04/14/2014 12:14 pm ET Updated Jun 14, 2014

The New Gender Gap: It's Not What You Might Expect

It's not news -- there are more men than women in top leadership positions in the workplace. For decades, women were underrepresented in American universities and the U.S. is still working to find more balance in its workforce. But could the status quo be flipped on its head in our lifetime?

According to Junior Achievement's (JA) and The Allstate Foundation's new Teens & Personal Finance Survey, it's definitely possible. The data seem to rattle the status quo in some surprising ways. Of the teens we surveyed who are in high school (ages 13-18), 91 percent of girls plan to attend college -- a promising statistic, but not necessarily shocking. What's more interesting -- and perhaps worrisome -- is that fewer (86 percent) of their male counterparts agree.

At first glance, this might seem like boys are being more realistic about the challenges associated with college acceptance, graduation and funding, but that is not the case either. For teen boys ages 13-18 planning to go to college, only 66 percent plan to pay with scholarships/grants and only 30 percent would consider staying in-state to reduce tuition costs. On the other hand, 79 percent of girls are on the hunt for scholarships and grants, and 40 percent would consider staying in-state to save money. Perhaps most surprising of all: despite fewer boys expressing interest in higher education, more boys than girls expect to make $35,000 or more annually at their first job.

As an organization that strives to empower all young people to own their economic success, we need to do what we can to eliminate the gender gap in financial education and beyond. Junior Achievement programs, which start in kindergarten and continue through high school, have an escalating curriculum that builds upon previous concepts. Younger students learn to prioritize wants and needs and then learn how to create and use a budget. As a JA alumnus, I know firsthand the power such knowledge can have. It inspires young people to strive to be more than they thought they could be and it teaches them what they'll need to get there.

Parents, teachers, volunteers, and loved ones: we all have to make a concerted effort to guarantee every student understands both the opportunities and the challenges that lay ahead. Every young person should be equipped with the skills and knowledge to pursue his or her brightest possible future.

Learn more about Junior Achievement programs at