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The REAL gender gap: Men lag in humanities, languages, graduate fields of study

For all the yammering we hear and see often in the news about “underrepresentation” of women in the areas of math and science, it seems if we’re really concerned about “getting the numbers right” we should try to get more men involved in realms such as education and health sciences.

After all, according to stats by the Council of Graduate Schools, women outnumber men in seven of eleven doctoral and master’s degree fields, as well as in total graduate school enrollment.

Men lead only in the areas of business, engineering, math/computer science, and physical/earth sciences.

Consider that in 2016

— women earned 400 master’s degrees in health sciences for every 100 men
— women earned 350 master’s degrees in both education and public administration for every 100 men
— there were 135 women enrolled in graduate school for every 100 men

Author Mark Perry says:

Here’s my prediction – the facts that: a) men are underrepresented in graduate school enrollment overall (100 men were enrolled in 2016 for every 135 women), b) men received fewer master’s (less than 42% of the total) and doctoral degrees (48.2% of the total) than women in 2016, and c) men were underrepresented in 7 out of 11 graduate fields of study at both the master’s and doctoral levels last year will get no attention at all from feminists, gender activists, women’s centers, the media, universities, or anybody else in the higher education industry.

Additionally, there will be no calls for government studies or increased government funding to address the significant gender disparities favoring women in graduate schools, and nobody will refer to the gender graduate school enrollment and degree gaps favoring women as a problem or a “crisis.” Further, despite their stated commitment to “gender equity,” the hundreds of university women’s centers around the country are unlikely to show any concern about the significant gender inequities in graduate school enrollment and degrees, and universities will not be allocating funding to set up men’s centers or men’s commissions on college campuses or providing funding for graduate scholarships for men.

Elsewhere, a study by a pair of UC-Berkeley and University of Melbourne professors determined that, through grade 12, boys and girls were “roughly equally prepared” in the STEM fields.

However, the Vancouver Sun reports, “girls also excel in the languages, humanities and other subjects, while boys do not.”

“The conventional wisdom is that the gender gap is about women and the forces — discrimination, sexism, parenting, aptitudes and choices — that make women less likely to study in STEM fields,” said George Mason University economist Alex Tabarrok, who reviewed the study.

“But the real reason more males complete STEM degrees, says Tabarrok […] is that, to put it too bluntly, ‘the only men who are good enough to get into university are men who are good at STEM. Women are good enough to go into non-STEM and STEM fields.’”

Tabarrok added that “the findings of [the researchers] are consistent with wider concerns about the under-representation of men in higher education and in many sectors of the labour market.

“If we accept the results […] the gender-industry gap is focused on the wrong thing,” he says. “The real gender gap is that men are having trouble competing everywhere except in STEM.”

Echoing Perry, the Sun concludes:

[I]t’s rare to hear of programs aimed at understanding why many young men are under-performing, and now account for only 40 per cent of university undergraduates. Efforts to get more males into fields that have become predominantly female are almost unheard of. Would it not be fair to try to shift more males into the humanities, nursing, office administration, psychology and other female-majority fields?

Not if journals like Gender Issues continue to put out papers which claim women don’t choose STEM fields due to “conformity to feminine norms.”

Perhaps the paucity of males in the humanities, etc. could be rectified by utilizing a 180-degree version of this study: doing away with the “feminine nature” of those fields of study, and making use of more competitive teaching methods.

MORE: Google to spend $50 million to bridge coding ‘gender gap’

MORE: Female student slams instructor for axing paper on myth of gender wage gap

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.