Women and Education

Educational Attainment

Among county residents aged 25 and over, 57 percent of women have at least a bachelors degree, compared to 60 percent of county men. Benchmarking, based on the most recent five-year estimates provided by the Census American Community Survey, shows the extraordinarily high level of educational attainment among women (aged 25 and over) in Montgomery County, with county women holding graduate degrees at almost triple the national rate, and six percentage points higher than the DC metro region average.
Professional women in Montgomery County are much more likely than the national average to hold jobs in management, business, and finance occupations as well as computer, engineering, and science occupations. Working women in the county are much less likely than the national average to work in a service, production, sales, or office support occupation.

Fields of Study

Historically, county men and women have specialized in different fields as measured by college degree held, but there are signs of convergence over time. Today, only 38 percent of women degree holders specialized in a science or engineer field, compared to 57 percent of their male counter parts. However, among younger professionals (25-39), the share of women who hold a degree specializing in such fields grows by 5 percentage points.

distribution of fields of study by males and females

Benchmarking: Highly Skilled and Educated Women in the Workforce

In preparation for the county's Amazon HQ2 bid, CountyStat conducted a benchmarking exercise to examine how the county's female workforce compares to other jurisdictions. The exercise used data from the Census American Community Survey Public Use Micro-Dataset for 2011-2015. The county's female workforce stands out on a number of important metrics, including:
  • Montgomery County has the 4th most female PhD's among all counties in the United States despite placing only 40th in total population. Positions first through third go to New York County (Manhattan), Middlesex County (Cambridge MA), and Los Angeles County -- each of which has at least one and a half times the population (ten times as many residents in the case of LA County).  Regionally, Montgomery County has more female PhDs than Fairfax County and the District of Columbia combined (and twice as many as either individually), with 16,831 female PhD holders.
  • Montgomery County has the highest percentage of women with a PhD among mid and large-sized counties (i.e. those with at least 150,000 residents). Four and a half percent of all women in Montgomery County who are 25 years or older have a PhD. 
  • Earnings for women in Montgomery County with a graduate or professional degree are the fourth highest in the nation among mid and large sized counties (i.e. those with at least 150,000 residents). Santa Clara and San Mateo counties in California (i.e. Silicon Valley) and Alexandria VA rank first, second, and third. By contrast, the earnings of males in the county with a graduate or professional degree rank only fourteenth on this same metric. 
  • Fourty-three percent of college-educated women in Montgomery County between the age of 25 and 39 have a science or engineering degree. This is high by national standards and places the county eighteenth among mid and large-sized counties. Montgomery County has more women working in computer, engineering, and science occupations than Fairfax County, despite having 100,000 fewer residents. 

Montgomery County Public Schools: Performance of Girls

Girls account for 85% of students in the county who attend public school between grades one through 12, the same share as for boys. Girls account for 48.5% of enrollment in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), based on 2016 enrollment figures.  
AP and IB Courses
Girls in the public school system have an Advanced Placement (AP) exam pass rate of 74 percent, slightly below the 77 percent for boys. However, girls take far more AP exams: 10,045 vs. 8,423 taken by boys. In fact, girls are 10 percentage points more likely than boys to be enrolled in at least one AP or International Baccalaureate (IB) course (see chart below).
SAT Scores

Girls and boys in Montgomery County perform roughly the same on the SAT reading section, with girls scoring an average of 546 and boys scoring an average of 543 in 2016. Girls in the county outperform boys on the math section, scoring an average of 1113 vs. an average of 1080 for boys in 2016. Math scores have decreased slightly over time. 

Evidence of Learning

Information from the Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) Data Dashboards (2017) also show that girls outperform boys in both literacy and math across grades and time, with the exception of second grade math). This data is collected by MCPS's student achievement monitoring system. A student shows "Evidence of Learning" by attaining success on at least two measurement types (classroom, district, and/or external). 

Indicators of Student Vulnerability

The MCPS At a Glace report for the 2017-2018 school year shows that girls are slightly less likely to receive free or reduced meals (FARMS) and to require English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) training (see chart below). In addition, boys account for 71 percent of students at County Special Schools and Alternative Programs.

MCPS Teachers and Staff Gender Breakdown

Women dominate the MCPS workforce, accounting for 79 percent of all MCPS professional staff and 74 percent of supporting services staff.

Dropout Rates and Disconnected Youth

Women are 40 percent less likely to drop out of high school than boys, with a drop out rate of 4.5 percent vs. 7.7 percent for boys among the class of 2017 (data from the Maryland Report Card). There were 455 boys dropping out compared to 249 girls.
Disconnected youth are defined as residents between the ages of 16-24 who are neither enrolled in school nor employed (i.e. unemployed or not looking for a job). Estimates by the Aspen Institute show that, nation-wide, 1 in 8 youth in America fall into this category. In Montgomery County, 9 percent of county residents in this age range classify as "disconnected," according to a 2017 study conducted by CountyStat and the Department of Health and Human Services using 2011-2015 US Census American Community Servey data. Women and girls account for half of all disconnected youth, with an estimated 4,800 women and girls not active in school or work. This number drops to 4,200 when excluding the 15 percent of the women and girls in this group who live with their own child and who may therefore be working as a stay-at-home mother.