Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Lately I've been seeing a lot of studies showing that women are beating out men nowadays in the academic world. Women are attending college in higher numbers than men. In high school exit exams across the nation, girls are outperforming boys almost uniformly.

I want to explore something else that you might not have thought of, though, because if women are now outnumbering men in academic settings, then why has the glass ceiling not yet been shattered? Hell, why is there not now a glass ceiling in place for MEN below WOMEN?

Unfortunately, this has a lot to do with the KIND of things each gender is going to school for (or for those who don't go to college, which professions each gender ends up holding ultimately), and a lot less to do with who's actually going to school.

A 1994 study published in economic journal Contemporary Economic Policy was arguably one of the first studies of its kind on this issue: the study examined major choice as a function of wages. It turns out that women predominately major in tings that will bring them more pleasure in life but that are usually less profitable: education, fine arts and the social sciences tend to be areas laden with lots of female alums. On the other hand, as far as men are concerned, we tend to gravitate toward majors that will enable us to make more money and have a better living in the future: business majors and hard sciences are two shining examples.

So to what can we attribute this division? The old adage that women are right-brained and men left (or is that the other way around? haha) really isn't true, because everyday there are increases in the number of women found in high-profile business and science sector jobs.

I would say my only reasonable conjecture is to go back to the Parsons argument: the expressive (women) versus the instrumental (men). It seems to me that women tend more to use college as a tool for better themselves and for learning more in general. Men, who are classically instrumental, see college as just that, an instrument for them to use to go on to better employment, to in turn provide for themselves and their families.

Anyway, that's enough dime-store psychology for today.


Katie Colip said...

I think that something else to examine would be WHY the jobs that men tend to seek make more money than those women tend to seek. What does it say about our society that we value, at least in terms of monetary compensation, a high powered executive more than a teacher?

rorye said...

While your theories are interesting, I don't think the "women do things they like v. men do things to bring home the bacon" theory really stands so much anymore. I think that, just like racism and homophobia, sexism is still alive and thriving in America. The only way I see for all of us to break through is to just keep working our asses off and make good examples of ourselves until we can overcome the things that weighs us down.

rorye said...

Weigh us down.

Taylor said...

yeah, i had heard that women are becoming more educated than men before, and i wondered the exact same thing. you bring up a good argument (that women tend to go for passion opposed to possible monetary gain), but that leaves me wondering about women who have passion for the subjects that have higher monetary gain. are those women still making less than their male counterparts? or is the trend indeed shifting?

Anonymous said...

I am kind of curious as to why there are more women attending college than men. Is it due to the fact that most "men" oriented jobs deal more with on-the-job training such as being a car mechanic, are they more willing to take the factory positions that do not require a college degree, or are women just going for the jobs that require a college degree?

Carmen said...

As garfieldbkwrm notes, there are some theories that attribute the higher percentages of women in college to the fact that men can get jobs that pay a decent wage without having to earn a college degree. For many women, this is impossible. I used this article from Ms. (Fall 2005) to discuss this in my class several years ago. The stats are a bit dated, but the theories are pretty much applicable.

Sorry for the ugly cut-n-paste.

It explains it better than I can in a small space.

Anonymous said...

What the...?! The writing section of the SAT was added just to level the gender playing field?! That better not be the only reason, dang it, because I had to take that stupid essay and hated it. In no way, shape, or form did it help me. If one wants to even the gender playing field, then just make the questions more gender neutral. Don't add something that doesn't really benefit anyone (in my personal opinion). Okay, I'm done ranting.
The article is very interesting (definitely suggest reading it), and the statistics a small surprise. Even if the numbers are dated, I thought there was a larger difference between the numbers. I can understand if there was a 30% difference between them, but a 15% difference? Is that number something to be really freaking out over when it deals with college? I don't think so.
Thanks for the link, Carmen.