Posts Tagged ‘gender parity’

To pick up where Shannon’s post from Tuesday left off:   Here’s more evidence that the news of men’s untimely demise has been greatly exaggerated.  To wit:

If you happen to be a high school senior, live with one, or ever were one, you know what this coming week is all about:  Waiting by the mailbox for the envelope with the college logo in the corner.

But what you may not know is the dirty little secret inside that envelope:  If you happen to be a male, you’re more likely to get the fat one.  Affirmative action for males?  Yes, ma’am.   Which is to say, colleges want more men on campus, and many private universities that are not prevented by law from doing so are tipping the scales in their favor in the great admissions sweepstakes.

Women reached parity with men on campus in the 1980’s — when they were still called co-eds: go figure — and since then, their numbers have been steadily climbing to the point where some 60 percent of today’s college applicants are women.   And they are qualified.  By and large, their test scores are higher than males’, their GPAs are higher, and they often boast a heftier list of extra-curriculars.   But since hormonally-charged teenagers are likely to prefer colleges where the male-female ration is more balanced, what happens?  Ahem. You do the math.

This business about the hidden quotas first came to light about five years ago (more below) and became news again this week when an investigation into the issue by the Civil Rights Commission that began in 2009 was suddenly disbanded.  No one knows exactly why.   (Some speculate the investigation may have been called off because it muddied the waters relating to the Title IX provisions for parity in women’s sports — or the underpinnings of affirmative action itself — but that’s another issue.)

But back to the quotas, according to a recent piece by Richard Kahlenberg in Chronicle of Higher Education, here’s the backstory:

There has long been concern that some liberal arts colleges routinely provide admissions preferences for men in order to avoid large gender imbalances in their student bodies. Some argue that once a school becomes more than 60 percent female, it becomes unattractive to many  potential applicants, male or female.

The issue gained prominence in 2006 when a Kenyon College admissions officer wrote an op-ed in the New York Times openly acknowledging that “the standards for admission to today’s most selective colleges are stiffer for women than men.” For example, according to the Washington Post, the College of William & Mary admitted 43 percent of male applicants in the fall of 2008 and 29 percent of female applicants. An admissions officer told U.S. News & World Report: “It’s not the College of Mary and Mary; it’s the College of William and Mary.” Canadian medical schools, likewise, have recently raised concerns about educating too many women to become doctors. While many suggest that white women are the primarily beneficiaries of affirmative action, in most undergraduate admissions, precisely the opposite is true.

Ugh, right?  Since when did we decide that we should privilege a group with special preferences when that group has historically been, you know, privileged?  Oops.  Stop me before I go on.

Anyway, what got me all riled up today was this post by Susan Newman, Ph.D. in Psychology Today that cited a bunch of numbers on the lack of progress women had made in the workforce over the past few decades:

… the disparity between men and women in earning power, advancement, and titles runs deep and it doesn’t seem to be improving despite new laws and corporate awareness.

According to a survey, Pipeline’s Broken Promise, from Catalyst, a global organization that evaluates women’s progress in the workforce, “for the past two decades leaders have counted on parity in education, women’s accelerated movement into the labor force, and company-implemented diversity and inclusion programs to yield a robust talent pipeline where women are poised to make rapid gains to the top. But results of this study show that these hopes were ill-founded-when it comes to top talent, women lag men in advancement, compensation, and career satisfaction. The pipeline is not healthy; inequality remains entrenched.”

Fortune Magazine reports that in the top Fortune 500 companies, only 15 women are CEOs. Women with MBAs earn an average of $4,600 less than men with the same degree. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research revealed that pretty much across the board men continue to work in the highest paid jobs and when men and woman have the same job, men earn more. That holds true if the job is as a registered nurse or home health aide, teacher, or administrative assistant. Looking at some of the highest paid occupations–physicians and surgeons–male doctors have the income edge over women. Economist Linda Babcock and writer Sara Laschever point out another disturbing imbalance in their book, Women Don’t Ask: Women own about 40 percent of all businesses in the U.S. but receive only 2.3 percent of the available equity capital needed for growth. Male-owned companies receive the other 97.7 percent.

Now.  Look to the beginning of that so-called pipeline:  parity in education.  We’re there.  We’re better than there.  So what happens?  We’re being squeezed so that men can catch up.  Because, who knows, if there are too many of us around, that might one day translate to — gulp — equal pay.  Or even worse, a woman boss.

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If it sounds like the above could be the title of a horror flick, well, you’re not far off. I came across the following bit of clever repartee between Mick LaSalle, our often irreverent film critic, and a loyal reader in our local paper this Sunday and was suddenly loaded for bear.

I feel obliged to point out that the column was brought to my attention by my husband, who enjoys a good rant as much as any of us. Stay tuned, but first check this:

Dear Mick LaSalle: I just saw “Aberdeen” (2000), featuring an actress new to me: Lena Headey. I looked up what else she has done, only to find that since “Aberdeen” she has made, for the most part, a series of second-rate horror flicks. What happens in a case like this? Poor management? A really bad agent? Blacklisting? Frank Flynn, Eureka

Dear Frank Flynn: No, it’s worse: two X chromosomes. Welcome to my world, Frank. Every year, I see actresses do great work in films and then disappear. In another generation, a studio would have nurtured them, and in other countries, filmmakers would build films around their talents. Not in the English-speaking world. Even established stars, such as Naomi Watts, Halle Berry and Ashley Judd, can go five years without getting a role worthy of their talents. In another country, they’d have two or three strong roles a year. What’s Catherine McCormack doing these days? Or Claire Forlani, Chad Morgan, Natasha McElhone, N’Bushe Wright, Bai Ling, Natasha Gregson Wagner or Alison Elliott? All of them have shown exceptional ability or charm or both onscreen, working in major films. All are still working, but much of that work is under the radar. Headey is doing better than most, in that she starred in a major action movie (“300”). Basically, women in Hollywood need to look convincing swinging a mace – and attractive with bloody fangs. Then they’ll never starve.

Okay. I have never seen Aberdeen, and I confess I don’t know Lena Headey. (Wait. Did I just make La Salle’s point?) But Naomi Watts, Halle Berry and Ashley Judd? Ready to put out to pasture as either deranged ex-wives or district attorneys? (Note what’s happened to former sexpot Sharon Stone on CSI: Special Victims Unit.)

For years we have decried the fact that the fat guy always gets the cute girl in the movies. We have for years ranted: about the schlubby guys on TV who have the slim trim wives; about the loser guys who end up with, you know, Katherine Heigl; about the sweet young things who are wooed by the guys old enough to be their grandpas. (That movie with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones as the love interests? Stop me before I poke myself in the eye with a sharp stick.)

What we want to know first is why do we pay money to watch this junk. Unless I’m living in an alternate universe, it’s not believable. Or very entertaining, either. Last I checked, most sane women are not pining after some pudgy dude with a receding hairline and a bad choice of pants. Right?

But the real question is why this stuff gets made, and why women — at least as far as American media are concerned — are considered washed up by the time they get the first intimations of crow’s feet. Yeah, yeah, we know: Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren are still star quality and hooray for them. In every possible way. But are they the exceptions that prove the rule?

I think the answer may have something to do with gender parity, and here’s what we journalist types would call the nutgraf — somewhat buried, in this case — or the big picture stuff. In 2009, the Hollywood Writers Report by the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW), found that women and minorities had not made any significant hiring gains since 2005, with women writers making up roughly one quarter of the field. Repeat: one quarter. The report states:

“Women, who account for slightly more than 50 percent of the U.S. population, remain underrepresented in television employment by 2 to 1 and in film employment by nearly 3 to 1. Their salaries, too, show a discrepancy: white men, $98,875 versus women, $57,151 for a whopping wage gap of $41,724.

Are you kidding me? Read it again. Is it any wonder that we’re made to believe that the old guy gets the girl? Of course, that’s just the movies. Hollywood fantasies. But look at the damage those ridiculous media images have done to women’s self-image. Our conception of ourselves. Ugh, right?

But now, let’s use movies as metaphor: What happens when women are relegated to one quarter of other segments of our society — like government, boardrooms, the offices down the hall where policy is made? Think about it.

As in movies, so in life. And ain’t that the curse of the double-X.

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