Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Educating boys and girls

An intellectual flaw runs through the debate about boys' academic performance: our obsession with gender stereotyping :: Dave Hill

Boring the boys to death :: TigerHawk (Many of the comments are quite thoughtful.)

There's a lesson to be learned, I think, if we really believe that boys respond to competition and that girls are more diligent. The lesson is that if colleges used the same standards for boys and girls, boys would face more competition in their IQ cohort and put more effort in high school. Unfortunately, colleges use lower standards for boys in order to maintain a balance in gender numbers. The consequence of this equilibrium of the college admission game is that it makes it more difficult for high schools to motivate boys.

Note that the colleges' interest in gender balance can be consistent with the academic goal (as opposed to social goal) of admitting the brightest students. If boys are more likely to be underachievers, a college that adopts differential standards for boys can actually improve the quality of its pool of enrolled students.

Then there's the question of job success after college. It is claimed that boys get better jobs and pay than girls relative to their performance in school. Some say this is a message to girls that talk of a meritocracy is a lie. But it could be that school performance is a highly imperfect predictor of productivity in the workplace - in part because of the fact the girls are more diligent in schoolwork carries over from high school into college.

Related: What is a Harvard MBA worth?


Blogger secretdubai said...

I think males are still more highly prized in most walks of life, from parents being extra-thrilled about having a son, to alpha males being the greatest recruitment prize.

Women are still hurt by the fact that they bear children. They probably always will be, especially with the growing short-termism of jobs. You can see how an employer would consider that if someone was only going to stay 2-3 years, funding their maternity leave would be a burden.

Though I still remember the answer of a male CEO about having to choose between a a male and female candidate, if he knew or suspected the female was likely to leave after a year to start a family. He said that it was better to have the right employee for six months than someone less right for six years.

10:21 AM  
Blogger John B. Chilton said...

Let's set maternity benefits aside and assume the employee bears those. (It actually works to the woman's disadvantage for maternity to be mandated, for the reasons you express.)

Maternity and childbirth, though, inevitably means the woman leaves work for a time - which can be disruptive to the employer. Further, for the periods that women drop out of the labor market to give birth and rear children they are losing time gaining experience on the job. I note that it is the choice of the wife and husband as to the allocation of time to child rearing. When that decision - as it most often does - has the woman devoting several years to child rearing, the family has made the choice.

Rather than say women are "hurt by the fact that they bear children" it would be more accurate to say that women who do not plan to bear children are hurt by those who do. You also hurt your job prospects if you gain a reputation for quitting and taking long trips, but we all recognize that as a personal choice that we presume you do so because it makes you more content than the alternative.

Women who don't plan to have children are hurt by those who do because the employer cannot discern which is which. Thus, these women lose the chance to be regarded as less likely to quit.

If the world is becoming one of short term jobs - that long term attachment between a firm and a worker has become less important to maintain - this actually works to the woman's advantage relative to men. It has been the woman

5:58 PM  

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