Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Woman's Profession

When does a profession become a woman’s profession? Does it matter?

Recently Christopher Orlet  was attending a conference at a medical school in the American Midwest. He could not help but notice the predominance of female medical students.

Everywhere one looked there were smartly dressed female students. Many were of Asian descent, naturally, but not all. Every so often I came across a young man skulking across campus, but the males were made all the more conspicuous by their scarcity. I made a point of peeking into a few of the auditorium-sized classrooms. Again, a sea of young women.

Orlet continues that his impression is at odds with the statistics. The statistics say that medical schools are divided in half: half of the students are male, half are female.

The ratio is not determined by merit. Admissions directors are making a special effort to give preferences to men, lest their classes become all female.  

This seems to imply that the men who want to go to medical school are less qualified.

Orlet writes: This particular school, like so many others, goes out of its way to attract male students in order to avoid the tipping point after which a college becomes known as a "girls" school, at which point even fewer males apply.

In truth, Orlet’s observation tells us that the tipping point has already been reached. He did not see an equal number of men and women students. He saw a group that was mostly women.

His experience tells us that medicine is becoming a woman’s profession. It is following a path laid down by education, psychotherapy and veterinary medicine.

But, what does it take for a profession to become a woman’s profession? I suspect that a profession that is half-and-half is effectively a woman's profession. I cannot recall the exact numbers, but I don't think that it has to do with whether or not a majority is female. The tipping point is probably closer to 25%.

At that point a profession ceases to become an appealing career prospect for men.

It takes time for the profession to be completely transformed, but medicine is fast becoming more like nursing.

What does it mean?

Of course, it means that the best and the brightest young men are no longer interested in becoming physicians. Perhaps the best and the brightest young women can make up the slack, but still, a profession that,by its composition, is pushing away young men is not going to maintain the same level of excellence.

It also means that gender is far more rigid than feminists think. Professions are typed by gender. A male dominant profession can remain male dominant if it contains some female practitioners. But, if there are too many women, it will lose its gender identity—if I may call it that—and men will start fleeing.

A profession where men predominate will have higher status and prestige than will one that is seen as a woman’s profession.

Also, a woman’s profession will likely have a lower wage scale or lower fees.

It appears that women are more willing to work for less.

Why should this be so? In the past, and perhaps still for some couples, a man wanted his salary to be sufficient to support a family. A woman was expected to use her salary to support herself alone. 

Thus, a woman would have been more contented to work for a salary that would have been adequate for a single person but would not have sufficed to raise children.

Today, of course, more women work because they want to or must help support their families. Nevertheless, many women see the greatest part of their salary going for child care.

Beyond that eventuality, men avoid women’s professions because women find men in such professions to be less desirable as mates.

Women tend to marry up. At the least, they want to marry up. They look for men with higher social status, higher prestige, and higher income.

Orlet tries to explain the scarcity of male medical students by saying that our feminist-laden culture has rendered today’s young women more ambitious than today’s young men.

And he seems to believe that the men who are not attending medical school are out joining gangs or becoming derelicts.

Surely, some of them are. They are more likely than women to do so.

And yet, all things considered, an ambitious young man with a keen sense of his own gender identity would be more likely to avoid a woman’s profession like medicine.

He would head to Wall Street or Silicon Valley or biotech or agriculture or mining or even the world of sports. He would avoid the caring and helping professions, first because they are female-identified, and second because they are more likely to be coming under government control.

A man who is looking to compete in an arena where he can show himself to his best advantage and be fairly rewarded for his efforts will naturally want to avoid government- controlled industries.

I do not want to pass over the fact that Orlet observes that many, though not all, of the medical students are, in his word, "naturally" Asian. Why, after all, is he not surprised to find that so many medical students are Asian women? And why am I not surprised either?

Medicine involves science, and science requires a sense of objective fact.

The culture warriors who have been militating for high self-esteem and lowered standards, who have insisted that there be no objective criteria to judge people, who have wanted children to learn soft, not hard, subjects… these feminists have had the most influence over what women study and what they learn.

Feminist culture does not promote reality testing or trial-and-error reasoning. It teaches high self-esteem that does not depend on objective accomplishment. To that it adds a large dollop of grievance mongering.

Feminists might sit around musing about how they want their daughters to grow up to be doctors, but their value system, being a-scientific, does not prepare them for the work.

Only Asian parents, the kinds of Tiger Moms that have been excoriated in the press, seem to be preparing their daughters to become physicians.

I suspect that the Asian community has suffered far less from feminism than have other American communities.

It seems also to be true that these Tiger Moms are not preparing their sons to go into medicine. 

Perhaps they understand the female tendency to marry up and realize that if their sons are involved in more male dominant professions they will have higher status, better pay, and a better chance of marrying well.


JP said...

Life is like whack-a-mole.

Guess I won't be getting a medical degree. Just when I almost had myself talked into it. Great, just great.

David Foster said...

How about sales?

I'm familiar with quite a few business-to-business sales organizations, and a pretty good male/female mix is not at all unusual.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Good point.

Does this apply more to some kinds of businesses and less to others?

Do sales reps work in teams or do they work as individual free agents? Does that influence the makeup of the team?

Just a couple of quick thoughts....

David Foster said...

Teams vs free agents...a little of both. Typically the rep will be individually calling on customers and having follow-up meetings with them; however, (s)he is likely to have a technical sales support person available who is needed for more-than-normally complex sales. Also, there will often be a need to involve various people from the headquarters of the company or the business unit, viz to approve special pricing or customization of product features. So navigating company politics can be important...and navigating the politics of the prospective client company can be even more important. If you're selling multi-million-dollar software suites, or locomotives, or jet engines, there are likely to be many people involved in the buying decision, and it won't always be obvious which ones matter most. So high emotional intelligence, reasonable conceptual ability, and a good level of self-motivation and self-management are all required.

Also, sometimes a hunter-farmer model is used, with one set of people assigned to selling entirely new customers and another group assigned to selling new business within existing customers. From what I observe, there may be some tendency for more men in the hunter group and more women in the farmer group, but it's not anything like an absolute.

Soviet of Washington said...

Question for you Stuart...what's the hardest residency (at least by MLE score) to get into?

Answer: Dermatology

Why? Because it's heavily favored by female doctors due to having a (mostly) normal work-week. It's so bad at the clinic I go to that they have to reserve one slot for a male doctor to handle 'men's issues.'

Expect to see more of that in other specialties. The various surgery professions and maybe urology will probably be the last male bastions.

As the parent of a 1st year med student (female), I think a lot of this has to do with (1) the increasing predominance of women at the undergrad level, and (2) the Med School admissions process. Only about 40% of applicants are accepted each year, and with grade inflation, there isn't much to distinguish between candidates. So volunteering and interviews take on much more importance in determining who gets admitted. I think both of these favor female candidates. You would think that Med Schools would try to do a good job of managing such hi-pressure interviews. That wasn't daughters experience. It was pretty much hit-or-miss. The reports daughter gave of the bias of some of the interviewers was pretty shocking. Good interviews and acceptances pretty much correlated.

Anonymous said...

This is a disturbing phenomenon. Women tend to place greater emphasis on quality of life as opposed to working long hours. I wonder when the more demanding medical specialties will suffer a dearth of physicians. In addition, a noticeable percentage of women drop out of the workforce after giving birth. Are we witnessing the early stages of a health care crisis?

David Foster said...

Note that the shift to a higher female % happened quite a few years earlier in the veterinary medicine field.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

And then there's the question of the easiest residency?

I cannot vouch for this but a couple of years ago I was talking to a heart surgeon. He told me that when he did his residency, around four decades ago, there were 600 applicants nationally for 120 residencies in heart surgery. Today, he explained, there are 60 applicants for the same 120 residencies.

Assuming that he's right, perhaps this is telling us that with more and more and women in the profession there are going to be an excess of dermatologists and a scarcity of specialists in fields that are more male-identified.

JP said...

What you are looking for are the ROAD specialties.

"I’ve seen several hits in my stat logs from people looking for the ROAD specialties. For many students new to medicine, this might be something that you’re hearing for the first time.
The ROAD specialties are specialties that are generally considered “lifestyle” specialties in medicine. Lifestyle specialties are those that offer good pay with minimum work hours, low patient loads, above average working conditions, and typically low on-call time.
Historically, the ROAD specialties are Radiology, Opthalmology, Anesthesiology, and Dermatology. More recently, the mnemonic has been revised to E-ROAD or ADORE to include Emergency Medicine.
Anesthesiology is on the high-end of work hours, while specialties such as Pathology aren’t included. Expect the lifestyle specialties to change slowly over time as working conditions, hours, and pay fluctuate."