Gender Balances in Universities

Robert Weissberg talks about the war against men on college campuses. Meanwhile Gail Heriot and Alison Somin write about discrimination against women in college admissions. Women already out number men 4-3 on college campuses; soon it will be 3-2. The statistics would be even more marked if one didn’t count the men we import to fill slots in engineering and the sciences.

There are many explanations, ranging from Title IX and the subsequent war on men’s athletics to a general war against boys in educational institutions at all levels and in society in general. There’s something to all these explanations. Courses in which there is open hostility to men or to traditional methods of inquiry are relatively rare, even in the humanities, and most are easily identified and avoided. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a significant impact. A college with a department of White Studies, an active KKK chapter, and a number of courses with openly racist content would be unlikely to attract black students even if the overwhelming majority of the courses at the school were perfectly OK.

I’m inclined to think the most significant factor has been the decision, at a variety of levels, to stress busywork over intelligence, and correspondingly to emphasize factors related to work habits (such as grades) and deemphasize factors related to IQ (such as SATs, GREs, etc.). There’s also been a shift toward verbal skills and away from mathematical skills. Richard Whitmire says the world has become more verbal, while men haven’t. I’d say that the world has become more mathematical, while the educational system hasn’t. He is surely right, however, that disastrous educational policies such as whole language approaches to reading have had disproportionate impact on men. But let’s not forget that there has also been admissions bias against men until very recently. There is still discrimination against men in graduate admissions and in faculty hiring.

It’s that last point I want to stress in this connection. There is massive pressure on academic departments to hire women. Women junior faculty members will get twice as many interviews, flybacks, and job offers as comparably qualified men, and can command starting salaries $10-20,000 higher. Faculties in the humanities and social sciences, which used to be predominantly male, are becoming balanced in the junior ranks, and will soon be balanced overall in most fields.

That’s a good thing, right? Well, maybe; it’s too soon to tell. Look at what’s happened with undergraduate admissions. At a certain point a critical mass will have been reached, and men will regard university teaching the way they now regard high school teaching—as something that is primarily for women. Fifty years ago elementary school teachers were mostly women, but high schools had many male faculty members, especially in the sciences, but in other fields as well. Now school teachers at all levels are predominantly women. I predict the same for university faculties. In fifty years, outside the hard sciences, there will be relatively few male faculty members.

That means a lot of high-IQ men who are willing to work hard will be doing something else. What? I have no idea. How will they be educated? I’m guessing they will constitute a significant market for online learning and other nontraditional paths, and will start their own businesses or otherwise free-lance. But university faculties, which in many areas are already dubious in contributing research value due to political correctness, are going to become even less a source of important ideas, and other kinds of organizations are going to benefit.

One thought on “Gender Balances in Universities

  1. I wonder how the preference for women varies from field to field. I would guess that it’s much lower in much of the humanities and social sciences than in math, engineering and the hard science, with philosophy (as in many other respects) closer to the sciences than the rest of the humanities.

    The discrimination against men also contributes to the leftward bias of the university, since most conservative and religious women are unwilling to forego or postpone childbearing.

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