Sunday, 20 February 2011

As if we need affirmative action...

I always find affirmative action concerning women to be just downright hilarious. Projected estimates for the school year of 2016-2017 shows us as being way ahead of the men.

Associates degrees: 273,000 / 489,000
Bachelors degrees: 707,000 / 1,057,000
Masters degrees: 287,000 / 487,000
Doctorate degrees: 29,800 / 37,100

I remember in my senior year of high school hearing on a number of occasions that girls felt they would get into a certain college, even if they weren't as qualified, because that particular college endorsed affirmative action. I'm not going to lie, I too perceived myself to be much more of a minority than was actually the case. I recognize that I shouldn't apply these statistics to myself since I don't attend college in the United States, but I find it interesting nontheless. I graduate in 2012 (a year earlier than my American peers because BA's are only 3 years here) and in 2012 women will be awarded 204,000 more bachelor's degrees than men. In 2017 that difference will grow to 350,000.

My big question is, why is there such a big perception out there that women need affirmative action? The quote below is taken from NOW's website: (I'm only focusing on gender in this post, not race.)

Despite the enormous gains made by the civil rights and women's rights movements, women and people of color still face unfair obstacles in business and education. An astonishing 70% of schools are not in compliance with Title IX, the federal equal education opportunity law.

So, even though 70% of schools don't comply with Title IX, women still outnumber the men on their own. And, my personal favorite for evidence of discrimination, "Less than 1% of auto mechanics are women." It's hard not to laugh at that one. Surely that's not evidence of discrimination itself but of gender roles and how we are brought up, right? I'm sure if women genuinely wanted to be auto mechanics that most of the guy mechanics would be quite pleased to have some diversity down at the local JiffyLube! I knew girls at my high school that loved taking Auto and who progressed through all the levels offered, but there was no way they were considering it as a career because they wanted to go off to a 4 year college and get degrees in Biology and English Lit. instead of going to community college for two years, living at home, etc. They liked it as a hobby but did not find it appealing as a career. Fair enough if you ask me.

I mean if we're looking for there to be a 50-50 representation of men and women for every profession out there I find that to be a bit ridiculous. I am not saying that men and women are not socialized differently and therefore more likely to work in different professions, but I think that sometimes we confuse discrimination with socialization. Women are socialized in such a way that most of us don't genuinely want to be auto mechanics for one reason or another. That does not mean however that we necessarily face discrimination if we expressed an interest in wanting to be auto mechanics. There is a very big difference between the two of those that should not be confused, and frankly I'm disappointed in NOW for not realizing this. 

"As yet, I doubt any colleges need to admit under-qualified boys to achieve gender balance. Rather, because there is such an oversupply of applicants, there are more than enough girls and boys who meet most college’s SAT and GPA standards (there’s just a lot more girls)."- Newsweek education article

This quote shows that the gender gap is happening before the college application process even begins. Keeping affirmative action in place for women while men are quickly becoming the ones under-represented seems absurd to me. While I applaud the success of women, I do not wish to see women become the majority of those receiving college degrees. I think we can all recognize why it is important to have a pretty near 50-50 representation of those receiving college degrees and how that would benefit society more in the long run. Having the pendulum swing back and forth between female and male over representation would have strange effects, would it not? We need genuine equality in our educational institutions. 

Men have not outnumbered women in obtaining bachelors degrees since the early 80s so why is this policy still in place some 30 years later? What would the reaction be if, in a few years time, affirmative action were proposed in order to get men into college? I'm very interested to know why the number of men who receive degrees is in decline. I did a quick search but all the arguments I found seemed rather unconvincing so if you know of any great literature on the topic please let me know.