Friday, July 27, 2007

Daily Deliberation #4

Oroborous points out one aspect of the "Future" world that we live in today, which is the dominance of women in the halls of higher education. Beyond the implications for mate selection, one question demands answering: why? Is it reverse discrimination, a onetime blip that will even out in time, or are there deep socio-biological and evolutionary forces at play?


Blogger Susan's Husband said...

If I were a feminist theorist, I would claim that it's inline with the typical patriarchal devaluation of "women's work". The root cause is the increasing awareness of declining value of a college education, with the political correctness and massive increases in cost. This makes college educations percieved as less valuable, and so naturally the patriarchal structure of our society converts it to a female dominated experience.

July 27, 2007 7:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neither. Women are increasingly well-advised to cover off the possibility that they will be solely responsible for both themselves and their children, while, more and more, boys just wanna have fun.

July 27, 2007 8:26 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

The hole in that theory is that a college education has not been so much devalued as diluted by the higher percentage of people with degrees. But relative to not having a college degree, a degree is still more valuable, in most cases.

My theory is that the economy has been shifting to a model that favors female cognitive and behavioral traits, namely the service/information model. Communication, collaboration and personal interaction skills are in, hierarchical command/control is out. This is most clearly seen in the medical profession. Women physicians will will soon outnumber men if they haven't already done so. The traditional male model for providing health care has been via a logical diagnosos/treatment analysis process, leaving out the niceties of understanding and catering to the patient's mental and emotional state. It was authority based and not market based. Now that patients treat healthcare like any other paid service, such niceties have become basic requirements, and women have filled the breach with their superior patient management skills.

July 27, 2007 8:36 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Since women are not pursuing that as a "fall back" option but as a primary goal, men have been relieved of the expectation of providing for a woman and children. So men who do pursue higher education to get into the high-paying professions expect to partner with women who will also be high income earners, and won't need to worry so much about the burdens of salaried slavitude.

Men who were on the border aptitude-wise who would have pushed themselves into college just to be able to have the earning power to be able to attract a mate know now that they can obtain sexual gratification from women without any relational or financial commitments. As you say, they can pursue less demanding non-professional employment and forego the burdens of bread-winnery. Women on the lower end of the exonomic scale have given up on dependence on a bread winner.

July 27, 2007 8:46 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

duck wrote: "But relative to not having a college degree, a degree is still more valuable, in most cases."

Is it? Perhaps it is now, but I don't think it is inherently so, and I think after someone has 10 years or so of experience, the degree isn't worth a whole lot.

Many people note that those with a degree have somewhat higher paying jobs than those who don't and then state something like, "stay in school and you'll earn more." However, I'm pretty sure this confuses cause and effect. It's not staying in school that helps you earn more. It's the fact that you were adequately tenacious and intelligent to get into and then finish college (or at least high school) and were willing to forego instant gratification for the bigger picture means those same qualities are working for you through your whole life and makes it likely that you'll be more successful at each and every stage than someone without those qualities.

I think susan's husband's wife's husband's comment above (echoed by erp on a different thread) is actually a pretty good explanation.

July 27, 2007 9:48 AM  
Blogger Bret said...


Boys may just wanna have fun, but maybe they're just better at math too and have done some analysis. Spending potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars on fours years of education in addition to lost opportunity cost means that it really doesn't make financial sense for many people to go to college.

Men are stereotypically willing to do dirtier jobs that pay well (and are starting to pay even better) like plumbing and construction for which you don't need a college degree.

July 27, 2007 9:52 AM  
Blogger Bret said...


And also, if you wanna have fun, school is more fun than anything else. My college days were by far the most fun period of my life.

July 27, 2007 10:03 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Heh. This one's easy.

Look at job participation rates, ignoring education for a moment.

They are up for women and down for men almost evenly snd are now nearly equal.

Women get access to education. Women get better jobs. Men who live off women don't need to work. QED

The figures (the last I saw, several years ago, had the male job participation rate approaching 75%) are astonishing.

July 27, 2007 10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that universal college education is overvalued when put under the analytical microscope. I also can see why lots of brilliant young male geeks are electing instead to invent clever things in their garages or go the entrepreneurial route. Also, there may be a greater attraction for status or security reasons for women to pursue traditional professions or jobs in large institutions for which a college degree is a sine qua non. But this is all cutting-edged thinking about the long term future for a relatively small number of careful observers. A college degree is still a basic expectation (and, sadly, primary evidence of literacy) socially and economically. Try applying for anything above a clerical position in any outfit with more than six people without a degree and see how much human resources or their headhunter is impressed by Bret's and Oro's economic argument. I doubt it explains these major demographic shifts.

Not everyone has a good time in college. It is enjoyed more in hindsight than in reality for lots of people. Social expectations, duty and responsibility for others (present or future) are driving forces that many need to push them over the hump.

It's not a one-off and it has nothing to do with evolution. It is cultural. Men are dogging it and women are making plans in which men play an increasingly decorative role.

July 27, 2007 11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And as Harry suggests, more and more men are cool with that.

July 27, 2007 11:09 AM  
Blogger erp said...

SH, I'm delighted that you agree with my theory that anything seen as female loses value.

Men who stay home to take care of the kids have a very difficult time of it. There are several examples in the family and among the children of friends. Both society and their wives start seeing them as lesser beings in the same way the "little woman" who stayed home was treated as a minion in the bad old days, and it's even more difficult for them to get back into the work world than it was for us stay-at-moms way back when.

I believe medicine is in a different category. Fewer men are opting for medical school because of the changing nature of medicine. As the surety of a good income declines, the best and brightest men are looking elsewhere, leaving more room for women. As medicine becomes dominated by women, income will continue to decline and "being a doctor" will no longer have the cache it used to have.

July 27, 2007 11:56 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

peter burnet wrote: "Try applying for anything above a clerical position in any outfit with more than six people without a degree..."

By that logic, hardly anybody without a college degree would be employed.

July 27, 2007 12:19 PM  
Blogger monix said...

peter burnet wrote: "Try applying for anything above a clerical position in any outfit with more than six people without a degree..."

That is becoming evident among the under-30s in UK.

July 27, 2007 12:51 PM  
Blogger Mike Beversluis said...

Peter, don't forget about the ol' theoretical physicist casting couch.

July 27, 2007 5:19 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

erp, along with SH, said: ... anything seen as female loses value.

My wife graduated with a 4-year nursing degree last year. From her I learned that nursing schools are working aggressively -- and thus far, futilely -- in recruiting male students.

Why? So nurses will get higher salaries.

Ironically, it IMHO, it appears women devalue predominantly female activities as much as men.


Any numbers for gender participation in various academic disciplines?

I'll bet any field of study that requires significant mathematical expertise remains predominantly male.

July 29, 2007 1:49 PM  
Blogger erp said...

Hey skipper, you're right that women also devalue professions where they dominate and you're right about nursing gaining status and money as more men join their ranks.

It'll take a while though because for absolutely no rational reason, male nurses seem to be objects of fun. There was a movie a while back where the comic hero was a male nurse played, I think, by Ben Stiller. In fact, I think there may well be a new designation for male nurses to differentiate them from the women.

July 29, 2007 3:54 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

... women also devalue professions where they dominate ...


Are women misogynistic?

July 29, 2007 4:52 PM  
Blogger erp said...

Why? Thousands, nay tens of thousands of years of playing supporting roles.

July 29, 2007 7:13 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Okay, let's take that as given.

Does that mean women innately take that attitude, or is it learned anew each generation?

July 29, 2007 7:27 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Actually, my suggested causation was the other way — lowered value leads to feminization.

And a college degree is a non-issue the career choices a male who doesn't got to college would pick (e.g., the trades).

July 29, 2007 7:28 PM  
Blogger David said...

There clearly is a feminized ghetto. Once enough women join a sector to tip it, it becomes almost entirely women almost immediately. A nice example is small animal vets. Good luck trying to find a male vet for your dog, something that's happened over the last two decades.

I do have trouble with both the market and Lamarckist explanations. I'm tempted to suggest that women will do jobs involving disgusting bodily functions for less money than men would demand for the same job. I'm agnostic about whether the explanation is nature or nurture.

July 30, 2007 7:40 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Skip, women are acclimatized to their role as second banana and girls who didn't want to accept that role were roundly criticized and even shunned and beaten by their elders at home and stigmatized by society at large. When I was a kid, I was routinely told that girls don't/can't do this or that. In fact in high school, I was told that I couldn't take advanced math classes because they are too difficult for girls. I persisted and didn't do too badly even with the constant sarcasm from the teacher. My classmates, all boys, were supportive, so I managed to stick it out.

Yes SH, but what causes the lowered value? I think both happen more or less simultaneously.

David, I don't know if bean counting could be classified as a disgusting bodily function, but many, if not most, CPA's are women, and have been for at least twenty plus years.

The first time that one showed up as the lead accountant on an audit, my husband was almost as floored as he was when girls showed up at the Paine-Whitney gym where, as he tells it, guys routinely wore only their birthday suits while in the hallowed halls.

An amusing anecdote he tells is when he and some of his handball buddies were in the elevator going to the steam room, the doors opened and a couple of girls were standing there. The girls got quite an eyeful those first days of co-eded-ness at Yale -- the men barely survived cardiac arrest.

July 30, 2007 8:56 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

I've noticed that in the IT world women seem to be dominating the role of Project Manager, and are about equally represented with men in the Business Analyst role. I'm a Business Analyst, and in my current assignment I'm the only male BA. Both of these are high paying jobs, so I haven't noticed any ghettoization taking place.

The Business Analyst job has become a critical role for the success of projects. It was once a role that was shortchanged or left out entirely, as programmers talked directly to business users to understand requirements, with often disastrous results. Left-brain male introvert nerds who dominate the programming ranks aren't the best suited to communicate with right brain extrovert business managers, so the need arose for a liaison role to bridge the gap, someone who could communicate clearly, both written and verbally, but who also could structure requirements in a logical, methodological fashion for consumption by developers. This year the Business Analyst role finally got professional distinction with a certification exam.

My company cannot hire enough BAs, there's a definite shortage, and it is a role that you can't offshore. I think it is one job category that's breaking the gender mould.

July 30, 2007 10:01 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Duck, it'll be interesting to see what happens when supply and demand evens out. Will it revert to males or will females take over? It seems that professions can't maintain an even balance, all other things considered.

July 30, 2007 11:03 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


women are acclimatized to their role as second banana ...

True enough, although that seems to be a universal phenomena.

If I had to guess, I would hazard nature, not nurture, though.

Testosterone poisoning, which is a universal condition for half the population, probably includes a susceptibility to misogyny.

In fact in high school, I was told that I couldn't take advanced math classes because they are too difficult for girls.

I suspect a general motivation problem: all the aptitude in the world is worthless without motivation.

IMHO, girls are generally (specific cases obviously may vary) disinclined towards math.

My daughter, while not a natural mathematician, is near the top of her math classes. But only because she works hard at everything she does; she hates the math, and can't wait to be shot of it.

The same is true of every girl (although most don't do so well) in the neighborhood, despite all the up-to-date parental and educator encouragment.


In my recent IT life, there were virtually no women who did hands-on stuff, but a fair representation as Business Analysts and Project Managers (although fewer in the latter, as that often required hands-on, too.)

I did all three.

Is that a danger sign for gender confusion?

July 30, 2007 2:06 PM  
Blogger erp said...

Duck, if you suddenly start reading the Manolo, the shoe blog and start stocking up on stylish shoes, I'd start worrying.

Why girls don't like math is a mystery. I remember the eureka moment at about age ten when I realized that numbers are things of beauty and just looking around our world, realized no matter what the situation, numbers always stand up and tell the truth.

July 30, 2007 7:31 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Why girls don't like math is a mystery.

I'll hazard a guess.

Girls are much more relationship driven than boys (and probably more right brained), and math simply doesn't push any of those buttons.

Consequently, regardless of aptitude, motivation is lacking; because the aptitude deficit is elemental, no amount of new age parenting will change it.

Equal opportunity need not yield equal outcome.

July 30, 2007 10:58 PM  
Blogger Duck said...


I don't mind working with women, they can be a lot of fun. Sometimes I get a little woozy from all the estrogen in the air.

But women managers, especially project managers, can also be more difficult to work with then men. The PM I work with agrees that many women PMs are overcontrolling and domineering, and she thinks they're giving women PMs a bad name in the industry (it is only coincidental that the plural of PM is PMS (or is it?) ;-)

July 31, 2007 6:23 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Watch yourself sir!

July 31, 2007 9:16 AM  
Blogger David said...

Here are two fascinating charts that put some meat on these bones: First, Distribution of income and median income of persons 25 years old and over, by highest level of educational attainment and sex: 2004; and, second, Bachelor's, master's, and doctor's degrees conferred by degree-granting institutions, by sex of student and field of study: 2003-04.

The first chart makes clear that men still earn more than similarly credentialed women. I was particularly struck by the fact that more than half of men with professional degrees made $100,000 or more while only 25% of women did.

The second chart shows where the women are going. There were, approximately, 210,000 more women then men enrolled in bachelor degree programs in 2003-4. 60,000 more women then men are enrolled in education programs, 50,000 in health profession programs and 45,000 in psychology. The rest are split up between a bunch of other programs in the arts and liberal arts.

August 01, 2007 5:48 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...


Your third paragraph explains a lot about your second paragraph - for some reason degrees in education are considered to be "professional degrees", and while most people who stick it out in the education biz, (particularly on the public side), tend to be well-paid, not a lot of them make over $ 100K.

August 02, 2007 12:27 AM  

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