While visiting colleges and universities, we found that the professional education of women, while contributing to pressure for employment, adds expertise to the work force and represents a major force for social change. The number of women graduating from Iran’s universities now exceeds the number of men. For instance, 20 of the 25 graduate students in Islamic Azad University’s spring 2006 environmental management seminar were women. In the university’s applied physics department, 70 percent of the 2006 graduates were women. An American medical scientist visiting Tehran told us that in academic settings she had observed equality between male and female researchers. “No distinctions are made around the Petri dish,” she remarked.
A nurse who had just finished a night shift insisted, “I will choose a person as a husband who lets me work because I love my job.” This sentiment is heard despite the fact that in Iran a woman needs her husband’s permission to work and it is difficult for a single woman to rent an apartment. Working mothers are a growing phenomenon, with the result that husbands are sharing the workload at home for the first time. Professional women lack access to management positions, however, and earn less than a third of the income of their male counterparts.