Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sexism in Higher Education

A post on Sexism in Higher Education states,
The 2010 national breakdown in the United States: for every 100 men, 142 women graduated with a bachelor's degree; 159 women completed a master's degree, and 107 women earned a doctoral degree. Trend lines indicate that the imbalance is only getting worse. Go here for details. I agree with one of the commenters to the thread. The pump that produces the inequality is primed in middle school if not before. Since I work with 7th and 8th graders, I see it with my own eyes. Boys are not socialized in a way that allows them to compete on a par with girls in a knowledge economy.

It’s part of a larger problem in which the specific contribution of men to particular niches of social ecology – the family, the workplace, church and synagogue - is not valued whereas the specific contribution of women is. There are exceptions to this rule, but that's what they are: exceptions.

Our culture no less than previous cultures is crisscrossed by routinized patterns of gender complementation. Patterns of imbalance are, according to old-school social theory, indices of social oppression. That is an oversimplification, but one thing is clear. Current trends in the socialization of boys disadvantages them in countless ways.

Feminists and anti-feminists alike continue to fight yesterday’s wars. A pox on both their houses. Neither offers even a first approach to the real issues of the generation of boys and girls I see coming through the pipeline.
An article written in Alberta provides some insight into the nature of the disparity between men and women,
According to Statistics Canada data for 2005, for full-time, full-year workers in Canada—the most common measure of the gender gap in income—women earned just 70.5 per cent of what men earned, a number which hasn’t improved since 2000. When all types of work—including part-time and other non-standard work—are looked at, women earn just 64 per cent of men’s salaries.
In part this disparity is because most employment for women continues to be concentrated in a handful of traditional sectors, with two-thirds working in teaching, nursing or other related health care fields, clerical positions or sales and service jobs in the retail sector. Meanwhile, women still hold just seven per cent of jobs in transportation, trades and construction, and just a third of all manufacturing jobs.
Women also far outnumber men in part-time jobs, with just over a quarter of women working less than 30 hours a week, compared to just one in 10 men—and one in five women say they don’t work full-time due to personal or family responsibilities, a problem made worse by a serious shortage in affordable child care spaces across the country.
In Alberta, the recent years of a red-hot economy actually widened the gender gap, says Susan Morrissey, the executive director of the Edmonton Social Planning Council.
“We looked at the earning gap between males and females over the past 30 years, and the data shows that the gap between men’s and women’s earnings for full-time and full-year employment seems to grow during economic booms. During the boom men are more likely to go into occupations like oil and gas extraction and construction, where they get paid very, very well.”
Because few women work in these occupations, income in Alberta is more unequal than in Canada as a whole, with women who worked full-year, full-time in 2006 earning just 59.3 per cent of men’s salaries, down from a peak ratio of almost 71 per cent in 1995.
Combined with the high cost of living in the province, the income disparity has had significant consequences for women in boom-time Alberta.
“Woman are still twice as likely to live in poverty as men, and that’s been consistent across the board,” Morrissey says. “In 2006, 7.3 per cent of families where the major income earner was male were living below the LICO [low income cut-off] and 16.9 per cent of families where females were the major income earner were living below LICO. So there’s still a major difference between those two.”
It seems rather clear to me that men are going after the highest paying options, and women are left to slog it out at university and still earn substantially less than men. Some may say that this is an indication of how men are "disadvantaged", but they will have to defend their choice of vocabulary rather carefully.


Kristen said...

I'm not at all surprised that more women than men are going to college-- but I don't know if it has much to do with boys not being "socialized" for college.

I think it's probably much more down-to-earth than that. For a woman, college is pretty much her only ticket out of low-payig, nowhere jobs. Without college, what is she most likely to end up as? A waitress, a nurse's assistant, a clerical assistant, a part-time day care employee, a retail clerk.

Without college, men can still be firefighters, electricians, plumbers, construction workers-- just like you said, Suzanne. Of course, men can also sling burgers or work in retail, but there are still jobs for non-college-educated men that are not low-paying, nowhere jobs. Women are still very much discouraged from trying to go into these more lucrative lines of non-college-educated work.

Dispite the fact that men are suffering in this economy largely because of downsizing of these kinds of job, the economic incentive for women to go to college still exceeds that of men. And college is expensive, and getting more expensive. Do they really need to spend all that money to get somewhere in life? For women, the answer is absolutely yes. For men, the answer is still, maybe, maybe not.

I don't really think it's about "socialization" at all. I think it's about the bottom line.

Tim Bulkeley said...

I find the statistics in both quotes shocking yet both ring true. Deep in the unspoken structures of society there are factors that make it likely that women will earn less than men.

On the other hand boys ARE socialised (both by adults and by the way they treat each other) in ways that make it less likely they will succeed at education (at any level).

We need to try to live in ways that reduce these differences. The pressures against women in the "job market" are perhaps the more difficult to deal with at all, because they are often unconscious to the perpetrators. But the factors that bend for boys away from study are also deeply rooted.

(Kristen, while I agree that "the bottom line" impacts strongly the post-school figures, boys consistently do badly at school too. Unless one believes that men are inherently stupid, a sexist view that would match and reverse one often argued in the past, then that IS another injustice that needs addressing. It is not fair that boys should be discouraged from study and deep thought.)

Sorry if I have expressed this badly, the thoughts tumble and won't organise themselves - a problem I am having at work as well, it must be age ;)

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I am not sure what to make of these statistics, except that economics are certainly responsible for keeping women in school. And boys are doing better in school now than at any time in the past, so we are not doing too badly in that dept. either.

Of course, we can always do better and teachers do spend an exorbitant amount of time trying to improve their practice.

Kristen said...

Looking at this in terms of percentages: the highest male-female gap is for the master's degree, with 61% women and 39% men. For the bachelor's degree, the percentages are 59% women, 41% men. For the doctorate, it's 52% women, 48 men.

We are hardly talking about, omigosh, twice as many women as men are finishing higher ed! Are we?