July 8, 2006

The boys are about where they were 30 years ago, but the girls are just on a tear, doing much, much better."

A long detailed piece on the college gender gap:
"[Boys] have a sense of lassitude, a lack of focus," said William Pollack, director of the Centers for Men and Young Men at McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School....

"The roles have changed a lot," said Travis Rothway, a 23-year-old junior at American University, a private school where only 36 percent of last year's freshmen were male. "Men have always been the dominant figure, providing for the household, but now women have broken out of their domestic roles in society. I don't think guys' willingness to work and succeed has changed, it's more that the women have stepped up."...

[S]ome experts argue that what is being seen as a boy problem is actually maleness itself, with the noisy, energetic antsiness and high jinks of young boys now redefined as a behavior problem by teachers who do not know how to handle them....

Still, men in the work force have always done better in pay and promotions, in part because they tend to work longer hours, and have fewer career interruptions than women, who bear the children and most of the responsibility for raising them.

This is a problem we'll never see the end of. We're different. It matters. And yet we do care about about equality, both out of principle and because we need it for a happy life once we have seen the essential truth of that principle.


Dave said...

I guess the snark in me says: what are the guys complaining about? Fewer college-educated men per college-educated woman. That can't be but advantageous for men.

On a more serious note, the article seems to focus more on the issue of how many men graduate with honors relative to how many women graduate with honors. I don't know that this really proves anytihng; what matters is that one graudates with a college degree, not that one graduates summa cum laude or whatever. The vast majority of employment opportunities for which a college degree is a requirement do not turn on the GPA of the job applicant.

And, last I checked, (1) there is no shortgae of law, business, or medical students, and, (2) it matters not a whit whether the majority of said law, business, and medical students are men or women.

jimbino said...

Even if young women were equal to the male members of their cohort in work productivity, no employer with any sense, who offers benefits, would hire a woman if a man were available for the position. A woman in her 20s and 30s is likely to run up much higher bills for medical services than the man, making her a much less desirable employee. The same could be said for a young married man if the employer offers spousal benefits.

Of course, the employer is discouraged from discriminating openly, though any fines for such discrimination could be considered a reasonable cost of doing business.

The current laws prohibiting discrimination or discriminatory advertising hurt women who would be willing to take the same job as a man for less pay. They especially hurt the woman who is sterile, single or who plans not to have children. Indeed, a young woman who is sterile should freely offer that fact (and document it) at the employment interview, in order to help the employer, who is not allowed to ask, to give in to his inclination to discriminate in her favor.

The modern way out of this conundrum is for the employer to offer only only unbenefitted employment or to offer employment on a W-2 with benefits, at low pay, along with the same job on a 1099 basis with no benefits but double the pay. This allows the sick and potential baby makers to have their benefits while at the same time enabling those who just want to work to earn what they're worth instead of being forced to subsidize illness, marriage and babymaking.

Unknown said...


We are different; that difference can't be reconciled, only accomodated. Hell of a tough deal to pull off, I might add.

We're (male and female) not different species, but it often seems that way. Regardless, we Y chromosome types, find you double Xers infinitely fascinating.

The founders wisely and imperfectly argued that equality is essentially a political idea. And a pretty good one.

Vive la differance.

HaloJonesFan said...

And the article is right in line with Althouse's Law of Gender Disparity Studies. Men: Lazy pukes who haven't evolved in thirty years. Women: Hard-charging go-getters who've pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps.

FXKLM said...

Here's my favorite line from the article:

At Harvard, 55 percent of the women graduated with honors this spring, compared with barely half the men.

Why would you give a specific percentage for the women and then say "barely half" for the men expecting us to compare the two? Fifty-five percent sounds a lot like "barely half" to me. Is it 51% for men? 52%? 53%? Whatever it is, the disparity is miniscule and that would have been obvious if the author had expressed both numbers as percentages.

Aside from Harvard, the article focuses on a handfull of statistics from a few schools that few people have heard of. Are those representative schools that were chosen at random or are they outliers that overstate the author's argument?

Seven Machos said...

I couldn't get through the article without skipping around. It seemed kind of gloaty (women are better in school and men are lazy pukes, Ha!), angry (that women aren't getting all the plum jobs), and scared (that women might lose their position in the affirmative action pantheon if this grades thing keeps up).

In high school and college, my guess is that males are a little bored with the slight feminization of the coursework (more day-to-day work, less competition). This is a generalization. But the whole idea of comparing genders is a generalization.

Professionally, I contend that the whole salary thing can be explained by babies. Women birth them, which means women make different career choices. As a society, we have to be exceptionally careful not to circularly institutionalize the choices that many women make (by, e.g., paying women less because most women make choices that lead to less pay relative to men of their status). At the same time, you can't plan Person A if Person B decides to take a different career path.

Anecdotally, I have a large number of female friends from law school who, of course, are all now well-paid professionals. They all did well in law school. Many went to blue-chip firms. Now, many have taken less stressful jobs that pay a little less and have fewer billable hours. They won't end up as Masters of the Universe as a result, though they will live very well.

Finally, is it really a social problem what's happening to people at Harvard? They are all going to do just fine. This is, in many ways, elitist navel gazing.

Jacob said...

Kevin Drum has the answer: vidja games.

carly said...

School--yes, even college--is about following rules and producing what's expected by the teacher. Work (life) is about finding ways to succeed (profit). Girls are always going to be more obedient and willing to do what's necessary (however meaningless it may be) to get recognition and good grades.

At Harvard, by the way, getting honors these days requires that one write a thesis during senior year. This is time consuming and what's produced is often rather silly (especially in some disciplines). Lots of people opt out of the thesis and use the time to do other things--some of which are much better preparation for the "real" world than banging out 50 pages of prof-pleasing verbiage. And as a result of this system, many students with stellar GPA's wind up graduating with no honors while those who write theses emerge cum laude with overall averages as low as 3.3. This is Harvard's newest plan for "dealing" with grade/honors inflation.

SippicanCottage said...
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Aspasia M. said...

I mean, really --Madden Football! It's the eighth sacrament and the fifth book of the Bible all wrapped up in one. There' s just no way to have a dialog with people like that.



You'll be ok! I promise!

I thought that was hilarious - no more dating men who spend too much time playing video games.

In college the game Civilization came out. Mr. Geo and I got addicted. Oh, it was bad.

I know several people who, out of necessity, had to delete that game, more then once form their computer. It's the devil!!!


I really don't think it's going to fly to not offer medical benefits to pregnant woman workers or the pregnant wives of workers.

I mean - 1) that's not going to go over well for a husband to be told he can't cover his pregnant wife with his health care.

and 2) It's a non-starter to suggest that pregnancy should not be covered as a medical need. I mean - think about the implications for society here. (Parents need medical coverage for themselves & their children & any non-working adult members of the family.)

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Freeman Hunt said...

At Harvard, 55 percent of the women graduated with honors this spring, compared with barely half the men.

How much of an honor can it really be when over half of the people are getting it?


Jim said:
"A woman in her 20s and 30s is likely to run up much higher bills for medical services than the man, making her a much less desirable employee."

Jim, I have billed in the neighborhood of 2400 hours for my law firm in the past year, while some of my male colleagues have billed much less. I am also having a baby in 6 weeks, meaning I will not be productive for approximately 12 weeks after the birth, but I intend to come back full time after having my child. Does the medical cost of my having a baby really make me a less desirable employee, when I am also more productive? Heck, let's even include my lost productivity while on maternity leave. That might pull me even with my less hard-working male colleagues. However, over the long run, since my lost productivity is temporary, but my ability to continue to bill at the higher rate will presumably return, unless those men step up, I'm a better investment for my employer.

I'm not sure what your comment had to do with the gender gap in college, unless it was to imply that it makes more sense for employers to hire men even if they are less qualified than women, because of the biological necessity of a woman having to bear the children. I'm reasonably sure that my own example above demonstrates that is not the case.

I think old dad has it exactly right- we can only accomodate the differences, and that's a tough job, but I think it is a worthwhile endeavor.

amba said...

There's some weird double-switching going on in that article.

On the one hand, women are more ambitious and more disciplined and are working so hard and getting good grades.

But there's still that sly punch-line male superiority. No matter how hard the girls work, and how much the boys kick back, they still make more money after college.

It sounds like studying hard has become a goody-goody "girl thing," and that's one reason why cool boys now shun it --rather the way some black kids consider studying hard "a white thing." Rather than feel their masculinity is impugned by girls being better at school, men have just moved on to more anarchic, man-like forms of one-upmanship, like using their physical strength to make money in construction.

Good for them.

37383938393839383938383 said...

This whole "girls getting better grades" thing annoys me. It isn't as if grades accurately reflect anything but gaming the grading system. Where 10% of your grade is class participation (read: showing up early and answering the easiest questions); and another 5%-10% is attendance (just showing up); and professors slash off points late-filed assignments (or refuse to give partial credit), then it is pretty easy to note that a consistenyl punctual, ass-kissing rote-memorizer without any true understanding of the material can get a baseline of around 25 points higher than the other less anal students. All it takes is a B-minus mind to get an A in such a grading system. So I'm not sure why pointing to a proliferation of A's on someone's transcript is proof of intelligence or knowledge; it may just be proof of meticulous puntcuality, ass-kissing, and rote-memorization. We have all met these kind of people, both male and female. They suck. No one likes them. They are not deserving of praise.

And people also seem to ignore that there is massive cheating throughout the American college system, there is grade inflation all over the place, and college students exit college without basic understanding of math or history...so what exactly are all these As worth, anyway? The gender disparity in and of itself tells us nothing except that girls value having nice GPAs more than boys do; this is not a surprise: if I planned on dropping out of the labor market in 5 years to have a kid, I would want to maximize my earnings potential before I did so also. I mean, duh.

Kev said...

"I thought that was hilarious - no more dating men who spend too much time playing video games."

After my sister and now-brother-in-law went on their first date, one of the things that endeared her most to him was that she could beat him in video games.

"I am also having a baby in 6 weeks, meaning I will not be productive for approximately 12 weeks after the birth, but I intend to come back full time after having my child."

Will this be your first baby, Lady Lawyer? I was always surprised at how quickly and totally my sister took to motherhood after she had her first. She went from bigtime career woman to "nobody else will raise my child" in a matter of mere weeks.