Is there gender inequality in education (or anywhere else)?

I stumbled across this on the web today, courtesy of Mark Perry / Carpe Diem, and had to share it, because it does a good job of illustrating the perceived gender inequality in education.

57% of students in postsecondary education are men.

52% of students in gifted and talented education programs in 2009 were boys.

In 2009-10, men received 62% of all associate’s degrees, 57% of of all bachelor’s degrees, 62% of all master’s degrees, and 53% of all doctorate degrees.

One would read that and likely say it is conclusive evidence that women are under-represented in education, and there is gender inequality against them.

However, that would be a lie. In copying the above from the source, I changed all references from women to men. The actual facts should read as follows:

57% of students in postsecondary education are women.

52% of students in gifted and talented education programs in 2009 were girls.

In 2009-10, women received 62% of all associate’s degrees, 57% of of all bachelor’s degrees, 62% of all master’s degrees, and 53% of all doctorate degrees.

To show the same in a table:

 # of Men# of Women
Postsecondary Education1013
Gifted and Talented Education Programs1011
Associate’s Degrees1016
Bachelor’s Degrees1013
Master’s Degrees1016
Doctorate Degrees1011

Obviously, there are many reasons for this, some of which are:

What does this mean? To me, it means this: men and women are interested in different things, have different goals, and make different choices in life. Men make choices such as military service (or crime) more than women; they choose to be firefighters (98% male) and engineers (89% male), whereas women choose to be teachers (about 85% female), social workers (81% female), and registered nurses (94% female).

So is there a “gender gap”? No more than there is a “pet acceptance gap.” Consider the differences in dog and cat acceptance in U.S. households, where there are 10% more cats than dogs in U.S. households. Why? Because cats and dogs are different, so people accept them differently, and in different numbers.

The bottom line: There are gender differences; the gaps are created by those differences.

Disclaimer: Obviously, there are specific instances where men and/or women are unfairly treated in education, or in certain professions, or in certain social circles. This commentary is not to focus on the individual experience, but on the experience as a whole. Though there may be injustice in life at times, it does not mean that all of life is unjust. And, of course, correlation does not imply causality.

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