed and pushing SA to reach a similar or even greater milestone.

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