Posted by: Gregory Linton | 08/10/2011

Politicians Keep Ignoring the Gender Gap in Higher Education

Mary L. Landrieu and Patty Murray: How to Close the Skills Gap –

Today’s Wall Street Journal contained an editorial by Sens. Landrieu and Murray about the “skills gap” in our economy. They note that there are three million jobs in our economy that cannot be filled because we don’t have people qualified to fill them. Through this whole article, they never mention the major contributor to this problem–the lack of men getting a college degree.

For example, they note that 1.2 million students drop out of high school each year, but they fail to mention that the majority of them are males. Among all races and ethnicities, 74 percent of females graduate but only 66 percent of males. That’s right! One out of three men do not finish high school. Then women go to college in higher proportions, and they receive college degrees in higher proportions.

The kinds of jobs that Landrieu and Murray are talking about jobs that attract more men than women. So fewer men receiving degrees in those areas means that there are key jobs going unfilled. There is a skills gap because there is a gender gap in higher education. On this same day, a report showed the half of females in science positions at the nation’s top research universities said their careers kept them from having as many children as they wanted. These pressures will keep most women out  of these fields.

The authors seem not to be referring necessarily to jobs that require a college education but jobs that require training in workforce skills. For example, a recent study found that there will be a severe shortage of welders in the future. But again, most of these are male-oriented jobs.

So in their solutions, do the authors suggest finding ways to keep boys in school? Nary a word. They are totally clueless about the gender gap in education. Contrast this silence with the Alliance for Excellent Education, which noted that, if the male high school graduation rate were increased by 5 percent, the nation would see an annual savings of $4.9 billion in crime-related costs. We cannot fix the skills gap without fixing the gender gap. We must find more effective ways of engaging our boys in the learning process so that they will stay with it.

When my son was in kindergarten, he decided within the first few weeks that he did not like school. When I asked him why, he said, “Because Dad, all we do is sit, sit, sit, write, write, write.” I couldn’t argue with him. I would find that boring too when I was in kindergarten. If we don’t start addressing this problem, our economy and society will continue to suffer.


  1. […] Politicians Keep Ignoring the Gender Gap in Higher Education ( […]

  2. Please do not go with assumed genetic differences for the Male Crisis but look to differential, more aggressive treatment beginning at an early age and increased over time creating social/emotional distance for Male children, higher average stress, creating lags in maturity; more activity for stress relief; higher muscle tension hurting handwriting/motivation to write; and trying too hard as higher average stress creates less dynamics or change to a slower pace to learn more easily. Also the aggressive treatment is maintained by peers, teachers, and others thus creating more social/emotional distance over time.

    • Thank you for this observation. This is a good point to bear in mind. One of my concerns is that elementary teachers (almost all of whom are women) expect the male students to behave and learn like the female students. And so they apply tight controls and penalties when the boys don’t act like girls. As you say, they use a more aggressive approach with the boys. As a father of two boys in second grade, I see the well-meaning female teachers struggling to tolerate and manage the boys, almost all of whom are very active with short attention spans. You can see the difference between the two genders in something as simple as when they walk in a line to the lunch room. Boys think lines are much more interesting when they are zigzags. They chase after bugs, they jump over the cracks, they “accidentally” bump into the boy in front of them–anything to make the line more active and interesting. And it drives the teachers crazy–which makes it even more interesting.

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