Those who teach college students are noticing a surge in number of female students. In my current university in the US, there are 34,000 students 55% of these students are females. In 2000 and 2001, I taught in two public Jordanian universities. Each semester, I used to teach five sections each has 50%, more or less, female students. And I teach Computer Science a major that is used to be limited to male geeks and nerds. As always, US got some numbers of its own:
Women [in America] earn almost 60% of all college degrees. They make up 60% of master’s degrees, about 50% of law and medical degrees, and 42% of M.B.A.’s. And men are now more likely than women to have only a high school diploma. [source]
Last week in Jordan, among the 61 top students in the General Secondary Education Certificate Examination (Tawjihi), the exam that decides whether a student can be admitted to a university or not, 52 are females and only 9 are males [source]. One sociologist explains this noticeable difference in results between male and female students:
AMMAN — Jordan’s young women made a strong showing in the General Secondary Education Certificate Examination (Tawjihi) summer session, with girls dominating the lists of top 10 students in the scientific, literary and IT streams, according to education ministry figures.
After the scores were released on Friday night, social media websites lit up with debates over why girls got more “impressive” scores than their male peers. Some said it was because girls are usually obligated to stay at home and therefore study more, but one sociologist said the reasons behind girls’ high achievement “go much deeper”.
“The societal perspective on women’s role has changed dramatically. Jordanian women are now seen as partners and no longer dependents,” sociologist Hussein Khozai told The Jordan Times.
“Most Jordanian families now believe in equality in education between men and women and this has paved the way for female students to recognize their potential,” noted Khozai, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Jordan. [Source]
About 25 years ago an acquaintance of my family insisted that her beautiful, late teen, twin daughters not wear their prescription glasses. The mother out of sincere love wanted to make sure that her daughters would easily attract a potential husband. When I came to the USA in 2002 I noticed very few female students wear glasses. I thought Americans’ eyesight is much better than ours in Jordan but later I discovered it is because of contact lenses.
Luckily, recently a new trend started to appear among women. Some women started to show their true skin. They no longer care about wearing their prescription glasses. Of course I am using glasses here as a metaphor for intelligence. Although, wearing glasses among women is in the rise, maybe because of Sarah Palin and Tina Fey, but what I want to say is that some women started to realize that they no longer want to play the role of naive girls, like Jessica Simpson or one of the Kardashians. The blonde jokes are not funny any more. Have you heard one recently? I don’t think so. Even Miss America or Miss World is not a hit show as used to be. People used to know by name Miss World and where she is from.
Women were told that men don’t like smart women and that men are not attracted to women talking about politics, mathematics, or technology. Politics and engineering talk should be left to men, girls were told. Regardless of what men like in women, women are doing something they are not used to do; show their real smartness and what they are capable of. And the numbers above show it. It has nothing to do with men doing less.
Here are few female scientists who are not shy of their intelligence:
Marissa Mayer is an American business executive and the president and CEO of Yahoo!. Previously, she was a long-time executive and key spokesperson for Google. She is the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
Regina E. Dugan is an American inventor and businesswoman. She served as the 19th Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency(DARPA). She was appointed to that position on July 20, 2009 and was the first female DARPA director. In March 2012, she left her position to take an executive role at Google.
Danica McKellar is an American actress, academic, and education advocate. She is best known for her role as Winnie Cooper in the television show The Wonder Years, and later as author of three popular non-fiction books: Math Doesn’t Suck, Kiss My Math, and Hot X: Algebra Exposed, which encourage middle-school girls to have confidence and succeed in mathematics.
Vi Hart is a “Recreational Mathemusician”, and is most known for her mathematical videos on YouTube. Hart has collaborated with MIT computer science professor Erik Demaine. She is currently employed by Khan Academy. Watch her videos here.
Cara Santa Maria is an American neuroscientist and science educator. She is the senior science correspondent and host of the “Talk Nerdy to Me” series for the The Huffington Post. She has published research in computational neurophysiology, on neuronal cell culture techniques, and on the neuropsychology of blindness.
In both Jordan and USA girls are doing better than boys in high schools and colleges. So, the obvious question would be if number of women with college degrees continue to boost, what is next? I am sure the answer is going to be debatable so I am going to leave it for the experts. Meanwhile, I would love to see more Jordanian female scientists than seeing them wasting their time watching the Kardashians and the Bachelorette on TV. I know some women watch such stupid shows just for fun but I still think it is not a good impression on young girls.
For both boys and girls who worked very hard to pass their Tawjihi I say congratulations and welcome to a new era of your life in the university!