Posts tagged ‘gender gap’

July 28, 2014

Right-tail gender disparity of SAT math scores

by Grace

Could this be one of the reasons women are underrepresented in engineering and computer science?

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2. Chart of the Day above illustrates graphically one of the reasons that women are under-represented in the more mathematically intensive STEM fields like engineering and computer science. In 2013, boys out-performed girls for perfect scores of 800 on the math SAT test by a male-female ratio of 1.88 to 1 (188 boys for every 100 girls), and for a near-perfect score of 790 by a ratio of exactly 2 to 1.

These facts make some people uncomfortable, as shown by the criticism Larry Summers received when he remarked on the right-tail disparity in men’s math scores.

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Mark J. Perry, “Monday afternoon linkage”, Carpe Diem, July 21, 2014.

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June 18, 2014

It’s not really a STEM gender gap, but a ‘TE’ gender gap

by Grace

Randy Olson graphed the percentage of bachelor’s degrees conferred to women by major.

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The only STEM gender gaps are in computer science and engineering.

Surprisingly to me, most of the STEM majors aren’t doing as bad gender disparity-wise as I expected. 40-45% of the degrees in Math, Statistics, and the Physical Sciences were conferred to women in 2012. Even better, a majority of Biology degrees in 2012 (58%) were earned by women. This data tells me that we don’t really have a STEM gender gap in the U.S.: we have an ET gender gap!

If we actually have a shortage in skilled engineering and technology employees, this gender gap matters.

This ET gender gap has severe consequences. Computer Science and Engineering majors have stagnated at less than 10% of all degrees conferred in the U.S. for the past decade, while the demand for employees with programming and engineering skills continue to outpace the supply every year…

Provided that far more women attend college than men, it seems the best way to meet the U.S.’s growing need for skilled programmers and engineers is to focus on recruiting more women — of any race or ethnicity — into Computer Science and Engineering majors. The big question, of course, is “How?” With the constant issues of subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) discrimination against women in these male-dominated majors, we have quite a tough task on our hands.

Looking at the historical trends, maybe we have something to learn from Architecture and the Physical Sciences, given that they were in our position only 40 years ago.

Geology, my field of study, has a similar story of declining gender imbalance.

… Between 1974 and 2000, geoscience degrees awarded to women rose from ~17% to 45% (AGI, 2001).

How did it happen?

Interestingly, the rise in women pursuing geoscience degrees coincided with a sharp decline in oil prices that decimated high-paying oil industry opportunities for geologists.  At the same time, an increased interest in environmental issues pushed up the need for geologists to work in that area, often at jobs paid by government dollars either directly or indirectly.  I think more women are attracted to those types of jobs than to the more rough-and-tumble ones in the oil or mining industries.  I don’t see the possibility of a similar change in computer science or engineering where women would become newly attracted to those fields, thus shrinking the current gender gap.

Among the comments at Olson’s post was a suggestion that more female mentors were needed.   And there was this:

When computer science programs incorporate soft skill training into the course content, i.e. communication, inclusion in a group, importance of teamwork, sexual harassment etc, you will see a change. Women have to see what the possibilities are for them in a field long term. If what they are seeing is a male dominated field, with people who do not communicate well, and who do not welcome them to the table, I don’t blame them for not choosing computer science. Women want to work where they are welcomed, where they can use both right and left brain skills.

Extensive group work and writing about math are examples of “soft” skills recently introduced in K-12 education, at least partly implemented as a means of improving the achievement levels of girls in math.  I don’t believe the overall outcomes of this experimentation have been particularly positive, but perhaps it would work better at the college level.

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Randy Olson, “Percentage of Bachelor’s degrees conferred to women, by major (1970-2012)”, Randal S. Olson, June 14, 2014.

Dallas D. Rhodes, “Generational and Cyclical Demographic Change in The Geological Society of America”, GSA Today, November 2008.

May 2, 2014

Social skills help make girls better criminals

by Grace

Girls have been using their brains to better effect than boys for years when it comes to exams and they are now doing the same to increase their status in street gangs according to new research.

While young men are content to hang around estates and town centres smoking drugs, girls are taking full advantage of their superior social skills in helping them climb the criminal ladder as they are increasingly relied on for money laundering, smuggling weapons in their prams or hiding drug stashes.

Dr. Simon Harding from Middlesex University in London reported his conclusions after spending four years studying gang members aged 16-25.

This finding is not surprising, considering that other research has shown teenage “boys lag behind girls in developing ‘critical social skills’.

Social skills make women better criminals

“The male members of the gangs often spend a lot of time hanging around with their gang mates, smoking dope, staying out of the way. It’s the girls who keep in touch with the wider community. They pick up gossip on the streets, stay in contact with friends and family and use Facebook and Skype to gather information.”

He added: “The girls’ knowledge gives them status within the gang and the male members are wary of their power to spread rumour about them or inform on them to others in the gang, and that can put some of them in a powerful position.”

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Paul Gallagher, “Girls’ brains help them do better at exams – and at gang crime – scientists say”, The Independent, April 25, 2014.

“Social skills make women better criminals”, The Telegraph, April 25, 2014.

April 17, 2014

Teenage boys lag behind girls in developing ‘critical social skills’

by Grace

According to a six-year Dutch study, teenage boys are slower to develop two social skills.

Cognitive empathy — “the mental ability to take others’ perspective”

Affective empathy — “the ability to recognize and respond to others’ feelings”

In adolescence, critical social skills that are needed to feel concern for other people and understand how they think are undergoing major changes. Adolescence has long been known as prime time for developing cognitive skills for self-control, or executive function.

“Cognitive empathy,” or the mental ability to take others’ perspective, begins rising steadily in girls at age 13, according to a six-year study published recently in Developmental Psychology. But boys don’t begin until age 15 to show gains in perspective-taking, which helps in problem-solving and avoiding conflict.

Adolescent males actually show a temporary decline, between ages 13 and 16, in a related skill—affective empathy, or the ability to recognize and respond to others’ feelings, according to the study, co-authored by Jolien van der Graaff, a doctoral candidate in the Research Centre Adolescent Development at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Fortunately, the boys’ sensitivity recovers in the late teens. Girls’ affective empathy remains relatively high and stable through adolescence.

Affective and cognitive empathy are valuable skills in the school setting, and these gender differences could help explain why boys score as well as or better than girls on most standardized tests, yet they are far less likely to get good grades, take advanced classes or attend college”.

The scholars attributed this “misalignment” to differences in “noncognitive skills”: attentiveness, persistence, eagerness to learn, the ability to sit still and work independently. As most parents know, girls tend to develop these skills earlier and more naturally than boys.

Testosterone and social pressure may both be determining factors.

The decline in affective empathy among young teenage boys may spring at least partly from a spurt during puberty in testosterone, sparking a desire for dominance and power …

Boys also feel pressure from peers and some adults to “act like a man,” which they often define as being detached, tough, funny and strong …

How much do fathers matter?

Fathers seem to play a special role. Teens whose fathers are supportive, who say they feel better after talking over their worries with their dads, are more skilled at perspective-taking, says a 2011 study of 15- to 18-year-old boys in Developmental Psychology.

Ambiguous terminology in the use of “cognitive” and “noncognitive” can be confusing.  The term”noncognitive” seems to vary in meaning depending on context.  Daniel Willingham helps explain how it is sometimes used as shorthand for what many people consider “non-academic” skills.

“Non-cognitive factors” is a misleading but entrenched catch-all term for factors such as motivation, grit, self-regulation, social skills. . . in short, mental constructs that we think contribute to student success, but that don’t contribute directly to the sorts of academic outcomes we measure, in the way that, say, vocabulary or working memory do.

Boys can try to catch up to girls.

I keep hearing that boys tend to shape up and mature after freshman year in high school.  That has not been my observation, but even if they do this just means they have to catch up to girls in a few short years or else suffer long-term consequences from getting off track in their early teen years.

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Sue Shellenbarger, “Teens Are Still Developing Empathy Skills”, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 15, 2013.

September 11, 2013

Harvard Business School gives itself a ‘gender makeover’ to ‘foster female success’

by Grace

Here is the problem, at least as perceived by many:

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As a way to close this gender salary gap, Harvard Business School set out to give itself a gender makeover, changing its curriculum, rules and social rituals to foster female success“.

It is an ambitious plan, intended  “to change how students spoke, studied and socialized”.

But in 2010, Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard’s first female president, appointed a new dean who pledged to do far more than his predecessors to remake gender relations at the business school. He and his team tried to change how students spoke, studied and socialized….

Am I the only one who thinks this sounds a little creepy?

… The school saw itself as the standard-bearer for American business. Turning around its record on women, the new administrators assured themselves, could have an untold impact at other business schools, at companies populated by Harvard alumni and in the Fortune 500, where only 21 chief executives are women. The institution would become a laboratory for studying how women speak in group settings, the links between romantic relationships and professional status, and the use of everyday measurement tools to reduce bias.

Many of us are familiar with the gender wage gap, including the part about women often feeling they have “to choose between academic and social success” and that business schools see their graduates “part by gender after graduation, with more men going into higher-paying areas like finance and more women going into lower-paying ones like marketing”.

But I didn’t realize that a typical HBS female student had to “be taught how to raise her hand”.  Who knew that these best and brightest examples of high-achieving women were such wallflowers?  Apparently they need coaching on how to participate effectively in classes where men tend to take over discussions.

… Reach up assertively! No apologetic little half-waves! …

Women at Harvard did fine on tests. But they lagged badly in class participation, a highly subjective measure that made up 50 percent of each final mark. Every year the same hierarchy emerged early on: investment bank and hedge fund veterans, often men, sliced through equations while others — including many women — sat frozen or spoke tentatively. The deans did not want to publicly dwell on the problem: that might make the women more self-conscious. But they lectured about respect and civility, expanded efforts like the hand-raising coaching and added stenographers in every class so professors would no longer rely on possibly biased memories of who had said what.

Marianne Bertrand from the Chicago Booth School of Business recently gave a presentation that included a list of “documented robust gender differences in a set of psychological attributes”.

–Women are more risk averse
–Women negotiate less/women do not ask
–Women perform more poorly in competitive environments and shy away from such competitive environments
–Women lack in self-confidence (while men tend to be overly confident)

Even if the environment can be modified to promote more women into corporate leadership roles, Bertrand points out that policy responses will only be effective if we can confirm that these are learned behaviors.

… Innate or learned? nature vs. nurture?  …

Related:  Women who graduated from highly selective colleges more likely to drop out of workforce (Cost of College)

July 5, 2013

The struggling middle class – working hard or hardly working?

by Grace

It may seem simplistic, but perhaps an attitude adjustment would improve the outlook for our uncertain economic future.

Charles Blow wrote about the The Morose Middle Classciting several polls showing Americans are worried about a shrinking middle class.

According to the poll, Americans see a middle class with less opportunity to get ahead, less job security and less disposable income than the middle class of previous generations.

I have some recent posts on this theme of a hollowed out middle class, with Megan McArdle citing technology and trade as main culprits.  And although “education is not a solution by itself”, most of us still believe in its value for at least keeping us out of poverty.

Most of those polled believe that higher education is the key to staying in the middle class, but many worry about its prohibitive cost and inaccessibility.

What about a willingness to work hard?

There is no denying that soaring costs have created a formidable barrier to higher education.  But beyond soaring college costs, technology, and trade, it might be argued that weakened stamina for hard work is even more to blame for our economic woes.

The Atlantic gives us a story about John, a young man who feels like he’s “working really hard, but he’s not getting ahead”.

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Is he working really hard?  The details of John’s story failed to convince me.

  • He was an unmotivated high school student, graduating with a C-average.
  • His parents encouraged him to attend college, and paid for it.
  • But he dropped out after two years, struggling with math and science.
  • He is now 29 years old, working as a preschool teacher making $11 an hour — about $23,000 a year.
  • He lives in a “cluttered” house, owned by his parents and rented to him at a discount.
  • He “wants’ to go back to school and “thinks” about getting a second job.
  • He sometimes gets angry, but also admits he “kind of” blames himself.

Various factors influence economic success.

“Economic mobility is not predetermined,” says Erin Currier, project manager of Pew’s Economic Mobility Project, “but our research has shown that a host of drivers and factors can influence a person’s chances of moving up or falling down.” These determinants fall into three categories: social capital (who you know and where you live); financial capital (your savings and access to credit); and human capital (your education).

John’s parents have tried to help him with social capital (John rebuffed his dad’s offers to help him find a job at the railroad) and financial capital (the house with discounted rent, although no help with tuition). What he needs is more human capital. For that, his parents can’t help much, except to offer encouragement. “He’s smart enough to go to college,” Greg says. Beth adds: “We still want better for him, we really do. But we don’t know what to do.”

From a comment to this story:

… I’ve never met a kid in college who actually “worked hard” (shown up every day, did the work, went to office hours, etc.) and still failed. I’ve met dozens of kids who did none of those things, but then complained when they failed the tests.

It appears John lacks more than “human capital”.  What about persistence and a willingness to work hard?

This is what working hard looks like:
The other day I met a young man at a car rental place.  He was quite engaging, and chatted about his work life.  Washing cars and shuttling customers at the rental company is his second job.  His main job is driving a UPS truck for 42 hours a week.  In total, he works about 70-80 hours a week.  He said he hardly had time to see his girlfriend, but she understood.  He was making good money.  I didn’t learn if he was planning to attend college, and I cannot predict how this young man will fare in the increasingly competitive workforce of the future.  But I am convinced he really is “working hard”, and that his chances of future success are higher than those of John, the college dropout profiled in The Atlantic.

June 26, 2013

Quick Links – Contranyms; affirmative action drama continues; boys problems

by Grace

TIL a word that can be its own antonym is called a contranym.

Also referred to as an auto-antonym or Janus word

Some examples from Daily Writing Tips:

  • Bolt: To secure, or to flee
  • Dust: To add fine particles, or to remove them
  • Flog: To promote persistently, or to criticize or beat
  • Sanction: To approve, or to boycott
  • Trim: To decorate, or to remove excess from

Here’s an example from contemporary slang:  …”bitch” can refer to someone who’s domineering or submissive.

* * * * *

‘So the drama over affirmative action continues’.

From the WSJ:

The Supreme Court, in an anticlimax, sidestepped a sweeping ruling on affirmative action Monday, directing lower courts to re-examine whether a race-conscious admissions program at the University of Texas at Austin should survive constitutional scrutiny.

Summed up in a Chronicle of Higher Ed headline:

Supreme Court Puts New Pressure on Colleges to Justify Affirmative Action

* * * * *

This might be an iconic photo, emblematic of the “boys problem” in our schools.

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These young women are the senior class officers at a local public high school* that held graduation last week.  They look like a fine group of accomplished, motivated students.

* No, this is not an all-girls school.

April 5, 2013

To eliminate the gender wage gap, don’t let women major in sociology

by Grace

Advice on how to eliminate the gender wage gap from Christina Hoff Sommers:

Talented young women who aspire to be rich and powerful would be advised to major in economics or electrical engineering rather than psychology or social work. They should be prepared to work 60 hours a week at the office rather than combining shorter hours with home, family, and other pursuits they find fulfilling. Those who stick with this course will find that their W-2s are equal to those of their male counterparts.

While some sex discrimination undoubtedly exists, it is does not appear to be the reason for most of the gender wage gap.  The gap mainly arises from the choices women make about their jobs and their families.  Perhaps some women need to be “empowered” to make different decisions, but I suspect most women already exercise free choice.

… But American women today are as independent-minded and self-determining as any in history. It is condescending to suggest that they have been manipulated when they choose home and family over high-octane careers—or to pursue degrees in education rather than engineering.

Related:  The Gender Wage Gap Is Getting Worse (thinkprogress.org)

April 4, 2013

Missing fathers are at the core of a ‘vicious cycle’ of poverty

by Grace

Missing fathers are both a cause and an effect of poverty

The decline of two-parent households may be a significant reason for the divergent fortunes of male workers, whose earnings generally declined in recent decades, and female workers, whose earnings generally increased, a prominent labor economist argues in a new survey of existing research.

MIT professor David H. Autor examined the poverty of single-parent families for Third Way, a center-left policy research organization.

In this telling, the economic struggles of male workers are both a cause and an effect of the breakdown of traditional households. Men who are less successful are less attractive as partners, so some women are choosing to raise children by themselves, in turn often producing sons who are less successful and attractive as partners.

“A vicious cycle may ensue,” wrote Professor Autor and his co-author, Melanie Wasserman, a graduate student, “with the poor economic prospects of less educated males creating differentially large disadvantages for their sons, thus potentially reinforcing the development of the gender gap in the next generation.”

Encourage marriage or pump up the economy?  Is it a chicken or egg scenario?

Conservatives have long argued that society should encourage stable parental relationships. A recent report by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia concluded that promoting marriage is the best way “to make family life more stable for children whose parents don’t enjoy the benefit of a college education.”

Liberals have tended to argue that the government should focus instead on improving economic opportunities. Jonathan Cowan, the president of Third Way, said the paper underscored that addressing social problems was a means to improve economic opportunities.

Here’s an idea.

Instead of making marriage more attractive, he said, it might be better for society to help make men more attractive.

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The chance of a child ending up poor declines by 82 percent when raised in a two-parent family.

Although correlation does not imply causation, there’s no doubt that a caring father adds tremendous value to a child’s upbringing.

According to the U.S. census, the poverty rate for single parents with children in the U.S. in 2009 was 37.1 percent. For married families the rate was only 6.8 percent. The chance of a child ending up poor declines by 82 percent when raised in a two-parent family. As the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector reports, “Some of this difference in poverty is due to the fact that single parents tend to have less education than married couples.” Even adjusting for that factor “the married poverty rate will still be more than 75 percent lower.”

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Fathers have been disappearing from homes across America over the last 50 years.

… Fifteen million U.S. children, or 1 in 3, live without a father, and nearly 5 million live without a mother. In 1960, just 11 percent of American children lived in homes without fathers.

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America is awash in poverty, crime, drugs and other problems, but more than perhaps anything else, it all comes down to this, said Vincent DiCaro, vice president of the National Fatherhood Initiative: Deal with absent fathers, and the rest follows.

March 22, 2013

Maybe men are smart to skip college

by Grace

Percent of U.S. Adults Ages 25-29 With a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher, 1969-2009
20130319.COCCollegeEnrollmentGender1

Maybe men are avoiding college because it offers them a lower ROI compared to women, at least in the short term.

Men without college degrees face better job prospects than equivalently educated women, at least in the short term. That makes the consequences of dropping out appear smaller for men.

The paper, by sociologists Rachel Dwyer and Randy Hodson of Ohio State University and Laura McCloud of Pacific Lutheran University, used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to look at the educational and employment experiences of more than 6,500 Americans born between 1980 and 1984. Unsurprisingly, going to college boosted earnings for both men and women. But the gap was much wider for women. After controlling for various demographic factors, the researchers found that female graduates earned more than $6,500 more per year than women with just a high school diploma, and more than $4,500 more than women who dropped out of college. Male graduates, by contrast, earned only about $2,700 more than high school graduates, and about the same amount as male college drop-outs.

The findings are consistent with past research, which has showed that jobs are much more gender-segregated in low-education occupations. Female drop-outs tend to concentrate in low-paying service-sector jobs, whereas less-educated men are more likely to find work in better-paying industries such as manufacturing and construction.

“Women experience a much larger immediate economic penalty for not graduating from college than do men,” the authors write. “Female dropouts simply face worse job prospects than do male dropouts.”

This might play a role in motivating women to do well in high school.

“Young men who see high school friends with relatively well-paying jobs may resist taking on debt to gain a degree with uncertain returns,” the authors write. “At the same time, young women who see friends in low-paying female-dominated jobs, such as retail cashier or day care worker, may be spurred to stay in school, even with debt.”

Over the long term, skipping college may not be such a smart move.

… The wage gap between men with and without bachelor’s degrees starts small but grows over time as better-educated men enjoy more opportunities for career advancement. And as the recession showed, those well-paying jobs in construction and manufacturing can disappear quickly and be slow to return….

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