Where do we find, and how do we evaluate, gender-based statistics? Can privilege be defined by data?

Tonight I was thinking about painting the ceiling, but decided to check A|N instead.

One of the dominant topics on A|N regards gender and, more specifically, issues of representation of women on A|N, and on male priviledge. For example, one of The Nerd's posts on the topic has had 29 pages of response, as of this posting - something like 350 responses (When I checked the view did not include a response counter).

I confess at the outset that I have not read every post, and I have not read every comment. There may be a data-based discussion, I don't know. But I did not see one. If the linked sources have been posted, please pardon me, and link (if you so desire) to them so that I (and others) can sort the wheat from the chaff.

I did see the following article, in Huff Post: here, with the title "What's Happening To Women's Happiness? It's written by a male author (Marcus Buckingham), on a website that is owned by a woman (Arianna Huffington), generally regarded as liberal (I think). I state these to get some of the ad hominems out of the way, while acknowledging impression of bias.

My interest was in the data, more than in the author's further analysis. Extracting some of his numbers:

During the 2008 school year, 59% of all BS degrees and 61% of all MS degrees were be earned by women.

In 2009, 4 out of the 8 Ivy League universities--Harvard, Brown, Penn and Princeton, have female presidents.

October 2009, is the first month in which women outnumber men in the workforce.

Women hold more management and supervisory positions than men, by a margin of 37% to 31%

In like-for-like work women and men with the same amount of work experience earn the same.

Women's pay is increasing faster than men's.

The author also comments that women are running the governments of some countries, mentioning Germany, Ireland, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Chile, Mozambique, and Jamaica - although that's not really many. In the past, we can also include UK, India, Sri Lanka, Argentina, and you can probably add to the list.

It's nothing new that men die faster than women - this is true in every state of the US - data here. more here - 2004 data with the following information: "The greatest increase was experienced by black males with an increase of 0.6 year (from 68.9 to 69.5). Life expectancy increased by 0.4 year for black females (from 75.9 to 76.3), for white females (from 80.4 to 80.8), and for white males (from 75.3 to 75.7)."

OK. What am I doing here. First, what am I not doing: I am not making any claim denying male priviledge, Im not discounting any individual experience or anecdote, and I am not making a claim that there is equality. I also realize that the majority of the information here is US oriented, and there are truly horrible things going on in many countries.

What I am doing is asking how we can discuss issues of gender fairness, priviledge, and opportunity? As someone who is data-oriented, and who does not trust politics or ideology, I am stuck with a need for numbers. Are the numbers above accurate? I don't know. I don't have the primary sources. Are they current? They appear to be. Is there bias in choosing what numbers to look at? Maybe, again I don't know. Are there other sources of data? If so, it would be helpful to see them.

Given these numbers, are we able to come up with a data-oriented definition of equality? If not, how do we know when we get there?

I'm interested in rational discussion. The Nerd has posted some rules in her discussions, and I hope that similar rules can be honored here, including no ad hominems, try to stick to data, unless new ideological or semantic concepts come up that have hot been covered elsewhere are relevant - in some cases, a separate discussion might be useful, since a 350-comment discussion becomes unreadable.

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I wonder what "professional" means?

Architects, computer programmers, dentists, doctors, engineers, lawyers, scientists, therapists, etc.
Adriana, thanks for posting the link and this graph. I read some of the link today. The amount of information is staggering - I guess I need to be careful about what I ask for!

In an economy where, most recently, construction and manufacturing in the US has taken a big hit, it would seem that the more male-oriented fields are losing, and the more female-oriented fields are gaining. I've seen news reports suggesting that as well. Is this loss of jobs and pay in male-dominated fields a silver lining to the recession? Equality at last! :-)
I thought that this was strange as well. I looked a couple of times to see if I was misquoting. Unfortunately, it's poorly reported. I wondered if it meant that 37% of women vs. 31% of men were in supervisory positions.... that seems really high to me, but in the food chain of employment, a person who is the 2nd to the bottom, 100th from the top, might still be regarded as supervisory. I don't know.

Jason, the issue of childbirth and rearing would seem to be big in this. Looking at the difference between Asian (admittedly a big and inaccurate category) vs. other ethnic categories, made me think of the many examples that I know of Chinese grandparents (The biggest category of what we lump together as "Asian" in the US) taking on the early childcare of their infant grandchildren, so that the young mother can get back to work. This, of course, is anecdotal, which I've been arguing against. It does make me wonder - in the multiple cases I've seen of this, it seems like the family units in those situations are much more supportive of getting the young parent back to work, resulting in higher work productivity and more pay. This is the complete reverse of the single-mom situation, isolated from a support system. In this case, then, the privilege would with the people who have supportive and intact families.

I know that there are all kinds of arguments as to why grandmother (especially) and grandfather should not be expected to take on the next generation's care, and I'm not proposing that as an option but rather offering as one possible, and partial, explanation for the ethnic difference showing higher pay for Asian men and women in the workforce, compared to other categories.
Daniel, that's an interesting point about Asian grandparents. There are definitely different cultural attitudes about how extended families should be involved with child and elder care. It would be interesting to see a study about grandparental involvement in childcare and how it correlates to economic success.
What would be really nice, not just in gender but for the sciences in general, is if there were some publicly-available resource for scientific studies so that the public could see the results of the studies themselves, as they happen, instead of having to wait for someone (possibly with an agenda) to interpret everything for us. It seems like it would make so many things easier if we could just paste a link to all the relevant studies involved when we're talking about something.



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