Mind Which Gap? The Selective Concern Over Statistical Sex Disparities

Kingsley R. Browne:

Implicit in the materials for this conference is the assumption that any gap that exists between men and women in the workplace (at least if the gap seems to disfavor women) should be eliminated. The question is asked, “how can this gap be explained and rectified?,” implying that “rectification” should follow irrespective of how the gap is explained.

There are many statistical disparities between the sexes in our world, but only some become the subject of widespread concern. Ones that are perceived as favoring men are labeled “gaps,” while those that favor women are simply facts. Outside the workplace, men are arguably disadvantaged in a variety of arenas, whether in terms of health and longevity, crime and violence, domestic relations, or education. In the workplace, men are far more likely than women to be killed and to work long hours. None of these disparities is generally viewed as a “gap” deserving of intervention, however. Men earn a disproportionate number of Ph.Ds in some fields, while women earn a disproportionate number in others. Only the former set of disparities, however, is typically viewed as a “gap.”