Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

What Is With This Gender Disparity?

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on October 1, 2012

Teaching in Family Medicine, Psychoanalytic Institutes, Child Psychiatry, and Social Work students has shown me a gender disparity that floors me every time. My students are overwhelmingly female. We discussed this today, before I launched into my talk on ADHD. “We are more nurturing,” one student said, implying that women are better at taking care of other. “Yes, but in the 60s, psychoanalysis was predominantly male.” I reply, saying that when there is more status, men are more likely to be attracted to the field. “Teachers are very important to our society, but their female dominance makes it a lower paying field,” I speculate out loud. I am a weary of delving deeper into this subject, as one, this is not my job, and two, I am speaking to students who have picked a career, in which I am suggesting will decrease in respect as more women go into it. Nevertheless, I continue. “Is it women want to be home with their kids, or is there a glass ceiling which prevents women from obtaining more prestigious positions, or is it that women, as a group, are less genetically ambitious and so are more comfortable staying in lower paying positions?” We all agree that these are interesting questions, without clear answers. One thing, though, I feel certain about, is that a female-dominated profession will be thought of, by our society, as less important than male-dominated professions. Given that there are more women than men in the United States, I am inclined to think that many women share a typical man’s point of view about professional value. These are, of course, my musings. I do not claim to have expertise, only curiosity.

4 Responses to “What Is With This Gender Disparity?”

  1. Jon said

    Sadly, from time immemorial there has been a gender disparity in the United States and most everywhere in the world. Fortunately, that disparity is lessening. I take heart in that transition; albeit a slow transition, nonetheless it is moving in the right direction. Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, the questions of male-dominated professions verses female-dominated profession and associated remuneration differences will become as curious and quaint to our descendants as the plight of the suffragettes are to us.

    • Jon, given that you are a male, I particularly appreciate your comments. I am not sure if things are moving in the right direction. In my experience, there is still a very large asymmetry amongst the powerful.

  2. Shelly said

    I agree with your sentiments as expressed in this blog. However, I don’t believe that women are less ambitious, as a group; only that men perceive that they are. Therefore, they are promoted less because men fear promoting women who will take off every two years for maternity leave or will take off many sick days for childcare needs, etc… I personally have heard my boss not hire women because of those reasons. As to women being more nurturing, I think it depends on the specific personality of the individual woman. Some women are more nurturing, some less so. When thinking of the Chiefs of the individual departments of my medical institution, I have to agree with you, though…they are all men, sadly. Whether this is because there are few worthy candidates for the positions or because it is a network of good-ol’ boys, I don’t know.

    • Hi Shelly,
      Yes, men are afraid of women taking time off for child-care, but are men also reluctant to hire women who no longer have children at home? As I understand things, people hire people who look like them, hence the good ol’ boys hire each other. In my experience, that adage has proven true. Thanks.

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