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
|Social and behavioral sciences||60%|
|Public administration and services||61%|
|Physical and earth sciences||33%|
|Math and computer science||27%|
|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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- Women don’t “demand less money,” spud. Women are paid less than their male peers, but that’s not their choice.
- 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?)
- 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?”
- 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.
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