Those of you who are mothers of teenage boys, don’t despair. The forgetful, disorganized, late-sleeping, monosyllabic creature ensconced in his bedroom will emerge one day to take his place in the adult world. Life will get better. Of course, he is a boy, so he is not likely to ever be as communicative, organized and sociable as his sisters. And he is not as likely to do well academically as his female counterparts.
It seems that all those thousands of years chasing little furry animals or searching for berries really has done something to men’s brains and the eons spent organizing their caves and households has better equipped women for education and as corporate managers. Almost every month, there is a study which shows women are better equipped to be successful managers and outperform men in the field of education.
In almost every country, the gap in education achievement is widening. This is particularly so in the US, where colleges are now annually awarding almost a quarter of a million more degrees to women than men. In the US, a new mantra has replaced “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”. It is based on the statistical fact: Men are from high school, women are from grad school.
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It is the same in many other countries. In the UK, the gap in educational achievement continues to remain, despite efforts by the government to make education more boy-friendly. At least 65% girls achieved five good General Certificate of Secondary Education, or GCSEs, this year as against 53% boys.
In India, girls outshine boys in the Central Board of Secondary Education, or CBSE, examinations. In all the six CBSE zones where examinations are held, far more girls than boys passed. In a country where surviving childhood is much less likely for girls than boys, this is a remarkable phenomenon.
The bad news for girls is that they are still subjected to horrific discrimination, prejudice and violence. The Delhi-based Centre for Social Research estimates that 10 million girls have been lost to female foeticide in India over the past 20 years.
The message has not got through: In the modern world, girls are a bigger asset than boys. So, while girls are doing better than boys in education and gaining management positions, the situation with relation to the killing of the girl child is no better.
Prejudice, discrimination and oppression of females are part of our cultural heritage. Even in mythology, the abuse of women is a common theme. Draupadi was gambled away by her husband, Ravana’s sister had her nose and ears cut off by Lakshman, and Sita, though completely faultless, was banished to the forest and had to undergo a trial by fire to prove her fidelity.
The tradition of abuse and killing of females has gone on for thousands of years but the coming of modern education and industry is slowly changing attitudes and behaviour.
Many modern companies are working hard to attract and educate the girl child. As more and more girls are getting education and entering the workforce, life and competition for aspiring males in this country is getting increasingly tough.
It is increasingly being recognized that women are better equipped for the communication and soft skills necessary for modern management. In many work areas, women have replaced men. This is particularly true for the teaching fraternity and has serious implications for children in school. Women teachers do not have the gender bias against females that is found in many men and has been cited as a contributing factor to the upsurge in female achievement.
The male child is faced not only with increasing competition from the massive growth in numbers in the population, but also from the ever-growing number of better qualified girls entering the workforce. As our manufacturing industries become more automated and new soft-skilled jobs become numerous and traditional men’s jobs decline, opportunities for educated women workers are expanding.
If our male children are to stand a chance in an increasingly competitive world, there will need to be a change in the traditional male-centric attitude of many parents. Modern mothers need to insist that their male children take far more responsibility for themselves throughout their childhood than our mothers did. Today’s mothers need to be more demanding of them and seek the same level of responsibility from their sons as they do from their daughters.
Even that might not be enough. Hundreds of thousands of years of chasing little furry animals and oppression and suppression of females may have left an indelible imprint on the male genetic code. In the modern world, new ways of nurturing the male child may not be enough to equip them for the increasing educational and corporate competition from women. So, unless someone invents a lot of chasing after little furry animal jobs, the future looks extremely female.
Abha Adams is an education consultant. She writes a monthly column on training and education as they relate to careers and the workplace. Respond to this column at firstname.lastname@example.org