Higher Education of Women in Iran: Progress or Problem?



Abstract Many scholars believe that investment in women’s education not only reduces the gender gap, but also improves and enhances the cultural and educational level of women in the society. Furthermore, economists believe that women’s education has a positive effect on their participation in the labor market.
Education is amongst the most important factors which not only benefits the people who receive it, but also has different advantages for the society as a whole. Although some of these advantages such as the social output of education is not measurable by monetary quantities and cannot be included in financial accountings, it is wise for societies to invest on education, and the role of governments in this area is vital.
In Iran, in the last two decades, girls’ entrees into the universities have had a growing trend. The percentage of girls’ entrance into the universities and institutes during the academic year 2007-2008 exceeded 60 percent. One of the obstacles that educated women in Iran face is unemployment. High unemployment rate reveals that in recent decades, due to the lack of labor market flexibility, the needs of manpower in the country have not been met. Research based on state statistics reveals that the rate of unemployment among educated women has had a seven fold increase; the highest increase during last decade from 3 percent in 1997 to 21 percent in 2002.
This article deals with the presence of women in higher education and discusses the positive and negative consequences of this increase. Moreover, it deals with the problems of female graduates in the labor market, and the necessity of change in higher education planning to meet their needs in the labor market and remove the obstacles.