Monday, April 03, 2006

Gender Politics

I read a fascinating article this weekend, that’s left me thinking. It brokered a good discussion over lunch with LL as well. The basic premise is that, in part at least, the decline in education and health standards is due to the widening of choice of career for intelligent driven women.

Though the article overplayed it a bit, I think there is a horrid truth in that. The early industrial age left women little choice in career paths, there really was only teaching and nursing. The best and brightest of our women went in droves to those jobs. in the 1892 census there where 313,000 "professional" class women (compared to 342,000 men quite curiously), but 86% of these where either teachers or nurses (69% teachers, 17% nurses). The natural result of that concentration of talent meant a high standard of education, and well run hospitals.

Yet, though there are still clear inequalities in the work place (I’ll broach this topic and the glass ceilings LL has hit over the years later), women really can push into any career these days. Indeed what really bright woman would become a nurse when she can train as a doctor? The best educators will now naturally stay at Universities rather than teach children.

There is a truth to the thesis, and is one we haven’t really addressed. If we as a society require a high standard of education and health care, how can we ensure the best and brightest, regardless of gender, go into what are two poorly paid professions? We can’t afford to simply throw money at it (despite Gordon Brown’s best attempts) or else we beggar ourselves.

I don’t profess to have the answers, buts it a question worth discussing.


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