Why women should pursue higher education

As a young woman, I was encouraged to pursue a higher education. To me, this always meant a master's degree. My mom has a master's degree, and I was bound and determined to follow in her steps and be just as educated. To others, this may mean a bachelor's, a technical degree, or a certification.

First, I believe that fathers preside over the home and are "responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families" (The Family: A Proclamation to the World). So as a younger gal, I often heard that I should pursue education so that I could enter the workforce should any of the following occur:
I do know that these situations occur and it is wise to prepare for the future. I also know that women are almost always required to work in such situations (especially the last one). 

However, I think we do ourselves a disservice when we tout education as something that should be achieved "Just in case you ever have to actually use your brain in the workplace."

My MBA graduation picture. Woot woot.
I think many women, myself included, subscribe to a different way of thinking about education. As I approach the last two weeks of my graduate degree (MBA), I have had a lot of time for reflection on why I decided to pursue a higher education, what I have gained from it, and what I hope to do with it moving forward.

Among other reasons, I pursued a higher education to:
I know that a higher education does not automatically mean all of those things will be accomplished, nor that it is the only way they can be accomplished. I know many wonderful women who never pursued higher education but pursue learning in other ways. And many others pursue education for different reasons. I am not suggesting these must be the reasons all women pursue education and that they should follow my path. But they are my reasons and this is my path.

I am currently in a career. I am seeking to move forward. I am working to be the best I can be in my employment. However, it is in my plans that, at some point in my life, I will marry and begin a family. As much as I like attention and advancement and achievements at work, I know there is nothing more valuable to me and, really, to society, than helping build a strong family. This may be far removed from the popular culture of women today. I am all for women in the workplace and believe they deserve more representation and opportunities for growth. I am all for equal pay for equal work. And while I am in the business world, I intend to do as much as I can to help my fellow women build themselves in their careers. But when the time comes to be a mother, I want to be a mother, no matter how hard it will be to give up the world's accolades. And I wish more women would do the same.

So why bother with a higher education, then?

Back to my points:

Expand my intelligence and my understanding of the world
"Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come" (Doctrine and Covenants 130:18-19).
So, the more we gain in this life, the better off we will be in the world to come. But not just in the next life. It can be valuable now! "Education is an investment that brings great rewards and will open the doors of opportunity" (Education, For the Strength of Youth). "For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:40). (I could go on!) My education blesses my life every day and my love for learning engenders a certain sense of adventure I cannot find elsewhere.

Side note: Call me strange, but I read a lot of Mommy blogs. And the number one thing I hear is the discouragement from mothers about feeling fulfilled in their motherhood. The number one solution I hear: education. Repeatedly, I read advice about encouraging mothers to expand their knowledge, to read good literature, to watch good media, to continue to learn. A higher education not only sets the stage for this learning, but it encourages a lifelong pattern of learning. I hope to continue my learning forever by finding opportunities in and outside the home.

Better provide for myself in a career
I am currently single and I don't know when that status will change. But, I am not working to "pass the time" or just to "pay the bills". While I am where I am, I will do the best that I can do with the situation I have been given. And I actually love what I do. I can feel the importance of my contributions to the world. My education has allowed me far more opportunities than I could have imagined. And I'm so glad I didn't hold myself back from pursuing something that would benefit my career because of the uncertainty of when/if I would marry or how I would pay off student loans or what path I should pursue with my life.

My education has allowed me to supervise people and projects that benefit thousands, perhaps even millions of lives. And I know, as well, that I have followed a path pleasing to God. He needed me to pursue an education that would help me get to where I am. And I am grateful I listened when He asked me to seek a higher education, even if it seemed like it was not leading me to the exact future I had envisioned for myself.

Set an example for my future children

Both of my parents have college degrees and, as mentioned, my mother has a master's degree. The mere accomplishment of a degree encouraged me to seek for the same. And I knew it might require sacrifice. My mom had finished her master's coursework before she met my dad but had put her thesis on hold.When my parents married, my dad encouraged her to finish because he knew she needed it and he knew what it would mean for our family. My dad found a job near the university which allowed my mom to start working on her thesis again. Dad spent every night watching their new baby (my brother) for many hours as my mom worked on her thesis. It meant living in a tiny apartment and never having enough. But they did it. And I don't think I will ever be able to express to my mom and dad what that sacrifice taught me about the importance of education.

Be a better mother someday and an "help meet" to my husband

I want my children to be happy and successful. I want our home to be well-run. Surely, you can see the value in an economics class when trying to balance the supply and demand of Cinnamon Toast Crunch in a family. You can see the importance of managing finances well and protecting investments when you're planning vacations, education, missions and necessities for your kids. You can see the value of management and leadership as you learn to value children as your most important asset. You can see the value of supply chain management and queues when trying to get 6 kids out the door before 8 am every morning. Critical thinking skills, good writing, and creativity come in handy when working on science fair projects, research papers, and statistical analyses.

Now, I'm not trying to make anything up here. I plan to use these skills to manage a home. Many of the same principles that make businesses successful can also make a home and a family successful. And to be an "help meet" for my husband, I fully intend to support him in his career. This may require consulting on business propositions. This may require helping him expand his opportunities and knowing what he can do to move forward. I intend to run this game of life together with my husband and share our political views and our favorite articles in the latest edition of Scientific American and what we personally gained from our latest scripture study. While I expand my mind, I plan to expand his mind as well and in turn bless the whole family with light and knowledge and truth. Lofty? Of course! It's not really a good goal if it can be obtained easily, right?

My parents' love of continuous learning built a family that has lively conversations about politics and processes and science and job improvement over the dinner table. It has built a family that sees value in knowing all there is to know about the world. It built a family that embraces learning about other cultures and countries. It is what I hope for my family.

Contribute meaningfully in the community and Church

The more that you know, the more you can give. In my undergraduate years, I read a highly influential book called Learning in the Light of Faith, a series of speeches on disciple-scholarship, edited by Henry B. Eyring. In that book, Elder Neal A. Maxwell wrote, "For a disciple of Jesus Christ, academic scholarship is a form of worship. It is actually another dimension of consecration. Hence one who seeks to be a disciple-scholar will take both scholarship and discipleship seriously; and, likewise, gospel covenants."

My learning is consecrated to God. As I learn, I am better prepared to serve God and be ever more like Him. What I gain comes from Him and therefore I have decided to give it all to Him as well. When I decided to go to grad school, I received a very strong impression that this opportunity to grow would prove to be a blessing in my callings and service as a member of the Church for the rest of my life. I intend to give all that I have been given, to bless others' lives with the knowledge I have gained, and to continue to "seek learning, even by study and also by faith" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118).
"You can include in the dream of the woman you would like to be a picture of one qualified to serve society and make a significant contribution to the world of which she will be a part."-Gordon B. Hinckley, How Can I Become the Woman of whom I Dream? 

Some awesome articles about women and education:

Mary N. Cook, Seek Learning: You Have a Work to Do
Empowering LDS Women: Pursuing a Formal Education: Benefits and Barriers for Women

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