"unequal education conditions of girls and women"?

Tim Benham (timben@interact.net.au)
Thu, 23 Apr 1998 00:13:35 +1000

Jacquelyn Zimmerman (JZ) writes:

JZ> This is in response to H. Furbrow's comments on Deborah
JZ> Brake's opening statements, questioning the accuracy and relevance
JZ> of her statements about the current unequal education conditions
JZ> of girls and women.
JZ> While sex discrimination is no longer routinely accepted in
JZ> education and has been prohibited since Title IX became law, the
JZ> incidences of sexual harassment and assault that are continually
JZ> reported show that freedom from threats to learning still has not
JZ> been achieved for girls and women.

JZ> Other conditions that inhibit equal opportunity in education,
JZ> which also impact the workplace, remain:
JZ> 1. Although women earn half of all college degreees, they are
JZ> less likely than men to earn bachelor's degrees in computer
JZ> science, engineering, physical sciences, or math.

The claim that women earn only "half of all college degreees" shades
the truth: the proportion received be women exceeded 50% more than 4
years ago and has continued to climb since (now approximately
59%). Neither this fact nor women's inferior attainment in computer
science, engineering, physical sciences, and math is a condition that
inhibits equal opportunity in education, so the points raised do not
support Zimmerman's claim.

JZ> At higher
JZ> levels of education, they account for only 17% of doctoral degrees
JZ> in math and physical science, 14% of doctoral degrees in computer
JZ> science, and 7% of doctoral degrees in engineering. This gap
JZ> becomes even more significant in the labor market where salaries
JZ> are among the highest in math/computer science and
JZ> engineering--fields in which women are underrepresented. Without
JZ> more equity in these fields, women will remain at the low end of
JZ> positions and the pay scale in the information age. Let me add
JZ> that this last statement is true whether or not it is true that,
JZ> as H. Furbrow says, women "want" to be secretaries and other
JZ> low-paying jobs and not go in to these higher paying professional
JZ> fields. This opinion of women's desires is irrelevant to the
JZ> "truth" of the marketplace and the opportunities for them in it.

Zimmerman is conflating post-graduation employment opportunities with
educational opportunities. Once again these points are nothing to do
with "conditions that inhibit equal opportunity in education" -- such
conditions must pertain before graduation, not afterwards.

JZ> 2. In U.S. high schools, there are still about 24,000 more
JZ> boys' varsity teams than girls' teams; in college, women receive
JZ> only one-third of all athletic scholarships; and between 1992 and
JZ> 1997 overall operating expenditures for women's college sports
JZ> programs grew only 89%, compared to 139% for men, representing
JZ> only 23% of the total operating expenses.

Athletic scholarships are an opportunity, but it is debatable whether
they are an educational one and if so whether they are
desirable. Athletic scholars are not renowned for their academic
prowess -- this fact is a common source of humor inside the US and a
laughing-stock for foreigners who find the idea of admitting someone
to a tertiary academic institution on the basis of how fast he can run
or how far he can kick a ball ludicrous.

JZ> 3. Even though women make up half of the labor market, not
JZ> only are tney underrepresented in jobs in scientific fields, but
JZ> they are often paid less than men for the same jobs. In 1993,
JZ> only 18% of employed recent female science and engineering
JZ> graduates worked in scinece and engineering occupations, compared
JZ> to 35% of their male counterparts. In the sameyear, women who had
JZ> majored in the natural sciences earned 15% less than men who
JZ> majored in the same field.

My remarks under Zimmerman's para. 1 apply equally here, though the
connection between these statistics and discriminatory conditions is
even more tenuous. They could be explained in many different ways;
e.g. women may tend not to like science and engineering as much so
they give it up earlier on average.

JZ> 4. Despite women's larege gains toward equal educational
JZ> attainment and their accompanying gains in labor force
JZ> participation, their earnings are only 80% of the earnings of
JZ> their male counterparts with the same education--$26,000
JZ> vs. $32,000, respectively, for graduates of 4-year colleges in
JZ> 1993.

Well that's certainly progress: first we had 59 cents, then 68, and
now 80! The numbers have changed but the reasoning remains
flawed. Zimmerman's statement is ambiguous because is not clear
whether or not the graduates to whom she refers are restircted to
those who graduated in 1993. However, figures of the sort she quotes
have invariably been the product of inadequate control of relevant
factors. Controlling for academic attainment and speciality, actual
hours worked rather than nominal, and continuous service, invariably
eliminates the deficiency in female earnings.


Polachek, Solomon William (State U New York). 1987. Occupational Segregation
and the Gender Wage Gap. Population Research and Policy Review 6, 1, 47-67.

Gerhart, Barry (Cornell U). 1990. Gender Differences in Current and Starting
Salaries: The Role of Performance, College Major, and Job Title. Industrial
and Labor Relations Review; 43(4), pages 418-33.

Raymond, Richard D.; Sesnowitz, Michael L.; Williams, Donald R. 1988 Does
Sex Still Matter? New Evidence from the 1980s. Economic Inquiry; 26(1),
pages 43-58.

Uhlenberg, Peter; Cooney, Teresa M. (U North Carolina) 1990. Male and Female
Physicians: Family and Career Comparisons. Social Science and Medicine 30,
3, 373-378.

As before the points Zimmerman raises, even if they were true, would
not constitute "conditions that inhibit equal opportunity in

JZ> It's not that we haven't made progress toward equity for
JZ> *all* since Title IX was passed 26 years ago; it's that we are
JZ> aware that more needs to be done and that we must be vigilant if
JZ> we are to accomplish the next stage of progress, as in all
JZ> developmental areas. When efforts focused on one group--in this
JZ> case, girls and women--succeed, all groups benefit.

This is obviously untrue. All the measures of success Zimmerman uses
are based on some relativity between women's position and men's: they
respond just as "well" to a drop in men's position as they do to a
gain in women's.

JZ> If your
JZ> neighbor's house was on fire you wouldn't say "Ho, hum" and close
JZ> your windows and shades.

This beggar thy neighbour approach seems to be the one adopted by the
"equity" lobby towards boy's ever declining educational
standing. Sadly the measures Zimmerman uses allow every male dropout
to be counted as a "success".

The remainder of Zimmerman's post raises no points of substance.

Note I have changed the subject line to something more relevant and
appropriate. Mr.Furbrow is not the subject of discussion here and
treating him as though he was is offensive.


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