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Worst Gender imbalances in higher ed are not what you think

Worst Gender imbalances in higher ed are not what you think

Women dominated in 7 of 11 areas, yet all we hear about is gender imbalance in STEM.

There are seemingly endless programs and advocates to increase the participation of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) as a means of addressing the gender imbalance, which is particularly dramatic at the graduate and doctoral levels.

The National Science Foundation has special grant programs.  The White House emphasizes the issue.  Efforts are made at the elementary and secondary school levels to increase participation by girls.

One of my daughters was a computer science major in college (the only female CS major that year), so I’m well aware of the extensive outreach to women.

Despite years of concerted efforts, the STEM gender imbalance has barely moved. Men still dominate, by a lot.

But the gender imbalance is equal or even more dramatic in fields dominated by women, as this chart shows (via AEI, h/t Ron Coleman):

Total Graduate Enrollment by Gender 2013

AEI continues, Women earned majority of doctoral degrees in 2013 for 5th straight year, and outnumber men in grad school 137.5 to 100

The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) recently released its annual report recently on US graduate school enrollment and degrees for 2013, and here are some of the more interesting findings in this year’s report:

1. For the fifth year in a row, women in 2013 earned a majority of doctoral degrees. … Therefore, 2009 marked the year when men officially became the “second sex” in higher education by earning a minority of college degrees at all college levels from associate’s degrees up to doctoral degrees.

2. By field of study, women earning doctoral degrees in 2013 outnumbered men in 7 of the 11 graduate fields tracked by the CGS (see top chart above): Arts and Humanities (52.3% female), Biology (51.3%, and one of the STEM fields), Education (67.7%), Health Sciences (71,7)%, Public Administration (64.2%), Social/Behavioral Studies (61.8%) and Other fields (50.5%). Men still earned a majority of 2013 doctoral degrees in the fields of Business (55% male), Engineering (76.9%), Math and Computer Science (74.2%), and Physical Sciences (65.3%).

3. The middle chart above shows the gender breakdown for master’s degrees awarded in 2013 (from Table 2.24) and the gender disparity in favor of females is significant – women earned 58.4% of all master’s degrees in 2013,…. Like for doctoral degrees, women outnumbered men in the same 7 out of the 11 fields of graduate study and in some of those fields the gender disparity was huge….

Where is the outcry? Where are the programs to get more men into education fields?

[Featured Image: Women in Stem Exchange]


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JimMtnViewCaUSA | October 2, 2014 at 10:25 am

A decade or two ago, I attended an info session for the Education dept at San Jose State. The Dept head stopped by to give a short speech. She asked who knew what was in the First Amendment…many panicked glances, much head scratching amongst the undergrads.

She said she and her assistant personally reviewed every application to the major and she made it clear that devout Christians were not welcome. OK, this is not “gender discrimination” but be aware that some number of education departments have been putting their thumbs on the scale for quite some time.

Chemistry major, here, from the 70s. I never encountered any institutional bias in college, except from the from jerks in the English and Music departments, who resented having a chemistry major present in their courses, particularly the advanced ones. Men in the sciences, both academic and working, including the union-level workers, were always welcoming. They had no prejudices against women.

I heard it from my peers, from the time I was in elementary school. That “Girls can’t be doctors” nonsense never came from any adults in charge of me. My dad told me that nurses take the same courses as doctors, they just get paid less.

I vividly recall, however, registering for my freshman-level courses in college, and being sent back to my advisor, because I had signed up for both Biology 101 and Chemistry 104 in the same semester. She told me I could not do that, because I would fail. My advisor, the head of the Chemistry department, laughed and said that every chemistry major took those courses together, and then he told me how to get an easy A in Biology 101, that worked.

People outside STEM are afraid of those courses, and jealous of any department good enough to scoop up the students with a broad range of talents. Humanities professors in particular discourage the better students from taking anything in STEM. They pretend that these courses are not real education.

I took my electives from advanced humanities courses, and none of them were rigorous.

In law school, I sat in a class and heard one of my professors proclaim that people with non-humanities degrees such as chemistry should not be allowed to enter law school because they lacked the background to be lawyers. I knew that at least that attorneys are required to have a technical background, and that the time would come when other fields such as environmental law would at least be beneficial to a lawyer, so I found his remarks to be too parochial in character for my taste.

What you are seeing in these statistics is non-STEM people funneling young women into non-rigorous fields by telling them that they are incapable of dealing with difficult subjects. I would suggest referral to Heinlein for ways to counter this bad public policy.

Math is not that hard.

    Valerie in reply to Valerie. | October 2, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Typo. The field I identified as requiring a technical background is patent law. This has been the case for many decades. There is a substantial prejudice among other attorneys, particularly the kind who call themselves “litigators” against patent attorneys, because a litigator has a pecuniary interest in forcing a patent attorney into a subordinate position, even though a patent attorney can do everything a litigator can, plus understand patent issues.

      Bruce Hayden in reply to Valerie. | October 2, 2014 at 3:57 pm

      No complaints with this – have been a patent atty for over 20 years now. Left my last firm at a time when a patent litigator was taking over control of patent prosecution. Thought that was close to malpractice. Esp. when he is the one talking to clients about filing patent applications. Making things worse – last I knew he had 3 fairly young patent attorneys working for him, without any real supervision by anyone admitted to the patent bar.

      But, there are real problems with working as a patent atty in general practice firms. We just don’t bill the same. For example, firm practice was to take retainers and hold them during the entire pendency of a matter. That meant holding retainers during the entire prosecution of an application. Plain silly for patent work, and guaranteed to drive off most business.

    My Rus Lit professor once pointed out that Humanities are inherently insecure. What happens if a humanities type goes to a science department and says “Hey, I want to write a history of your field”? He’s treated with open arms. But what if a science type has an insight on something in humanities? “Oh no, no. You can’t do it this way! It’s reductionist! Read the theory!”

Can some one please tell me why it is an imperative to have women make up 50% of each major and each degree being awarded? What is so wrong about letting people chose what they want and be done with it? I would much rather have a person in a position where they enjoyed what they were doing instead of just getting by because they were pressured into an area of study they really did not care for. And please do not give me that old canard about gender discrimination keeping women out of certain professions. That issue has been dead for some time.

    janitor in reply to Cleetus. | October 2, 2014 at 12:01 pm


    We’ll have an equal number of women majoring in physics and mechanical engineering when we see equal numbers of teenage women choose to fiddle with their cars instead of painting their nails.

There are both social and biological biases associated with gender. However, it is difficult for professional feminists, both male and female, to accept and exploit the latter. It’s the same corruption which manifests itself throughout all modern civil and human rights businesses. They must necessarily be contrarian in order to create and exploit leverage for political, financial, and social reward.

This issue is similar to anthropogenic global cooling/warming/change, which fails to sufficiently characterize the system, and lacks compelling evidence to distinguish between natural and social forcings. And failing to do so, argues through consensus and coerced normalization.

Henry Hawkins | October 2, 2014 at 12:27 pm

I think the goal of lefties is not to make women equal, but to make them more equal.

    Ragspierre in reply to Henry Hawkins. | October 2, 2014 at 12:33 pm


    What they really are striving for is the anti-science position that demonstrates that there is no difference between men and women.

    This, of course, is the typical magic thinking of the Collective. It leads to calls for women in the combat arms, the demand that they occupy the highest executive positions, etc. It is thumpingly stupid, and leads to such glaring nonsense as a two-tier system for assessing Secret Service agents.

    Not A Member of Any Organized Political in reply to Henry Hawkins. | October 2, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    “More equal” to what?

    More equal to Leftist Democrat Zombies who do as ordered and never think for themselves – just accepting all the Leftist abuse?

    Obama does not have a 50/50 split on his staffing, SS, and so on. Obama won’t even pay the women as high as the men. Research it!

Success in STEM correlates with autistic traits. Men are much more likely to have autistic traits. I would argue that mild autism is normal male behavior — he likes to fix cars, says that music is his life, not very chatty, etc.
Not everyone has a gift for STEM.

    Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen has a theory that mild autism gives traits useful for STEM fields, that the increased acceptance of women in STEM-related careers means that more mildly-autistic men are meeting mildly-autistic women in the workplace, getting married, and having not-so-mildly autistic children.

      Bruce Hayden in reply to SRaher. | October 2, 2014 at 4:06 pm

      I would suggest more Asperger’s than mild autism. I first ran into his work when reading a book of his (“The Essential Difference: Men, Women and the Extreme Male Brain”) on this subject. His theory seems to be that there is an essential difference between how males tend to think and females. The male way of thinking is termed “systemizing”, and is useful for STEM, and esp. the more analytical types of such. And, that autism is really extreme systemizing. I should note that Dr. Baron-Cohen kindly provided some references to me on female Asperger’s, which is apparently much harder to detect than Male Asperger’s (The lead character (Patience Brennan) on “Bones” sure seems to me to have been modeled on a female Aspie).

        The diagnosis of Aspereger’s is not out of DSM. It’s either autism or not autism, which makes sense to me because we don’t really know what autism is and how to break down the “symptoms” in a meaningful manner.

          Bruce Hayden in reply to edgeofthesandbox. | October 2, 2014 at 6:18 pm

          Maybe. But, the classic distinction between the two apparently involved early vocal skills or the like. Was there a delayed learning of language (Autism) or not (Asperger’s). My understanding is that the DSM was recently changed to ASD (or some such), with more types on a continuum. Was that for real clinical reasons? Or, just to get more patients (and special ed money for students)? Obviously, no expert here, but there does appear to be some real differences between classical autism and Asperger’s.

          Bruce, I don’t know much about the field, but I always suspect that money has something to do with it. Autism is pretty well-funded. One mom from our old elementary school had her son diagnosed with ASD when he had another developmental issue so that he can get the treatment.

    tom swift in reply to edgeofthesandbox. | October 2, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    Success in STEM correlates with autistic traits.

    A meaningless statement.

    At my alma mater we all were in scientific and engineering fields. And we had all been in the most rarefied percentile groups in our prior schools. We were as STEM as you could get (although the T was never separated out as a separate item in those days). I doubt that more than 5% of the students showed any hint of what are now called autistic traits. Is 5% “correlation”? Certainly not a strong correlation. But in any case, but so what? It is far too small a number to have any effect on the disparity under consideration here.

Jane the Actuary | October 2, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Sorry, I’m going to be the spoil-sport. Activists will say that (1) female-dominated majors are lower paid than male-dominated ones, (2) even the disproportionate number of women in grad school doesn’t mean much since men don’t “need” grad school as much as women due to injustices in The System, and (3) women aren’t choosing female-dominated courses of study because of their own free will, but because they’ve been wrongly conditioned to think that they can’t, or shouldn’t, choose more lucrative careers.

Now, I don’t agree with those activists, but it is actually important to address their real complaints rather than (just) their throw-away talking points.

    Bruce Hayden in reply to Jane the Actuary. | October 2, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    I think that the best answer these days is supply and demand. In some of the female dominated PhDs, there are maybe 100 people applying for tenure track positions in academia. There is, frankly, little demand for many of the female dominated PhD areas. And, less demand for typically female dominated subject areas than male dominated ones. STEM is hard. Other areas in academia are much less so.

    That said, my kid is in their 2nd year of an engineering PhD program, and their entering class was pretty close to 50:50. And, this is an engineering discipline that a decade earlier was probably 80:20 male/female. This year’s class looks similar, which probably means that there is a trend there.

    Still, there are differences. My kid’s advisor (male) is tenure track, and the advisor’s wife also teaches there as a lecturer (my kid took one of her classes last year, and thought that she was pretty good). They got their PhDs together, so had somewhat comparable credentials. But, this year, the wife is taking off the semester for their first kid, born just before the semester started. In a decade, he will likely be tenured, and she likely still teaching as a lecturer. This is one of those life decisions that tend to dramatically affect the difference between male and female pay in the same field.

    And, this isn’t just in academia. The law firm I was in a couple years ago had a “mommy track” for people who didn’t want to work the hours required for making partner on the normal associate path. Sure, it was open to males too, but most of those availing themselves of it were women, and not all of them were even married. Sure, they could make income partner (though a bit later), but they were much less likely to make equity partner, just because much of that extra work involves client development.

      I dropped out of grad school, and those were some of my reasons. I was in my late 20’s, and I didn’t want to gamble away a half a decade of my life in pursuit of an elusive academic position when I wanted to have a family.

Jane the Actuary | October 2, 2014 at 2:14 pm

I was a computer science major in the early 70s when there were few women. I never bought the logic that women couldn’t do it. But I had to work hard and had great job offers at a time when the economy was far worse than now. My daughter just got her master’s in computer engineering – one of a handful in that field – and was near the top of her class. She is currently earning over 6 figures in her first job but worked very hard to get there. Sometimes she would look enviously at the liberal arts types who had much more of a social life than she did, but they are working at Starbuck’s and she is now kicking butt! You don’t get the top jobs without the effort and I wonder how many of the ladies are willing to make the sacrifice.

    Bruce Hayden in reply to SB Mama. | October 2, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Women can do most of the jobs that pay better, and CS is definitely one of them. The mother of my kid and I met on a software project (in my previous career as a software engineer). She is still in the field, doing well, and quickly became quite competent.

    The problem though with CS, and really a lot of STEM, is that the hours in school are long. You have to spend many hours on your software projects, when you could be out getting drunk and having drunken sex. Far more dedication required than for most humanities or social science majors. And, that time is best spent in long blocks – I have been known to work 24 hours straight through on some work projects, and 6-8 hours was not exceptional in school. This is the sort of thing that males just seem to do better at.

It could be (and may well be in a few years as women continue to outnumber men at the undergraduate level) that women were a majority in 11 out of 11 fields and the complaints will persist. Career grievance instigators will always find a way to shift the goal posts. These will be new areas of grievance:

1) women graduate student have to work harder, face more barriers to get degrees due to the “male-dominated” power structure and “male privilege”

2) women are discriminated against in terms of salary

3) women face a “glass ceiling” in terms of professorships, department chairs, tenure committees

4) university administrations are still biased against women

5) if there are imbalances in favor of women, that just indicates that women are so much better than men, and that the numbers would be even higher if not for continuing discrimination (extension of argument 1)

6) majorities in favor of women is needed to overcome past discrimination

The point being that there’s no end point, no matter how many of the above are satisfied, there will always be some new (or recalculated) metric that one can invent to continue to push the gender inequality meme.

    randian in reply to civil truth. | October 2, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    “university administrations are still biased against women”

    Given the legions of grossly overpaid diversity bureaucrats infesting our colleges how could anybody believe that?

      civil truth in reply to randian. | October 2, 2014 at 7:27 pm

      My list are the polemical arguments that the grievance mongers are/will be advanced to perpetuate their industry. I wasn’t intending to suggest that they had a connection with reality.