Carpe Diem

Only when women are overrepresented on every educational metric will we have reached the goal of ‘full gender equity’?

In a “Data Snapshot” published last June, the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education “highlights several differences in educational outcomes between males and females from prekindergarten,” including these:

1. 57% of students in postsecondary education are women.

2. Girls enrolled in gifted and talented education programs outnumber boys enrolled, e.g., 8.1% of girls participated in gifted and talented education programs in 2009 compared to 7.4% of boys.

3. By a large margin, girls are much less likely than boys to be held back one year.  In 2009-2010 across all grade levels, 61% of the students held back for academic reasons were boys and only 39% were girls.

4. A greater percentage of girls in 7th or 8th grade (20%) are taking Algebra I compared to boys (18%), and girls of every race/ethnicity are passing Algebra I at a higher rate than their male peers.

5. High school girls are evenly represented in biology and outnumber boys in chemistry, but are underrepresented in physics.

6. Girls are equitably represented in rigorous high school math courses.

7. Girls outnumber boys in enrollment in AP science, AP foreign languages, and several other AP subjects. In AP mathematics (calculus and statistics), however, boys have consistently outnumbered girls by up to 10,000 students (about 215,000 girls vs. 225,000 boys).

8. For “Postsecondary Female Enrollment by Career Cluster,” women are over-represented in “Education and Training” (77.7%), “Health Science” (81.6%) and Marketing and Sales (60.7%).  Women are under-represented in “Information Technology” (27.1%) and STEM (23.9%).

9. In 2009-10, females represented 62% of students receiving an associate’s degree, 57.4% of students receiving a bachelor’s degree, 62.6% of students receiving a master’s degree, and 53.3% of students receiving a doctorate degree.

10. Between 2000-01 and 2008-09, the number of degrees and certificates awarded in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields to women at degree-granting institutions increased by 5.9 percent. However, in 2008-09, 31.0% of the degrees and certificates in STEM fields were earned by women.

MP: Based on the data and outcomes above, you would think that girls are doing amazingly well throughout all levels of education, from prekindergarten to the doctoral level, compared to boys, right? Further, wouldn’t you think the data show that boys are falling behind by several measures and might need some special attention? For example, shouldn’t we be concerned that 156 boys are being held back for every 100 girls across all grade levels? And that boys are underrepresented in gifted and talented programs? And that men are significantly underrepresented in higher education by a ratio of 133 female students for every 100 male students?

According to the Department of Education, their main concern seems to be limited to one of the only remaining areas in education where men actually outnumber women (in a positive way) - STEM fields – and that isolated example of female under-representation means that the goal of “gender equity” in education has still not been reached?

The information…. and educational data….herein shows that – despite the enormous progress made in ensuring equal educational opportunities since the passage of Title IX in 1972 – much work remains if we are to achieve full gender equity among our nation’s students.

The newly revamped Civil Rights Data Collection reveals girls’ advances in particular science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses, while shedding light on continuing disparities in access to important courses like physics and AP math.

Despite women’s gains in some nontraditional fields as a whole, the rate of female enrollment in certain career clusters remains at persistently low levels. In 2009-2010, females made up less than 25% of participants in science, technology, engineering, and math programs nationally (21% at the secondary level and 24% at the postsecondary level).

Bottom Line: Let me summarize what I think is the position of the Office of Civil Rights: Only when women (men) are overrepresented (underrepresented) on every educational metric, including STEM, will we have reached the goal of “full gender equity.” The fact that men are undrepresented on almost all positive educational outcomes and overrepresented on negative outcomes (like being held back a grade for academic defiiency) is apparenly completely consistent with the Office of Civil RIght’s goal of “full gender equity,” which apparently inequitably only applies to one gender? Maybe I’m wrong. Comments welcome.

HT: Christina Sommers

45 thoughts on “Only when women are overrepresented on every educational metric will we have reached the goal of ‘full gender equity’?

  1. You’re wrong!

    Professional axe-grinders will never be satisfied by anything that would make them redundant. What would these people be qualified to do if they couldn’t form coalitions and demand working groups?

    • I can already tell you what their next complaint will sound like: “As universities and higher education degrees became ‘feminized’ with a majority of women, salaries for college graduates went down because of systemic anti-woman prejudice. The patriarchy desperately sought ways to pay more to male higher-ed dropouts in the fields of software programming and manual labor instead–see Peter Thiel and North Dakota–while denigrating colleges–see Glenn Reynolds and Rick Santorum. In the name of equality, women with degrees in whatever-they-like should be earning more than truck drivers (in ice-cold weather) and Bill Gates.”

  2. If every child in Lake Wobegon can be above average, I don’t see why one gender being overrepresented is inconsistent with equality.

  3. Well, the whole thing is based off of some bad data interpretation.

    As most people who have taken stats can tall you: correlation is not causation.

    In that same category, lack of proportionality does not indicate discrimination. There are far, far too many factors to consider. I find it every hard to believe the Office of Civil Rights exhausted every possible explanation.

  4. Prof. Perry,

    While you correctly point out the hypocrisy of ‘feminists’, as well as of most other women who claim they are not feminists but gladly accept any freebies tossed their way…

    …. You still seem to be baffled as to why they don’t relent in their agenda once presented with logical facts about how they are being hypocritical and illogical.

    When shrieking gets them more and more freebies, why will they stop? Since when has a woman lost anything by ignoring a logical case against her demands?

  5. Women will never, ever be anywhere 50% of the participation in STEM fields.

    1) They are not interested in it.
    2) They are not good at math and science.
    3) Studying STEM does not earn them as much money as they can make in a useless govt. job with a fluff degree. Why study STEM when they can get the same paycheck in the public sector for doing nothing?

    • From a woman with a degree in math and experience as a computer programmer.
      1) A thousand times, yes.
      2) Not so. They’re just as good up to the point where their interest wanes. They don’t want to do it for 60+ hours a week. They’d rather have a job with more human interaction.
      3) Again, they want more interaction with people, which government jobs usually provide to a greater degree than STEM jobs, and they have more family-friendly hours and leave policies and job security, which matters when you’re in the stage of bearing children.

      • 2 – well, that depends. The average might well hold true on that (the averages could be equal), but at higher levels, you’ll still get more men that women, as the famous “bell curve” for women is tighter than for men – that is, women are more closely clustered around the average than men are.

        The farther you move from average (up OR DOWN), the larger the percentage of men.

        More males getting held back is expected. More males in high-requirement fields (of any type, really) is also expected.

        STEM fields are high-requirement. Statistically, more men than women will be capable of them.

        • I think it’s impossible to separate out interest from ability at those high ends of the bell curve. It takes obsession, or at the least a desire to do those things for FUN in spare time, to be on that high end of the tail. Women usually have other things they want to do in their down time, things like talking to other humans. As far as basic brain potential, I don’t think one can say women aren’t able to reach the STEM heights that men are; it seems to be neural pathway development in the gray matter that correlates with STEM ability, and that is affected by what we actually do with our time. Our female hormones tend to give us a desire to interact with people (for which my small children give thanks); women influenced less by those female hormones (see CAH) tend more towards STEM.

          • Sorry Deoxy, I didn’t see your post before I responded to CT below.


            I don’t think one can say women aren’t able to reach the STEM heights that men are;

            No, you can’t say that – girls who earn a perfect or near-perfect score on their SATs are certainly as able, However, you can say that there are fewer women who are able. Because about a third of STEM degrees are awarded to women and a third of the students scoring high enough to do the math required by STEM degrees are women, I don’t see any evidence that a meaningful percentage of women with the aptitude for STEM degrees decide not to pursue them. I do not remember obsessing over math in school, nor do I remember my little blonde female friend who got a perfect score on the SAT and went on to become a rocket scientist (literally!) obsessing either. She was just good at it.

            I won’t deny that women typically desire more social interaction. However, the STEM-capable women are not typical and it may very well be that these women are a lot less inclined toward the touchy-feely social interactions most women can’t live without. Anecdotally, I don’t have a STEM degree, but I do have degrees that are very math-heavy and I have several female friends and family members who are scientists and none of us crave that constant human interaction you describe. In fact, we prefer to do most of our interacting online – even with each other. Except for me, all of them had children.

      • CT, neither you nor Toad are correct about on the issue of #2.

        Mark Perry has previously posted math SAT data on Carpe Diem.

        On average, boys do just 6% better than girls on the math portion. However, STEM degrees require extraordinary math skills and are drawn from the part of the tail of the distribution – those who score 780 or better. In that part of the distribution, boys outnumber girls 2:1. In fact, it occurs to me that it is these boys that probably what is responsible for the higher average for boys.

        So, Toad is wrong because a 6% difference is not the difference between good and bad at math. If girls are “no good”, then boys are not much better than “no good”.

        You are wrong that it is pure preference. There are just more boys capable of the math required for most stem degrees. If you look at the ratio of STEM degrees awarded to women, it is in line with the ratio of girls who score high enough on the SAT’s to do the math in STEM degrees.

        Frankly, I don’t see what the STEM degree fuss is about. It’s not as if a STEM degree is a magic ticket. Those of us with degrees in Finance and Economics do just great – often much better.

        • Using SAT scores doesn’t disentangle the “interest” factor. Mathy-sciency boys in high school already show markedly greater tendencies to specialize in (and enjoy!) math puzzles and such, even in their free time. Also, I likewise reject “pure preference” as an argument as to why women don’t go into STEM as much. Biologically, on the whole, we’re made to care more about interactions with people. I prefer to think of the situation more as one of “displacement”: women’s interest in social interaction displaces other interests and prevents them from reaching the same levels of expertise in those other interests that men thus more easily and frequently reach.

          • PS – And I have no interest in changing the above situation.
            Let women be what they want to be and stop shoving us into STEM fields to satisfy some feminist fantasy of equality (which never gets worked up about the lack of women in waste removal…). If we want to study math, fine. If not, let us study early childhood education without looking down your childless noses at us.

          • Let women be what they want to be and stop shoving us into STEM fields to satisfy some feminist fantasy of equality

            I feel exactly the same way and, as a woman, I’m offended by the whole social engineering effort. I agree that math SAT scores don’t answer the the interest factor, but I think the ratio of STEM degrees awarded to women does. If a large number of “STEM-capable” women are not obtaining STEM degrees, how do you explain the fact that the ratio of “STEM-capable” women (as measured by the math SAT scores) is roughly equivalent to the STEM degrees earned by women?

          • Methinks (I’m answering up here because apparently we’ve so are gone as far as they’ll let us in levels here), that’s a fun question. From my own experience, half of the people in my BS Math courses at a conservative, religious university were women, which always made me scratch my head whenever I heard that women were supposedly discriminated against in STEM fields. But in the math classes taken by engineering students, men definitely predominated. I think there are certain fields that women tend to gravitate toward, either because of their interests (e.g., health science, veterinary science) or quality of life issues (i.e., family time that’s hard to come by when doing a chemistry postdoc). Even just within math, there are the math “geeks” coming up with new problems and solutions (almost always men, in my observation) or those that gravitate toward teaching and actuarial work (just as likely to be women as men). While I say that women “can” be just as good at men in STEM, I guess I’m referring mostly to accomplishments that don’t require extraordinarily long hours thinking and dwelling on certain subjects, interests which look to the rest of us mere mortals like obsessions.

          • CT,

            I’m disappointed that you seem to be dancing around the question for reasons I cannot fathom. Yours are interesting observations from within STEM programs and about career choices, but they don’t address the fundamental question of why only one third of STEM degrees are awarded to women and why you seem to think that a similar ratio in math aptitude required by STEM programs is merely coincidental.

            I am unsure what I should take away from your observation in your undergraduate math classes. A lot of non-STEM degrees pursued by women require some level of college math. It makes sense that if women account for just north of 50% of the student body, they would also account for 50% of your math classes – especially at the lower levels of math. Did the ratio of men to women change in the higher levels of math needed for a degree in Math? Also, do women who pursue STEM degrees overwhelmingly choose Math as opposed to Physics and Engineering?

            Whether we are talking about men or women who are “STEM-capable”, we are talking about a very small minority of the population of both sexes. Most men can’t do the math either. It seems to me (and I may very well be mistaken, so please correct me if I am) that you are resistant to the idea that fewer of our sex are as capable in math. I don’t know why this would be. There are, by definition, few people in the tails and if there are even fewer women, so what? What most women are capable of isn’t an issue for you. You are not most women.

          • Oh, you’re talking about a completely different issue now than what I was thinking of when I responded to Toad’s idiotic “2) They are not good at math and science.” I absolutely accept that men outscore women at the high and low tails of the distribution and that they correspondingly achieve both more and less in math and science. Basically, obsessive interest, such as what you see on the autism spectrum, leads to higher achievement. Men have Aspergers four times as often as women, so I’m not surprised that there have been no female Teslas or Edisons. I don’t think there is a way to completely separate out obsessive interests (which I don’t consider a disorder) from very high STEM ability, which can only be measured by achievement (problems solved, etc.), not potential. On the other hand, it’s absurd to say women flat out aren’t good at STEM. Give an intelligent woman nothing else to do but STEM and a motivation to do it, and she’ll likely excel. She’s got functioning brain matter. But it’s not my idea of a humane experiment.
            To answer your other question, I was talking about 300-500 level math classes.

          • Here’s a paper that informs my thoughts on this issue. It indicates that in certain environments, there is no gender gap at the high end of high school math ability.
            Even given that, I think that measurements of high school math ability do not reach the very top end of math ability distribution, and that men’s greater tendency to specialize in abstract problems without being distracted as much by needs for social interaction would result in mostly men at the very top of adult math ability distribution.

          • Rewind. I wish I could edit my comments. Yes, there is a gender gap at the high end of high school math ability. The paper does not show otherwise. However, it indicates that the gap differs in size in different environments. Also, girls in elite schools are more likely to end up in high-level math competitions, while boys don’t necessarily need a school like that to exhibit high math ability. To me, that means that girls can do math, even very hard math. But it takes giving them (or even imposing on them) that focus; they don’t come by the achievement as “naturally”. I dislike any effort to force that focus on all girls just because of feminist ideology.

      • From a woman who earned an MIT PhD & tenure as a physics professor over a decade ago and also spent some years working in a government job.

        1. it’s difficult to measure “interest” but I don’t see any sign that there’s a difference in interest level. based upon genital parts.
        2. demonstrated to be no.
        3. no. STEM jobs are based upon cooperative efforts and people routinely speak of their “community” so human interactions are plentiful for all extroverts, regardless of genital parts.

        Ridiculous stereotypes based on one’s own anecdotal experience are destructive. Stop it.

        • It’s not just “parts”. Hormones are powerful, and you can’t blithely dismiss their effect on the sexes as a whole just because you went into physics. (….speaking of ridiculous stereotypes based on one’s own anecdotal evidence…)

      • Ew. Have you ever heard of sexual harassment lawsuits? You’re both unnecessarily offensive and wrong. All you have to do is look at the actual women in the highest levels of US education and government to realize they aren’t getting their jobs based on their bedroom appeal.

  6. If our government wants to help people, they should help men. Incarcerated at higher rates, die early, work dangerous jobs, high rates of drug abuse, high suicide rates etc.

  7. You don’t understand it because you haven’t got the point: If women are overrepresented in some area is beacause they are, undoubtedly, better than men in that area; but if they are underrepresented in some other area is because they are, undoubtedly, discriminated against.

    • If women are overrepresented in some area is beacause they are, undoubtedly, better than men in that area; but if they are underrepresented in some other area is because they are, undoubtedly, discriminated against“…

      Irony (I hope)?

      None the less that’s a hilarious take on the situation…

  8. My daughter, who owns her own engineering company, refers to her brothers as “the liberal artists.” She has never complained about any disadvantages to being a woman. I am pretty sure she thinks of being a woman as an advantage that she does not even need.

  9. I could write pages on this subject – this has been fascinating to read. In the interest of brevity, I just want to say this: the “obsession”, or what I would call “passion”, for subjects within the STEM field is crucial because THAT is what will get you through the really rough parts of the learning process. Briefly – I am an artsy type raised by an engineer dad/artsy mom. My significant other of 18 years is a mechanical engineer GEEK that has been pushing me to become more geeky for years. So I feel like a person that straddles the 2 types of thinking.

    The deal-breaker is, I think, the presence of that passion/obsession. If you don’t have it, there is nothing to keep you going when you have been struggling with a difficult concept, a tough project, a thorny problem. That is what sets the boys from the men, so to speak – and the girls from the women.

    • “That is what sets the boys from the men, so to speak – and the girls from the women.”

      This is a clumsy way of putting it. It isn’t about general character, or discipline or whatnot. It is about inherently native interests. One person who fails being obsessive about a subject she does not care for isn’t being a non-grownup. She’s just being herself and she would be wise to pursue what actually interests her – because the bottom line is that we all have such interests.

      Some people nonetheless go to STEM because of relatively safe jobs – like me. We can do pretty decent given a reasonable work ethic but we, at least those of us honest to ourselves, know that we will never be great at what we do simply because while we like and enjoy our work, it isn’t our singular passion. I could easily be in economics or writing for left-wing cultural magazines, both of those are something I enjoy more, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy STEM either.

      I think there’s plenty of people out there like me. ‘Good enough’ at their job to make a good salary and bring real benefit to their companies and the wider economy, but not great in the sense that we’d be irreplacable(very few are these days). Yet we’re happy with where we are at and we enjoy a multitude of interests. People are different and failing to understand that, and applying a hilarious morality test to it shows a limited understanding on your part.

      • Your response is muddled and confusing – where did a “morality test” enter into my post? Further, where did concepts of sucess or “how good a STEM professional is” come into my post?

        We agree more than you think: “It is about inherently native interests.” Exactly. Simply having the intelligence to handle STEM subjects is not enough. That pull has to be there for the periods when there appears to be little tangible reward for the hard intellectual work you are putting in. “Inherent fascination with the subject” is another way I put it. Ability alone just doesn’t cut it.

        Why so insecure and defensive about being “good enough” and having interests outside of your profession? This speaks to your own personal issues, not the subject at hand.

  10. This is terrifying, coming from our government. Mark my words, people, libs are also taking over HR departments. You’ve been warned.

  11. Crazy statistics there — Maybe if you normalized them they wouldn’t seem like just so much spin. 10% vs 10,000 vs “equitably repesented”. Apples vs oranges vs Peanuts.

    Surely you could do better.

  12. We will never have “gender equality” for the same reasons that we’ll never see an end to “racism”, the democrats have too much political graft invested in keeping divisiveness and hatred alive, it’s how they gin up their base and smear their opponents, they cannot afford to actually move into a post gender/racial era.

  13. These people are for equality, equality for women. To them equality is not a state in which all members stand in the same relation to each other. No, no, no, equality is a commodity to be accrued on behalf of one group, often at the expense of the other. Men and women are equal, it is just that women are more equal than men. Hence, the more disproportionate the representation of women in realms advantageous to them, the greater the equality.

  14. You are right. Objective criteria would indicate that in most areas the education establishment discriminates against men, not women. But only the rare remaining lagging areas for women matter, because men are privaledged. Such is the logic of modern feminism.

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