McGowan: Is Disparity a Choice?
by Richard McGowan, Ph.D.
About a month ago, the Indianapolis Star reported that “One of Indianapolis’s most popular charter schools is expanding to create an all-girls STEM-focused K-8 school.” Inside Indiana Business said “the school, called Girls IN STEM Academy . . . will open in partnership with the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, Every Girl Can STEM and Purdue Polytechnic High School.”
The likely impetus for such a school was educational data regarding undergraduate majors by sex. The National Center for Education Statistics showed that in 2011, 73,833 men and 14,896 women majored in engineering and engineering technology, or 83 percent men and 17 percent women. In 2021, men were 75.8 percent of engineering and engineering technology majors to women’s 24.2 percent. Majors in computer science and information science broke down into 78 percent men and 22 percent women. For mathematics and statistics, men constituted 58 percent of undergraduate majors.
Hence, a STEM school exclusively for girls, Title IX notwithstanding.
A thinking person might then ask are there other imbalances by sex in other fields? Well, yes. Data for 2021 show that undergraduate majors in biology and biomedical sciences were 65.8 percent women, not quite the same imbalance as in engineering and engineering tech, but still a considerable imbalance. Communication and communication technology majors were 63.9 percent female to 36.1 percent male. However, women comprised 82.8 percent of education majors and 72.5 percent of English language and literature majors.
For health professions and related programs, 84.8 percent of undergraduate majors were woman. Were a person to look at nursing schools, the person would see an even larger disparity favoring women. The largest disparity between the sexes among the majors listed in the National Center for Education Statistics was for family and consumer sciences, where women were 88.2 percent of the majors. That area of major study had only 22,15 majors, a fraction of the 268,018 majors in health professions and related programs.
Female majors in psychology and in public administration and social service professions were 79.8 percent and 83.3 percent, respectively. As for visual and performing arts, 63.2 percent were female. Those majoring in the liberal art and sciences showed a similar imbalance: 64.4 percent female
The undergraduate area of legal professions and legal studies shows women at 55.5 percent of the majors whereas physical sciences and science technology majors were 55.4 percent men.
Many majors had a roughly even distribution between men and women. For example, business majors were roughly equal, with 53.4 percent men and 46.6 percent women. Data on majors in homeland security, law enforcement, firefighting, and related professional services had women at 52.2%. The least disparity in major areas was for park, recreation, leisure, and fitness studies inasmuch as the 54,294 majors had a disparity of .01 percent.
Given the data above, maybe there should be boys-only charter schools, again, Title IX notwithstanding. The boys-only charter schools could get men ready for the fields of education, or nursing, or family and consumer sciences, or biology and biological sciences, or the liberal arts and sciences, or health professions and related fields or psychology. For that matter, maybe Indiana and every other state should look at the totality of majors and recognize the disparity in undergraduate students inasmuch as 60 percent are female. Instead of creating girls-only schools, maybe educators should worry more about educating boys and young men.
Perhaps, along the way, government leaders in Indiana and every other state could reflect on the data regarding linguistic attainment. Research shows more adept linguistic attainment in girls compared to boys, and as one researcher noted, “The results showed that girls are slightly ahead of boys in early communicative gestures, in productive vocabulary, and in combining words. The difference increased with age.”
Maybe, just maybe, the choice of a major reflects the disparity in linguistic development between boys and girls. Given their linguistic proficiency, one “that increases with age,” young women are able to choose majors and occupations that utilize that proficiency. Young men have less latitude and bunch up in majors and fields that require less linguistic proficiency.
Like the STEM fields, Title IX notwithstanding.
Richard McGowan, Ph.D., an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, has taught philosophy and ethics cores for more than 40 years, most recently at Butler University.
From the Star, Oct 18, 2023
One of Indianapolis’s most popular charter schools is expanding to create an all-girls STEM-focused K-8 school that will be housed in a former church building on Michigan Road.
From Inside Indiana Business:
INDIANAPOLIS – The Paramount Schools of Excellence network of charter schools will open a new all-girls school next fall in Indianapolis.
The school, called Girls IN STEM Academy, will serve grades K-8 and will open in partnership with the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, Every Girl Can STEM and Purdue Polytechnic High School.
Girls IN STEM Academy, to be located at 5136 Michigan Road, will be among the latest in Paramount’s growing network of schools across the state. Paramount currently runs three Indianapolis area schools and expanded into South Bend and Lafayette this academic year.
Paramount has named Chrystal Westerhaus as principal of the new Indianapolis school. Westerhaus was a founding principal of Avondale Meadows Middle School and was director of instruction at Urban Act Academy before accepting her position with Girls IN STEM Academy.
There is a large, self-perpetuating gender gap in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) jobs. Girls interested in STEM have fewer female role models, and the gender gap is even more pronounced among girls of color.
Girls IN STEM Academy is a new, all-girls public school for grades K-8 opening in 2024 on the north side of Indianapolis. This groundbreaking school will be operated by Paramount Schools of Excellence in partnership with Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, Every Girl Can STEM™ and Purdue Polytechnic High School.
This new school will allow girls to thrive and excel in a supportive environment and study STEM along with a core curriculum, preparing them to excel in high school, college and a rewarding STEM career.
2011 majors by sex and area of study
enrollment in post-secondary institutions—in 1979, more females than males
Data on majors by degree conferred
Women made up 55.6 percent of all first-year students in U.S. medical schools. In 2017, women made up a majority of the entering classes at U.S. medical schools for the first time. In 2022, there were 51,890 women students enrolled at U.S. medical schools. They made up 53.8 percent of all medical school students.Dec 28, 2022
What gender has more PhDs?
In 2020, women earned 69.1 percent of all doctoral degrees awarded in education and 65.7 percent of all doctorates in the health sciences. In contrast, women earned only a third of the doctorates in the physical sciences. In engineering, women earned 24.8 percent of the doctorates awarded in 2020.Mar 1, 2023 Degree Attainments – Women In Academia Report
The present study explored gender differences in emerging language skills in 13,783 European children from 10 non-English language communities. It was based on a synthesis of published data assessed with adapted versions of the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventories (CDIs) from age 0.08 to 2.06. The results showed that girls are slightly ahead of boys in early communicative gestures, in productive vocabulary, and in combining words. The difference increased with age. Boys were not found to be more variable than girls. Despite extensive variation in language skills between language communities, the difference between girls and boys remained. This suggests that the difference is caused by robust factors that do not change between language communities. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22550951/