Vocational doors really did open

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020

A look back at what has happened to educational and job choices over the last 50 years suggests that vocational doors really did open for women during the 1970s, Charles Murray says (in Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class):

In 1971, 38 percent of women’s bachelor’s degrees were in education. That proportion had fallen by half by the early 1980s. Meanwhile, degrees in business grew from 3 percent in 1971 to 20 percent by 1982.


Consider first the most Things-oriented STEM careers — physics, chemistry, earth sciences, computer science, mathematics, and engineering. The percentage of women’s degrees obtained in those majors more than doubled from 1971 to 1986 — but “more than doubled” meant going from 4 percent to 10 percent.

And 1986 was the high point. By 1992, that number had dropped to 6 percent, where it has remained, give or take a percentage point, ever since.


Women’s degrees in People-oriented STEM — biology and health majors — doubled in just the eight years from 1971 (9 percent) to 1979 (18 percent), remained at roughly that level through the turn of the century, then surged again, standing at 27 percent of degrees in 2017.


It looks as if women were indeed artificially constrained from moving into a variety of Things occupations as of 1970, that those constraints were largely removed, and that equilibrium was reached around 30 years ago.


The effect of the feminist revolution on the vocations of college-educated women was real but quickly reached a new equilibrium. For women with no more than a high school education, it is as if the feminist revolution never happened.


The subtext of this chapter has been that it’s not plausible to explain the entire difference in educational and vocational interests as artifacts of gender roles and socialization. If that were the case, the world shouldn’t look the way it does. In contrast, a mixed model — it’s partly culture, partly innate preferences — works just fine. In this narrative, females really were artificially deterred from STEM educations and occupations through the 1950s and into the 1960s. One of the effects of the feminist revolution was that new opportunities opened up for women and women took advantage of them.


  1. Wilson says:

    Probably due to schools that didn’t offer education majors going co-ed: maybe just as many girls ended up as school teachers, just with less relevant and more expensive training

  2. Graham says:

    So I have assumed most of my life, since girls of my generation [high school class of '88] were already being encouraged by the schools and media to the point of saturation to do what they wanted and be all they could be. Nothing discouraged them, nor has since.

    And yet it’s a hard row to hoe with plenty of people today, and not always those whose career depends on arguing about systemic psychological barriers and other black magic notions. People really absorbed the idea that every gap or failing of promotion or ambition is either arrant discrimination or some sort of psychological manipulation.

    Every argument about systemic discrimination, at least in sex, now ultimately finds its material in the form of mysterious subliminal messaging that somehow infects teenage girls and turns them from these paths toward more stereotypical ones.

    I don’t understand how a girl who had both aptitude and genuine interest in STEM could be so easily misdirected. If that happens to a boy we all just assume he lost or never had sufficient interest or determination in the first place, or he’d be an engineer now.

    If girls are affected differently by the Force, should we not be taking that into account in our gender theories?

  3. Paul from Canada says:

    That there are definitely difference between men and women manifests in career choice is so obvious that it takes ideology to ignore it.

    Generally, women prefer to deal with people, and men with things. Women tend to go into nursing, teaching, social work etc. and men tend to prefer engineering and tech.

    The evidence for this is the Scandinavian countries. They are the most sexually egalitarian cultures on earth. You might argue that they are still “infected with patriarchy” and that female career choice is still culturally influenced, but even so, if career choice is still socially constructed, you would expect the effect to be less in Scandinavia.

    In fact, tho opposite is the case. In a culture where kids are taught from Kindergarten that men and women are equal, and there is no stigma attached to a girl wanting to be an engineer, or a boy to be a nurse, the revealed preferences are even more exaggerated towards “traditional” career choices.

    In other words, there are even more female nurses and male engineers in the Scandinavian countries than elsewhere. So given a free choice, the biological bias expresses itself more in the more egalitarian environment. Given a free choice with less cultural pressure, the revealed preference matches the biological (on average) inclination.

    That said, the words are “on average”. There is no reason why an individual woman wouldn’t want to be, or couldn’t want to be. for example, a military pilot.

    In my own career, I knew several, one of whom was head and shoulders, a smarter, better educated, better officer, better leader and better pilot that I could ever aspire to be.

    Like I said on another thread. We should judge each person as an INDIVIDUAL. Ignore the race/IQ stuff, and the sex/career preference stuff, and judge everyone on their own merits. There is no reason to judge a military pilot candidate/engineer potential hire, on the basis of their race of sex, just don’t be surprised when the majority of military pilots/engineers continue to be white men.

  4. Graham says:

    I wonder if the failure of Scandinavia to produce more even results has anything to do with the past couple of decades in which the Scandinavian model has lost a lot of its lustre for North American progressives?

    To look at them now in the light of Anglo pop culture, and their own exports, one would think they’re just the most patriarchal, and rapiest, patriarchies ever.

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