Barbara Kay: Academia’s gender bias — how men are being pushed out of higher education



The feminization of higher education is proceeding apace. According to a report from the National Student Clearinghouse in the United States, 1.5 million fewer students are enrolled in higher education than in 2016, with men accounting for 71 per cent of the decline. Soon, two women will graduate for every man. Gender parity on campus was achieved in 1970.

Women almost immediately started earning the majority of master’s degrees in the humanities. Women even dominate the health sciences, which were once male bastions. So the only disciplines that are still male-dominated are those referred to as STEM . When women were under-represented in higher education, it was considered a tragedy, and strenuous efforts were made to correct the imbalance.

One might think, with the present over-representation of women in so many fields, the STEM disciplines could be cut some slack. Hard-line feminists will not tolerate women’s under-subscription in STEM, presuming, against all evidence, that the imbalance must be due to sexism rather than free choice. Men in these disciplines are now paying a high price in the drive toward equity. have declined relative to other industrialized countries.

Likewise, fewer American students are enrolling in STEM disciplines. By 2009, even though the college student population had grown more than 50 per cent since 1985, more students were studying the visual and performing arts than computer science, math and chemical engineering combined. Compounding the problem is that, as reported by researchers at a Cornell University conference in March, 50 per cent of American college-level students majoring in STEM drop out, and the persistence rate for women is lower than that of men. For some reason, the science of astronomy and its branch of astrophysics became especially «woke» about gender equity.

But woe betide any male who questions the necessity for gender equity in that field. In 2017, women earned 21 per cent of physics bachelor’s degrees and 20 per cent of physics doctorates, but 33 per cent of astronomy bachelors’ degrees and 40 per cent of astronomy doctorates. Yet, according to the International Astronomical Union, the global gender-ratio figures amongst its individual and junior members suggest women have no more inherent interest in astronomy than any other hard science. Worldwide, the average female membership is 21.2 per cent.

I’ll call him Richard. Astronomy, Richard writes, can be a lonely profession, and there are good reasons women often want to avoid it. For one thing, post-docs have to relocate and move around different countries in their 30s before competing for tenure-track jobs. More importantly, unlike other sciences, there can be such a thing as too many astronomers.

At one conference, Richard recounts, a senior diversity officer opened the plenary with a speech on «white heterosexual Anglo-Christian cis-gender male privilege in astronomy.» Participants were made to pair up male-female, then acknowledge and list «29 white male privileges.» A few male astronomers were randomly chosen to stand and publicly confess instance of their privilege. «None of the great discoveries in the history of astronomy were made by scientists with particular interest in diversity politics,» Richard writes. He wryly concludes that, «Newton would not have been able to fill out a job application form at the University of California».

Source: Barbara Kay | NP

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