Where the girls are: not so much in the Arts and Humanities as other fields!

Women earned the majority of Ph.D.s in the U.S. for the first time in 2008-09, according to an analysis by the Council of Graduate Schools–50.4 percent to 49.6 percent of men.  Of course, sex parity is only the case in a few subfields–women are dramatically underrepresented in Physical and Earth Sciences, Math and Computer Science, Engineering, and Business, and are overrepresented in Social and Behavioral Sciences, Public Administration, Health Sciences, and Education.

Interestingly, the two subfields that are very close to equal in terms of women and men Ph.D.s are the Biological and Agricultural Sciences and the Arts and Humanities, at 51 percent and 53 percent respectively.  (For all of the numbers, see the table below.) 

Percentage of Women Among New Doctoral Recipients, by Field, 2008-9

Field Female Graduates
Social and behavioral sciences 60%
Public administration and services 61%
Physical and earth sciences 33%
Math and computer science 27%
Health sciences 70%
Engineering 22%
Education 67%
Business 39%
Biological and agricultural sciences 51%
Arts and humanities 53%

Yet, the first commenter on Inside Higher Ed‘s article, someone who identifies himself as an adjunct in English, ignores the evidence and announces that “I am a man working in the humanities and the pay is abysmal. While it MUST get better, university admins, I am sure, fall asleep at night wondering how to make it worse. Women paradoxically both demand less money and yet work harder than men do. Given the economic conditions at universities, is it any wonder they’re more successful?”

I count at least six falsehoods or assumptions in those four sentences.

  1. The salaries of humanities professors and adjuncts don’t have to get better.  In fact, it’s a good bet they’re going to get worse, because deflation is where we’re at in the national and global economy.
  2. University administrators don’t have to wonder how to pay Arts and Humanities adjuncts even worse–clearly, there’s an oversupply of willing labor.  (Why do you agree to accept low wages?  You could figure out how to do something more lucrative if money were your priority.)
  3. Women don’t “demand less money,” spud.  Women are paid less than their male peers, but that’s not their choice.
  4. Most women who earn Ph.D.s work hard, it is true, but I don’t think we can generalize that all women work harder than their male peers.  (If it were true that women worked harder than men, then why shouldn’t they get all of the jobs?  Why would employers hire the less productive, least hardworking employees?)
  5. By what standard do you see women as “more successful?”  They don’t get paid what men earn, and they aren’t hired, tenured, or promoted at the same rate our male peers are.  Women probably are “more successful” in the adjunct ranks in the humanities, but that just means that women dominate the least secure and lowest-paid ranks of the profession.  How again is that “success?”
  6. According to the table above, there are four other subfields that are much more female-dominated than the Arts and Humanities.  Yet those fields aren’t uniformly low paid, so clearly there must be other reasons for the low pay in the humanities.

Maybe the problem is that the Arts and Humanities are dramatically undervalued–but that’s not the fault of the bare majority of women Ph.D.s earned in 2008-09 in these fields.  Men were and still are the majority of faculty members in these fields nationally.  Our salaries are lower in part because there is a very limited market for practicing philosophers, art historians, and cultural studies experts outside of the academy.

0 thoughts on “Where the girls are: not so much in the Arts and Humanities as other fields!

  1. I’m in one of those male-dominated fields…

    I think women do work harder. They have to in order to end up at the same place that men do, or else they leave academia. I don’t know if it’s taste-based discrimination or incorrect stereotypes or what, but there’s some kind of market failure.

    I think in Failing at Fairness (or maybe it was Lifting a Ton of Feathers), it was shown that women write fewer papers but they get more citations. In my experience, a woman’s paper has to be better and more complete and just more dense, careful, and justified in order to get the same publication that a man does. Men are more likely to be given the benefit of the doubt… women actually have to prove. Of course, in my field, there isn’t a whole lot of double blind reviewing. We don’t know who the reviewers are, but for most journals, the reviewers are given author names.


  2. Nicole–point taken, but I just don’t think we can generalize so broadly (that all women word harder than all men.) Sex is a pretty crude way of dividing up the human population.

    Meanwhile, the comments at IHE just get dumber and dumber. I refuse to comment over there any more, because of the low quality of discourse, especially on articles that address race and gender. It’s too bad, because I think the quality of reporting over there is high, and the writers and bloggers are smart. But their comments are no better than what you’d find on the webpage of your local newspaper (i.e. a race to the bottom.)


  3. Did they also have employment stas? Based on my own experiences, I would venture to say that even if women are earning as many or more degrees in the Humanities, they aren’t getting as many or more jobs-especially tenure track ones. Even if they agreed to less money and worked harder.


  4. Thank you for unpacking that comment. I almost had a stroke when I read it. Demand less money indeed! You should see what happens to the b!tches who ask for parity. I’m reminded of those triumphant conservative responses to the general pay inequity – women earn less because of their “choices”. . . I agree with you about the comments – I especially the one further down asserting “I am not a so-called feminist.” Sigh. It also depresses me how gendered most of these statistics are.


  5. “Love” the comments that suggest that the life of the mind is now *exclusively* for females and men are being entirely neglected in education. That’s a pretty big claim for an 0.8% difference in number of PhDs awarded.


  6. LMAO, Squadrato! Women for Lower Pay Unite! We could probably join up with the Tea Party.

    Some possible slogans for our new party:

    – Why pay us more? We’re just going to quit when we have babies anyway.

    – Men are just smarter.

    – Who will marry us if we make too much $$$?


  7. Did you hear the NPR story this morning. In the middle they said, “But there is good news! the number of men in grad school increased by 7% this year, and women only 5%. So men are not abandoning graduate education”
    Ummm. They are getting almost half the doctorates — who said anything about abandoning doctoral education?


  8. Did you hear the NPR story this morning.

    I heard it and just about blew a gasket. Don’t panic everybody, we’ll still have plenty of men around to run things. The natural order will not be upset.


  9. @truffula, that was exactly my reaction. If I hadn’t been driving it would have been dangerous. My feminist theory grad students had been reading Elizabeth Minnich’s Transforming Knowledge, and I used this as an example of logical fallacies in malestream thinking.


  10. I heard that this a.m. too, and had the same reactions as Susan and truffula. It’s that old devil, patriarchal equilibrium again. The oddball commenters over at Inside Higher Ed will be very relieved to hear that it’s restored!


  11. I’m always watchful of these trends as my historical insight has trained me to expect a devaluation of job importance, value and social status immediately upon it becoming identified as “women’s work.”

    Whether it’s because women enter that the jobs/qualifications become less valued or men begin to move away from a field that’s less prestigious/poorly paid, leaving women in their wake, I don’t know. That’s the interesting question, isn’t it?


  12. My university has an incoming class that is 61% female (which isn’t too far off the national average I believe) and several of my senior male colleagues were expressing their great concern about what this says about our society and our future. I snapped at them “no one seemed to be worried about our future in the 1950s when men made up the majority of college students.” Gah! But the best part…their answer was that women who are well-educated and “well-kept up” (their words not mine) are in a surplus in our country and so men being “cavemen” just don’t have to bother with getting an education or bathing (seriously, they said these things) because no matter how horrible a man is as a “catch” women have to “accept” them.


  13. because no matter how horrible a man is as a “catch” women have to “accept” them.

    Snerk. No, we don’t.

    Pure anecdata, of course… but overwhelmingly, I’d rather work with women than men. In 90% of my work environments (since I was 14 or so), the men could be counted on to expect cushy perks and enjoy their status while slacking off. Mileage may vary, of course.


  14. Pingback: Links of Great Interest: Redefining Latin@ in 2010! | The Hathor Legacy

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