Man Smart, Woman Smarter

This article is in response to an article that appeared in the Winter 2009 issue of the U.C. Davis Magazine entitled "Sexx Shift" and an accompanying article "Male Vets : a dissappearing breed", concerning the trend towards a female student majority in colleges, universities, and professional schools, and above all the Veterinary School. The SeXX Shift article had the tone of presenting this new increased presence and success of women as being a "problem" and discussed possible reasons and remedies. I of course see it as the correction of the former serious problem of cultural and academic discrimination in favor of males. .
I submitted this article (now slightly augmented) as a Letter to the Editor, but it was not published, probably because of the length and complexity. Some of the letters that were published included points similar to some of mine, plus a few I had not thought of such as the influence of the college draft deferment during the Vietnam years. No one mentioned the largely male favoring effect of the post WWII GI Bill college tuition, though one letter mentioned that the post 9/11 GI Bill may well bring more men back to college.
Links to the original articles and to the first two sets of published letters in response are at the bottom of the page.

Man Smart, Woman Smarter

why women now outnumber men in colleges and professional schools

by Pam Green , © 2/15/09

In response to the article "SeXX Shift", by Kathleen Holder, in the Winter 2009 issue of the UC Davis Magazine, let me suggest that there is a very simple explanation for the growing majority of women students at University and in professional schools. As Belefonte sang to us some years ago : "the woman of today , she's smarter than the man in every way !"

First of all, it's not clear that the current national average of 55 % women in colleges really does represent an unequal sex ratio. Women are 53 % of the population, so a 53 : 47 ratio in college would be a dead equal ratio. Futhermore, of "non-traditional age students", ie people entering or returning to college in their 30s and older, there would be expected to be a predominance of women who had earlier put their education and work careers "on hold" or into limbo due to marriage and child-rearing. These returnees would raise the ratio. So 55% women is probably just about exactly what one would expect from equal oppertunity and equal motivation. It's not a problem , but rather it's a healthy sign that the old old problem of discrimination against women in academe has finally lost its power.

Who are the college women of today ?

The college women of today were raised to know they would have to work twice as hard and be twice as good and to know that they would need a college degree to earn as much as a man earns with only a high school degree. Is it really so surprising that so many of them DO work hard and DO make the commitment higher education ? Is it so surprising that this level of work and commitment results in higher academic achievement and eventually in higher qualification for many jobs ?

Women as a statistical population may or may not actually be more intellectually intelligent than men as a statistical population. Standardized tests prove that the female bell curve is at the very least equal to the male bell curve, with some very minor narrow possible exceptions (eg some very abstruse math abilities). But since these tests were almost all designed by men, it's not impossible that they include some unconscious biases that over-estimate male abilities and under-estimate female ones.

However when it comes to what is termed "social intelligence" or "emotional intelligence" and to what could be termed "self-control intelligence" (the ability to pass up an immediate enjoyment in order to work for a deferred reward), it is really obvious that young women DO tend to be "smarter" than young men. Throughout high school, and often in college, we see abundantly that it is the men who divert energies from study and learning to obsessions with Sports , Sex (pursuit of sex), and Substance use (drinking and drugging). The young men also tend to divert focus to cars and computer games. The women generally remain focused on scholastics. Given this difference tendency to keep one's eyes on the distant prize, it would be miraculous if the women did not tend to out-perform and to remain on the education track while the men drop out or under-perform.

The artificial barriers to women's education and job opportunities are now greatly diminished or gone. Schools and jobs no longer are allowed to bar women or limit them to small quotas. So they are finding their own level based on ability and determination. Is it so surprising that women's actual level would prove to be equal to that of men ?

Society still tries to indoctrinate boys and girls as to what personality and temperament traits are "masculine" or "feminine". All societies do this, almost always defining a "masculine" character that is sadly lacking vital human abilities and a "feminine" character that is equally distorted and lacking vital abilities. (And as cultural anthropologists , starting with Margaret Meade, have shown, the definition of what is proper for the male and what is proper for the female can differ greatly from one culture to another, but almost always the cultural gender recipes call for an incomplete human personality.) Now I think that perhaps the women of today have thrown off these cultural limitations to a greater extent than the men have done. As to the professional schools, the actual performance in the professional role often demand both traits our culture defines as male and those defined as female.

The veterinary profession (in which women graduates have so greatly predominated for the past decade or so) especially requires and values some of the traditional "feminine" qualities such as gentleness and nurturence , understanding and use of body language, excellent verbal communication skills (including very careful listening), and ability to work co-operatively with colleagues and clients. The companion "Male Vets : a dissappearing breed" article's "poster boy" for the male vet, Dr Karl Jandrey,DVM, certainly personifies the best qualities of the profession and has used these to the great benefit of myself and several of my dogs. And I've noticed during the past decade that many of the male vet students seem to have assimilated some of these culturally "feminine" qualities through association with the female majority..

Now there are things our schools and our society could do that would improve the educational and vocational prospects of young men, and many of these are things worth doing for other reasons. I will describe a few of these.

We could eliminate or strongly demote the role of inter-mural team sports and sports stars from the physical education programs in grade school, high school, and college. Instead these programs could benefit all students by emphasizing what I call "lifetime fitness sports" : physical activities that are enjoyable and that promote physical fitness and health and that can be continued for the rest of one's lifetime. These are mostly non-competitive sports that can be played solo or with only one or a few other players and that can be done with readily available equipment. Walking, speed-walking, and jogging are obvious examples, as they can be done solo or in company (human or canine) and require only good shoes as equipment. Swimming is another, as public pools are widely available. Basketball can be played one on one with a hoop and a small space rather than full court. Tennis is also a good sport for many (my mother played until after her 80th birthday), as public courts are commonly available. Yoga and Tai Chi are excellent lifetime activities to retain flexibility and balance ; yoga also promotes the ability to make one's mind calm and focused, which would greatly benefit those students (mostly male) who are labled "hyperactive" or simply have trouble concentrating. The boys might prefer Karate and Tai Kwan Do, both of which promote self-discipline as well as burning off excess energy and thus making calm behavior in class more likely.

A lifetime fitness program beginning in grade school would also be a vital part of any realistic national health program. It is always easier , pleasanter, and less costly to stay well than to have to treat disease. Indeed it's hard to see how any national health program can succeed and remain fiscally sound without an emphasis on various aspects of healthy lifestyle and disease prevention.

We could extend the school day and the school year to accommodate more time for academic learning as well as an expanded art and music programs and the expanded lifetime fitness program outlined above. If school schedules were expanded to fit the parental workday and work week, this would keep kids out of after-hours trouble and would lift a great burden from the parents. Of course it would cost something, but maybe the lessened opportunities for gang related troubles and the lessened drop-out rate would generate savings in Welfare, Police, and prison costs that would be many times the added school costs. Also the parents could be required to pay some of the added costs rather than having those costs fall on taxpayers generally. Or parents could be required to contribute one day of labor per month for each of their children in the school to help run these added programs. The latter would have the advantage of making parents more aware of what actually goes on in schools and perhaps more realistically aware of their own child's abilities and progress and of where that child needs added help.

We could raise the age for driver's licenses to age 18 (or later), or at least we could make licenses contingent on remaining in school or obtaining a high school diploma , perhaps also requiring an overall "C" average or better. Alternatively licenses for those under 18 could be contingent on a "B" average. License restriction would mostly benefit the boys (who are the most car obsessed) by giving them a strong incentive to stay in school and maintain grades. It would also reduce car accidents and fatalities by removing the most accident prone group of drivers (teen boys). (Might it also reduce teen pregnancies by eliminating a lot of back seat of the car copulations ?)

We could promote more academic related games and prizes, thus promoting academic heroism. These could fill the void left by elimination of sports heroism. This could begin on local levels and build to regional and national levels, preferably with a lot of media ballyhoo. While the Academic Olympics may never over-shadow the athletic Olympics (and truly I cannot conceive of an academic contest that would rival the beauty of world class Figure Skating), that would be the Platonic Ideal at which to aim. Likewise we could promote competitions in the arts and music, promoting heroism in these fields.

Returning to the original topic, I see the growing equality and prominence of women in the university student body and the professional schools as something to be applauded, as a solution rather than as a problem


The problem that still remains is the still unequal pay for equal work out in the real work world, though the passage of the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act may ultimately help in this regard. The old time rationale for men being paid more than women was that "a man has to support a family", but today there are huge numbers of woman headed households where the woman is supporting a family, so why is this not shouted as a reason for women to be paid more ?


The problem that still remains is the still gross under-representation of women in the executive positions in business and in government. When will state and federal government cease to have a SeXY ratio so grossly under-representative of the 53% of the population at large who are women ? Why don't women use their potentially greater voting strength to make this happen ? As to business Board and CEO positions, so long as these are given grossly huge financial rewards, the men will fight to the bitter end to retain these as their last bastion of male priviledge.


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site author Pam Green copyright 2003
created 2/15/09 revised 7/27/09
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