21st Century College Gender Gap(s)
August 20, 2009 8:43 PM   Subscribe

Linda Sax's The Gender Gap in College argues there is a qualitative difference between how men and women experience college: on engagement, self-confidence and achievement.

The growing gender imbalance in college admissions may also result in higher rejection rates for female applicants which, Kenyon College Dean Jennifer Delahunty Britz argues, is a paradoxical result of the women's liberation movement. Women represent 58.7% of college graduates in the US.
posted by l33tpolicywonk (14 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Apologies for linking a blog post: the article it quotes in full is behind a pay wall at the Chronicle of Higher Ed website.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:44 PM on August 20, 2009

Thanks for this. Why are men more challenged and conflicted by diversity experiences than women? What specific aspects of diversity programming lead to such outcomes?

This stuck out to me as bizarre--is the issue that the women were already more aware of diversity issues when coming into college, and therefore men experience a greater absolute increase during college? Or do "diversity experiences" actually somehow turn women off? Is that related to the fact that they work their asses off, and want to be able to believe that this will pay off without focusing too much on social inequality?

It also seems weird that [women] who spend more time with faculty members, especially in the context of research, become more committed to traditional gender roles. I wonder if there was a difference here between male and female professors; I know that sometimes spending time with professors served to teach me that academia was a terrible system with all sorts of traps for women and minorities, and sometimes it gave me the determination to push through in spite of that.

I would be interested to read specific narratives showing how these outcomes are actually experienced and processed by the students Sax studied.
posted by besonders at 9:16 PM on August 20, 2009

From 10 Questons for Linda Sax:

How would you define the gender gap?

In numerous ways. Gender gaps favoring women have to do with academic engagement and educational attainment. Aspects that tend to favor men have to do with their financial situation and their self-confidence and also their greater interest in careers that pay well. But it’s important to remember that most of the gender gaps aren’t very large. Men and women are much more similar than they’re different.

This sounds like it's coming from someone who doesn't have an agenda to push. Thanks!
posted by zinfandel at 9:44 PM on August 20, 2009

Simpson's Paradox is always a fun topic. Beware of aggregated data.
posted by srboisvert at 3:31 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

l33tpolicywonk: "Linda Sax's The Gender Gap in College argues there is a qualitative difference between how men and women experience college: on engagement, self-confidence and achievement.

Above the fold has nice flow but had me confused mostly owing to circumventing the pay site and the format of the site linked in its' stead (thanks for doing that l33tpolicywonk).

Skip this paragraph, unless you want a detailed explanation.
Linda Sax's [wiki link] The Gender Gap in College
[amazon link] argues there is a qualitative difference [link goes to a blog post in whyboysfail.com which reposts an essay by Ms. Sax that is adapted by the author from her book. The essay is entitled "Her College Experience Is Not His" and it originally appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education (the pay site mentioned in the first comment). The blog post in whyboysfail.com confusingly lacks some context in its' preface to the essay and is headed by a misquote of the title of the book but has a correct image of the cover.] between how men and women experience college [link to interview of author]: on engagement [link to abstract of related paper by author], self-confidence and achievement.

Please resume reading.
So, links by numbers:
1. Author wiki
2. Author's book
3. Essay by Author adapted from her book, with unclear preface by someone having trouble paying attention or something but who is certainly considerate.
4. Interview of Author
5. Abstract of closely related but not identical subject by Author

Below the fold:
The higher rejection rates for female applicants link applies to a small subset: "Using data from 13 liberal arts colleges... we find clear evidence of a preference for men in historically female colleges... We find no significant male preference in historically co-educational or historically male colleges despite the fact that their applicant pools are more than 50% female."
posted by vapidave at 4:22 AM on August 21, 2009

This is sort of weird for me. One of the things I noticed in my graduate work in Philosophy was the sudden uptrend in the number of female graduate students in the field. I actually had one class where, of 15 students, there were two males. In History, I've noticed the gender distribution is about 1:2 in favor of females, but that there are still a fairly uniform majority of women over men in classes. In the undergraduate classes I taught in Philosophy, the same was pretty much true as well - the classes were overwhelmingly female, ESPECIALLY in terms of those students who attended class every session.

Now, I say all of this knowing that, just up the road from my institution, there is a school where only 1 out of 10 students is female. I wonder how different the experiences of those women are to the women at my institution?
posted by strixus at 5:06 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I read the study from the "engagement" link. Some of what it says in comparing gender (numbers inserted by me):

"For both female and male students, assisting faculty in research for course credit predicts higher college GPAs (.01 women, .04 men) and larger gains in critical thinking (.09 women, .05 men)...
This faculty contact is also positively related to student degree aspiration for both females and males, (.15 women, .11 men)…"
Some other categories for comparison were integration and social awareness.

After more data and analysis, especially about race the report proceeds to a broader analysis:
Though this study has placed emphasis on the study of conditional effects, it also reveals numerous general effects of student-faculty interactions (i.e., effects that generally do not vary by race, gender, class or first-generation status). These are listed below, along with notable exceptions in parentheses:
• Raising performance standards due to high faculty standards promotes integration for all groups;
• Raising performance standards due to high faculty standards promotes critical thinking for all groups (except African Americans and Latinos);
• Raising performance standards due to high faculty standards promotes social awareness for all groups (except African Americans);
• Assisting faculty in research for course credit predicts higher GPAs and degree aspirations for all groups;
• Assisting faculty in research for course credit predicts critical thinking (for all groups except Asians and African Americans); and
• Performing voluntary research with a faculty member promotes degree aspirations for all groups.
We can also learn something from the descriptive analyses presented in this study. Worth noting is that for each measure of student-faculty interaction, there is greater variation across racial group than across any of the other groups (as defined by gender, class, and first-generation status).
and concludes:
In sum, this study reveals gender and racial differences in the impact of student-faculty interaction across undergraduate student outcomes, though no such differences by class or first-generation status. It justifies the study of conditional effects of student-faculty interaction, though it does not reveal any clear patterns into the nature of these conditional effects. Perhaps such patterns, if they exist, will become more evident as a broader range of student-faculty interaction measures is incorporated into future iterations of this study. Nevertheless, as discussed above, descriptive results do reveal potentially important differences across gender and race in the extent and nature of student faculty interactions.
My takeaway: Students generally benefit from faculty interaction. The degree of benefit differs mostly by race, somewhat by gender. The author would please like more money to find out why this is.

Some of the links in this post are interesting but taken as a whole the post does not communicate what it seems to be trying to communicate very well.
Dog Confused by Internet Cat.
posted by vapidave at 5:41 AM on August 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

With a title like "The Gender Gap in College....", and with 25% to 35% more women than men now enrolled in America's 4-year colleges, one would assume that the author's subtitle, "Maximizing the Developmental Potential of Women and Men" would be focused principally upon maximizing the potential of the new minority gender in higher education. But you would be dead wrong.

Page after page over the course of hundreds of pages, the reader is fed the line that, unlike male undergraduates female undergrads find themselves taking classes which they want to take, in fields which they are actually interested, instead of needing to focus their studies upon boring fields where they can earn a living for a stay-at-home wife after they graduate, so that they may, gulp, be able to appeal to females looking for a mate, by being able to earn enough good money working 40-50-60 hours per week for 30+ years straight without interruption, while their female mates exercise their option of skating in and out of the work world, caring for their 1-2 children for 20+ years, all the while waiting to collect the life insurance proceeds they'll have when their husbands finally retire and die the 6-8 years sooner than their wives do, a disparity which began occurring for the first time in human history a mere century ago.

Yes, women. Let's "fix" that gender gap, bringing male college attendance down to what it had been prior to World War II, when the GI Bill was passed to allow soldiers to get an education after more than 1,000,000 American men and at least 1,000 American women lost their lives defending America's way of life.

I love those Amazon.com reviewers.
posted by antihostile at 6:30 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would probably turn that question around and say that by addressing the persistent gender gaps in education, we are better-positioned to achieve gender balance in the power structure.

I attended Lehigh University the first year that it changed from men-only to coeducational. Since then it has gone from an engineering school to a balanced curricula with women outnumbering men. From my point of view, the persistent gender gap may not be as persistent as she suggests.
posted by digsrus at 7:25 AM on August 21, 2009

It'd be nice if her Chronicle article had citations. Some of those statements are interesting, and I'd like to see the methodology. I assume that real science goes in journal articles and not books.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:36 AM on August 21, 2009

(unless that one article by her is the whole deal)
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:45 AM on August 21, 2009

vapidave: Without editorializing too much in the post, I found the findings that besonders pointed out the most interesting: if men and women tend towards opposite feelings about traditional gender roles after faculty interaction, that probably means that faculty talk or act differently around male and female students.

Example: a female professor told my girlfriend how much the thought of having children scared her. I'll go out on a limb and suppose this professor wouldn't have the same conversation with a male student. It's not a stretch for my girlfriend to extrapolate from this conversation that being a professional in her field and being a mother are mutually exclusive (even though they aren't) and choose a biological imperative over a professional one. Taken with the Britz article, one gets the sense that college is cultivating a new form of sexism which requires women to excel at everything lest they excel at nothing (sort of like how a massive influx of Asian students has pushed the bar ridiculously high for their ethnic group in the Ivies, as described in The Price of Admission).
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:14 AM on August 21, 2009

Wow. It's hard to even comment. A book about stereotyping that would appear to use stereotyping as its one and only research method.

My read of that interview is this: "I think girls want to learn and boys just wanna make money, and I have no idea why." Give me a fucking break. She's ignorant and wrong - and has no idea why she's either.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:09 PM on August 21, 2009

This sounds like it's coming from someone who doesn't have an agenda to push. Thanks!
I honestly dont know if you are being sarcastic or not, zinfandel, and that worries me..
posted by HalfJack at 1:30 AM on August 23, 2009

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