Why Women Outperform Men in School

Former Harvard president Lawrence Summers once remarked that the lack of female scientists and engineers was due to “different availability of aptitude” rather than employer discrimination. His words carry greater irony with each passing year: women consistently outperform men in education at the high school and collegiate levels, and have been doing so for the past 40 years. Today, women are being included in competitive academic and professional environments in ever-greater numbers, and they frequently prove to be among the most talented and resourceful in their fields.

The Gender Split in Education Today

According to US News and World Report, 75% percent of female high school students graduated in 2011, compared to 68% percent of male students. A report from Clevelandfed.org also indicates that “the increase in college attainment has stalled for men and gathered steam for women. Among college-age individuals, more women now graduate than men… [they now] account for almost all of the growth in the college attainment rate observed in the United States since 1980.” Men will need to recognize the challenge posed by their female peers and respond accordingly if they hope to compete in what may soon become a female-dominated job market.

The gender split is at its greatest during the late years of high school, when students’ performance heavily impacts their chances of college admission. Clevelandfed.org notes that “women’s educational achievement outpaces men’s prior to and during college.” During this time, most males become much less motivated and responsible students, performing haphazardly in the classroom, opting out of honors-level or AP (Advanced Placement) courses, and participating in fewer extracurricular activities.

Statistics show that “25 percent more females took AP (Advanced Placement) tests in high school in 2010 than males… [in addition], female high school students were also more likely to do homework on a given day than their male counterparts—50 percent versus 37 percent.” Unfortunately, this lack of initiative forces more males to “rely… on GED certification to complete high school than females… [and]GED recipients earn significantly lower wages than traditional high school graduates.”

Why Does It Exist?

Parents, teachers, and psychologists have all offered a number of explanations for the gender split in education. Parents’ groups have argued that males, especially those in high school, are more strongly influenced

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