It’s no secret that women and girls outrank their male counterparts academically at every level of schooling. As a result, there are more women applying for and attending college than men, which is great news for girls who attend schools where applicants are not discriminated against on the basis of gender. It also makes it more difficult for women to get accepted into private liberal arts institutions, like Kenyon College. Institutions like Kenyon are able to dodge the anti-gender-discrimination Title IX law in the name of maintaining an even gender distribution. Essentially, maintaining gender distribution limits the number of spots available for each gender, forcing applicants to compete with only applicants of the same gender. Women apply to college in higher numbers and achieve higher test scores than men, making the competition amongst themselves greater and their chances of being accepted lower than their male counterparts. Despite averaging lower test scores and GPAs, men have a higher chance of getting accepted into private liberal arts schools, giving them an advantage in the admissions process.
Regardless of gender, applicants deserve the same chances of being accepted into elite colleges. Since schools remain committed to establishing an equal gender distribution, the gendered playing fields should be evened out by improving test scores and increasing college enrollment for men. The solution for this may lie in how children of both genders are raised.
Overwhelmingly, children are raised according to their biological sex. Certain characteristics and activities are coded as either masculine or feminine, and these codes can have profound impacts on children which affect them early into their academic careers. One study found that boys associated studiousness with labels such as “gay” and “pussy,” discouraging them from completing homework and taking classes seriously. Feminine-coded activities, such as art and theatre, have been proven to aid in academic achievement, yet many boys avoid them due to the negative stigma surrounding them. This stigma can be especially difficult to overcome for boys in working-class or low-income families, where gender divisions tend to be more heavily enforced. It’s also less likely for boys from working-class or low-income families to apply for college or university compared to girls from similar economic backgrounds.
Part of what gives girls an academic edge is conscientiousness, which, according to a study conducted at the University of Minnesota encompasses dependability and persistence. The study found that while men and women performed relatively the same on tests and quizzes, women were more likely to attend class regularly and participate—habits which can have a significant impact on final grades. Boys may study just as hard as girls, but girls gain an edge from their conscientiousness towards the professor. The men in the study appeared to value the instructor’s input when it came to final grades, but the women also valued the input provided in class which they received through actively engaging with the professor. This conscientiousness exhibited later in life likely comes from how the women were raised.
Women are typically raised to be concerned with what others think of them, from considering how their appearance looks to other people to judging whether someone is a potential threat to their safety. This hyper-awareness allows them to better identify not only how they are perceived by others, but the moods and attitudes others harbor towards them. Men are not usually raised to be as conscientious and hyper-aware of how they are perceived by others, which could cost them the drive to show up to class and participate.
Raising children is no simple task, yet the advantages a conscientious attitude affords women points to advantages of raising boys to be concerned with how others view them as well; though, ideally, not as intensely as girls are. Increased conscientiousness will likely lead to increased cooperation in the classroom and the academic benefits that come with regularly attending and participating in class. Perhaps it’s finally time to let the girls relax a bit and have the boys catch up, not to even the playing field, but to make the still separate playing fields equal in terms of the skills and achievements of the players.