meep (meep) wrote,
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Waaaaah, Mars needs chicks

Desegregation Stalled: The Changing Gender Composition of College Majors, 1971-2002. The abstract:
Gender segregation in baccalaureate degree fields declined rapidly in the first half of the period from 1971 to 2002; at the same time, women's representation among baccalaureate degree recipients increased most rapidly relative to men's. The desegregation of the early period resulted mainly from women's increased entry into business-related fields and declining proportions of women majoring in traditional fields such as education and English. Men did not contribute to integration by moving toward fields numerically dominated by women. Fixed-effects regression models suggest that feminization of fields discourages later cohorts of men from entering them, as predicted by the devaluation perspective. The stalling of desegregation came from a combination of men's disinclination to enter fields that are "too" filled with women, and the slowdown in women making less traditional choices.
Let's consider common sense -- the rebalancing comes because women were pretty much in two areas in college initially: nursing and teaching. If you were a woman good at math (and interested in it), you'd be told to be a high school math teacher. I had some good female math teachers from my Ma's generation because that was seen as the appropriate venue for an intellectual woman good with numbers. As attitudes changed and workplaces opened up, women had more choices and took them. The ones they were interested in, that is. So they rushed to where they were interested, which were huge ranges of fields. I will grant that men pretty much had a social barrier into entering elementary education and nursing (I had plenty of older male high school teachers, but most of them had degrees in the subject they were teaching.... isn't that interesting.) But considering the party line is that of patriarchy, if the men really wanted to be in these professions, women could have been barred from them as well. The fields that were feminized then were feminized because very few men were interested in them. Of course all the rebalancing would be due to the movement of women - the men already had as free a range as they desired.

Which brings us to the graphs shown. Interestingly, it seems that business, marketing, and accounting are about as attractive to female college students as male. Considering that women make up about 60% of the undergrad population, this actually means these fields have "feminized" in the sense that there are more women in these majors than men, in absolute numbers.

But one finds that certain fields are not gender neutral. Let's see which these are favored by men compared to women: physics, chemistry, and electrical engineering. Also on a different graph: computer science and economics. (Question: where's the math majors? There are far more majoring in math than physics or chemistry...so why isn't it represented? Is the pattern not one that would go with their neat regression? Seriously, I'm not trusting the number-crunching when some huge majors are missing.) Favored by women: education, nursing, psychology, sociology. Does one see a pattern? Anyone?

Could it be that certain fields deal with "stuff" and "things" and other fields center around people? That's what it looks like to me.

What about those "balanced" majors? They all revolve around business -- they're very practical majors (unlike physics, which is very interesting but translates very little into a practical career outside academia). So when it comes to the bottom line - wanting a major that is directly related to corporate jobs - women seem to be similar to the men. But then, nursing and education as majors are also very vocational: they feed into very specific careers, careers involving taking care of people. And sorry, more women prefer taking care of people, particularly really small people (aka children), than do men. Just as you're going to see more men interested in jobs that might involve hurting/killing other people in order to protect the public (cop, soldier, bouncer). These are the result of personal preferences, coupled with ability...it just so happens that preferences aren't distributed the same amongst men and women. But why should they be? Height isn't distributed equally. Muscular strength isn't distributed equally. Ability to give birth is most definitely not distributed equally (dammit). Why should career or major preferences be distributed equally?

Perhaps "desegregation has stalled" because the populations are now in equilibrium, where each individual is going with their actual major preference, and where such preferences aren't equally distributed amongst groups. Is there any outcry that there aren't more men in women's studies? Why the gender segregation?! We must kick out some of the faculty and students and forcibly draft men to take their place. Then justice shall be achieved!

(As an aside, do not use me, a female physics/math major, with stay-at-home husband and three kids, to try to prove any kind of point. I am a weirdo. Stu is a weirdo. I come from a long line of weirdos, and Stu can speak for his own family. We are sitting so far out on a tail somewhere, we can't even see the distribution. Anyone thinking that a large population can be characterized by its outliers deserves ridicule.)

I got really pissed when I found that by the time feminism got to me, it was no longer about making sure individuals got a chance to pursue their own potential, but about making the numbers even in very particular endeavors. You know, fight for the woman garbage hauler who is getting unduly harassed, or the female firefighters who can pull their weight but must deal with misogyny -- but don't undermine these individuals by demanding quotas and lowering standards so that the quota can be met. In the same way I'm against unions (one of the many reasons being that weirdos like me always get screwed in a union - can't escape that self-interest), I am extremely offended when substandard women are shoved into positions because it's good PR.

Well, screw that. This weirdo can always join a different game if she wishes. Which I've done more than once.
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