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 Education 10 13
Gifted and Talented Education Programs 10 11
Associate’s Degrees 10 16
Bachelor’s Degrees 10 13
Master’s Degrees 10 16
Doctorate Degrees 10 11

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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