5 Things You Should Know about the College Gender Gap

If you have been following education hot button issues for any length of time, you’ve likely read about the nationwide push to better encourage girls in areas like science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The thought is that by showing young women that these topics are just as appropriate for them as their male peers, more women will find lasting careers in these traditionally male-dominated fields.

I’m all for more women in the STEM workplace but with all this focus in one area, are educators neglecting an even larger gender gap issue?

Nationally, over 57 percent of college attendees are female when public and private school stats are combined. Female students have been consistently edging ahead of their male classmates since the late 1970s when the percentages flip-flopped. Aside from all-female schools, there are others that have marked disproportionate numbers. Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena has nearly 96 percent females in attendance, and the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center in Memphis has over 93 percent. At Indiana University Northwest, located just outside Gary, 67 percent of the student population is female.

I’m glad women are becoming more and more educated, but the gender gap is problematic. Here are some things you should know about the college gender gap.

  1. The college gender gap is not an accident.

There are a few reasons why more young women than men are choosing a college education. The first is that there are more trades that do not require a college degree that appeal to men. The second is that economically speaking, women earn a better living with a college degree than without one in comparison to men. Though there is still a wage gap (in 2012, women earned just 80.9 percent of the salaries of their male counterparts), women see the value their earning potential can gain from achieving a college diploma.

I hear people asking this question all the time: What are K-12 educators doing wrong when it comes to preparing young women for STEM careers? It’s a valid one.

But based on the statistics I’ve listed here, shouldn’t we also be asking this question: What are K-12 educators doing when it comes to preparing young men for a college education?

  1. This can lead to financial trade-offs for men down the line.

It all comes down to the weight we assign to the worth of a college education. If a diploma is simply a way to earn more money over a lifetime, then perhaps men are doing the intelligent thing by launching into the workforce early and without student loan debt. That logic is flawed, however, when taking into account the fact that blue-collar jobs are declining in favor of white-collar ones. A young man making a lifelong career decision today simply cannot predict what educational demands will be placed on his field in another 10, 20 or 30 years.

  1. The educational disparity that results is bad for marriage.

Money aside, there are other pitfalls in a disproportionate number of men going to college. Statistics show that marriages where the couples have differing education levels more often end in divorce than couples with the same educational achievements. And even before divorce is an option, women who set college educational goals may not want to settle for men with less motivation – at least when it comes to academics. If this trend continues, social dynamics may be impacted.

  1. The path to the college gender gap begins before college.

According to Dr. Leonard Sax, too many boys are struggling in schools today. Sax proposes that five factors are responsible for the decline in school performance among boys: video games, prescription drugs, endocrine disruptors, devaluation of masculinity in popular culture, and teaching methods.  Sax and many others believe that video games disengage boys from real-world pursuits. Mind-numbing keyboards and flashing images have a seductive effect on the brain.  Medication for ADHD may be damaging motivational centers in boy’s brains, and the harmful effects of estrogens from food and plastic containers are upsetting the balance of boys’ endocrine systems.  The athletic, scholarly male TV heroes of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s have been replaced with Bart Simpson. These and other shifts in modern culture are responsible for devaluing traditional masculine strengths.  Additionally, Sax claims that the ways in which children are being educated today simply turn boys off from schooling.

Men who are completing a four year degree take longer than women to do so, and tend to socialize more in college, study less than women, and have poorer grades. The difference in male-female college/university enrollment reflects performance differences that are evident well before college attendance.

  1. Minority men fare even worse with this trend.

The problem escalates when race is taken into account.  Recently, the Black Star Project published findings that just 10 percent of eighth-grade Black boys in the U.S. are considered “proficient” in reading. In urban areas like Chicago and Detroit, that number was even lower. By contrast, the 2013 National Assessment of Education Progress found that 46 percent of white students are adequate readers by eighth grade, and 17 percent of Black students as a whole are too. The achievement gap between the two races is startling, but the difference between the NAEP report on Black students as a whole and the Black Star findings of just Black boys is troubling too. It is not simply Black children in general who appear to be failing in the basics – like literacy; it is the boys.

We must ask ourselves why boys and young men seem to be falling behind academically.  More importantly, what steps need to be taken in order to reverse this trend?

Click here to read all our posts concerning the Achievement Gap.

0 Replies to “5 Things You Should Know about the College Gender Gap”

  1. The belief boys should be strong allows aggressive treatment from infancy to create anger and fear so they will be tough. There is less kind verbal interaction and less mental/emotional verbal support for fear of coddling. This treatment creates higher layers of average stress for boys. These layers remain in the mind taking away real mental energy from academics so they will have to work harder to receive the same mental reward. This less supportive treatment creates emotional distance/distrust of others. It creates lags in communication we as girls are given continually. The higher average stress creates activity for stress relief not genetics. The higher average stress creates higher muscle tension which hurts handwriting more pressure and tighter grip hurting motivation early fatigue. The total effect with our false genetic models firmly in place including less care creates more failure and a feeling of hopelessness. To make it even tougher for boys is granting of love honor feelings of self-worth only on condition of achievement. This was designed to keep Male esteem low and be willing to give their lives in war for tidbits of love honor from society. Males not achieving are given ridicule and discipline to make them try harder. Support is not given for fear of coddling. Many boys falling behind in school turn their attention to sports and video games for small measures of love honor not received in school. The belief boys should be strong and the false belief in genetics create a denial of the differential treatment which is creating the low academics low esteem and other problems boys are facing. Emotional cannibalism allowed upon boys who appear weak. Note this is not about showing feelings or openness from boys; it is about society so boys feel much wariness toward parents and teachers who more freely use more aggressive treatment for any sign of vulnerability. This is condoned by society today. This problem is affecting all male children later adults but the lower the socioeconomic environment and more time in lower areas the more amplified and set in place the harsh and less supportive treatment given those male children by parents teachers peers others.
    As girls we are given much more mental emotional social physical support and care by parents teachers and peers. We enjoy a kind of reverse catharsis of much continuous care while the boys receive the opposite more hurtful treatment to make them strong. This is now killing off boys in the information age while providing girls with all of the good things. As girls we are treated much better and so enjoy more hope and support from society. Since we as girls are given by differential treatment much more continual positive – mental social/emotional support verbal interaction and care from an early age onward this creates the opposite outcome for girls when compared with boys. We receive love and honor simply for being girls. This creates all of the good things. We have lower average stress for ease of learning. We enjoy much more freedom of expression from much protection by society that makes us look more unstable at times but we can also use that same freedom of expression to give verbal silent abuse and hollow kindness/patronization to our Male peers with impunity knowing we are protected. We enjoy much lower muscle tension for ease in handwriting and motivation to write. We enjoy much more positive trust/communication from parents teachers peers and support for perceived weaknesses. We are reaping a bonanza in the information age. Now with girls and women taking over many areas of society we enjoy even more lavishing of love and honor from society while boys and men are now failing more so and are now given more ridicule and abuse by society. Mind you this is now coming from many girls and women using our still protected freedoms of expression and more so with now false feelings of superiority.

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