The Incoherence of DEI Ideology: the Gender Gap


by James A. Bacon

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at the University of Virginia is incoherent in theory, arbitrary in practice, and riddled with contradictions. Nowhere is DEI policy more muddled than UVa’s treatment of men and women. UVa’s long-term goal is to recruit a student body that “looks like Virginia” in its racial/ethnic composition. Yet UVa leadership has expressed no qualms about the persistent imbalance of men and women.

Among UVa’s 16,700+ undergraduate students, 54.5% were female and only 45.5% were male — a nine percentage-point differential. The disparity exists across racial/ethnic groups. Only among foreign students are males enrolled in a slightly higher percentage than females.

Why does the disparity exist? Given the university’s commitment to “equity,” why isn’t the ratio close to 50/50? UVa officials never talk about the gender enrollment gap, which is not surprising given that the disparity cuts against the oppression narrative that undergirds the university’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives. To the contrary, university officials are in a state of perpetual angst over the fact that some disciplines, particularly engineering and the sciences, enroll more men than women. No one is distressed about insufficient male enrollment in the social sciences and humanities.

Outsiders are left to speculate about the reasons. A benign explanation for UVa’s 55/45 ratio is that there are or female applicants to UVa or female applicants are just better qualified. It’s hard for outsiders to get straight answers because the publicly available data is fragmentary.

UVa doesn’t release SAT and ACT scores, and it has made them optional in any case, so there is no objective data regarding the academic qualifications of UVa’s undergraduate students. However, 2/3 of UVa’s undergraduates are Virginia residents, a majority of them attended public high school, and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) provides extensive data on K-12 public school students’ Standards of Learning pass rates. Therefore, it is possible to compare the academic qualifications of the pool of high school students that UVa draws from.

VDOE divides pass rates on SOL exams into “proficient” and “advanced.” As UVa is Virginia’s flagship university with the highest admissions standards (running neck and neck with the College of William and Mary), I queried the VDOE build-a-table database to obtain the “advanced” pass rate for males and females in the five main subject areas: English reading, English writing, math, science, and history/social studies. Here are the results for all K-12 grades (in percentages):

A significantly larger percentage of girls score “advanced” in English reading and writing, while boys score “advanced” in math, science, and history/social science. Tally up the percentages in all subjects, and you get 67.4 for girls and 67.1 for boys, with girls clearly possessing superior language skills and boys clearly possessing superior math skills.

Does that pattern hod in 11th and 12th grades when high school kids are thinking about college?

VDOE tracks English and Writing scores only through 8th grade, but it breaks out numbers for high-school courses including algebra, geometry, biology, chemistry and earth science. At least for math and sciences, the pattern of superior male performance that we see in lower grades persists in high school. It is likely that the pattern of superior female performance in languages does as well.

This pattern is consistent with national SAT scores in which a greater percentage of females receive high scores in English and writing, and males score higher in math. In the combined english+math range of scores from which UVa has traditionally drawn most of its students from (1200 to 1600 points) males actually outperform females nationally — 18% compared to 15%. (Males also appear in greater percentages among the lowest scores, while females are more likely to cluster in the middle ranges.)

Based on this data, it is reasonable to conclude that the pool from which UVa draws 2/3 of its students show that girls and boys are roughly equal in overall aptitude, with girls more likely on average to excel in verbal skills and boys in spatial reasoning. The pool of high school students with strong academic aptitudes that UVa draws has rough gender parity between females and males.

That’s not the end of the story. Admissions officials look for more than academic aptitude. They value non-academic accomplishments such as sports, engagement in student groups, and activity outside school. According to twenty-year-old U.S. Census datateenage girls were more likely to join clubs than boys by a 29% to 24% margin, while boys were more likely to participate in sports by a 44% to 29% margin. Participation in non-academic activities seems to be a wash.

If UVa can show data to show that female applications are more qualified overall their male counterparts, I am willing to stand corrected. Given the death grip UVa officials maintain over their admissions data, however, I don’t see that happening in the foreseeable future.

What other explanations could there be? One would be a systemic bias in favor of females over males. Such a bias can be seen in the composition of the university’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion staff, which is disproportionately women. In a recent column, Bacon’s Rebellion columnist Jim Sherlock provides the following data points: The Office of Undergraduate Admissions lists three males and 13 females. The Office of Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights. (OEOCR) lists one male and seven females.

I would suggest that anti-male bias permeates university culture. It can be seen from the laudatory attention given females in UVA Today profiles to the awarding of rooms on the Lawn and the hostility toward Greek life, especially fraternities. I will endeavor to document those biases in future posts.

Additionally, there are instances of clear bias in the award of scholarships and awards, and in the administration of TItle IX (sexual assault and sexual harassment) cases. I’ll provide details in a follow-up post.

In sum, the disparate numbers for men and women call out for explanation. UVa officials have been remarkably silent on the topic. Absent a reasonable explanation, the rhetoric about “equity” and “equality of opportunity” rings hollow. Some groups, it would appear, warrant special consideration while others do not.

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Walter smith
Walter smith
10 months ago

Be careful Jim. Getting near Larry Summers territory…
Men have greater extremes above and below the mean, while women’s results are more clustered.
But how can one explain this statistical anomaly?
I think there is a bias against males K-12, not necessarily reflected in the SAT scores but in the behavioral expectations. A lot of Ritalin/adderall going on because boys don’t act like little girls…in my opinion!

Practicing Lawyer
Practicing Lawyer
10 months ago
Reply to  Walter smith

Thank you for a meaningful analysis, Jim. It is in good data that we can see. The greater variability on the male chromosome means, as Walter says, greater variability of performance and outcome. Meaning more men in the executive office as well as on the street. The left wants to displace men from accomplished positions, because fairness. But they care not about men living on the street.

The people who craft these political messages know the lie, but not all the people who consume them. The problem is that the left has captured the school, so good-hearted people are deceived, beginning in childhood. Bad data and graphs are very convincing It is our duty to educate future citizens, and we have failed for a long while. Your and the JC’s mission is essential to a healthy nation.

Wahoo74
Wahoo74
10 months ago

Given the data points, it is hard to come to any other conclusion. One could also call DEI’s philosophical goals, particularly with regard to current discrimination against males, payback for past injustices.

The conclusion that women and minorities were discriminated against for centuries in undeniable. Overdue changes in the law the past 6 decades ensure this will not happen again. However, do prior evils justify reverse discrimination today?

I would say no.

Boston reader
Boston reader
10 months ago

Curious whether there is any data on preferences for faculty and staff and whether, for the sons and daughters of the elect, similar patterns of discrimination exist. Guessing not.

walter smith
walter smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Boston reader

Before admissions quit cooperating with me… (this year over Class of 2027 – they answered MOST questions for Class of 2026, but stopped – I think by order from above), legacy offer rate was the highest.
HOWEVER, the legacy SAT range was in the range of other offeree groups, so that no preference was apparent based on SATs.
I suspect that this reflected that the legacy applicant had the benefit of one or two UVA parents back when getting in was based on merit and the SAT good genes passed on.
That’s my guess based on very limited data, but the Class of 2026 info did not indicate any great bending of the rules when the SAT scores were factored in.

Robert
Robert
10 months ago

Wow! I am shocked, shocked, I say. Since men, especially “white” men, have so much “privilege”, how could anyone object to an academic administrative matriarchy trying to boost a “disadvantaged” female “minority”/majority in the cause of “equity” or, perhaps, “reparations”? Now that you have raised this interesting question, I’m sure the principled persons in the DEI sorority will give it their utmost attention—or not. Thank you for your service, and your call is VERY important to them. Forge on!

Useful info
Useful info
10 months ago

I’m not sure you’re looking for real information, but girls dominate many measures of academic achievement used in admissions: https://www.aei.org/carpe-diem/the-remarkable-academic-superiority-of-high-school-girls-vs-high-school-boys/. S Richmond explicitly practices affirmative action for men: https://expertadmissions.com/many-colleges-reject-women-at-higher-rates-than-for-men/.

I don’t see why you want to increase male mediocrity at UVA. Male students already have average GPAs that are consistently below female students.

walter smith
walter smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Useful info

And, I repeat myself here … I think K-12 is “systemically sexist” against boys.
Act like good little girls or you must take ritalin/adderall to do so. The schools are boring to the boys.

UVA92
UVA92
10 months ago

Unsurprisingly, the admission/enrollment statistics are impacted by the number and gender of students that apply. For fall 2022 54.5% of applicants were female. 19% were accepted (v virtually identical 18% of male applicants) and 43% enrolled (v 42% of male admittees). No great DEI plot, just simple supply and demand. UVA has more female students because more female students apply to UVA.
https://ira.virginia.edu/university-data/undergraduate-admissions

Jack Kennard
Jack Kennard
10 months ago

Let’s return to Jim’s central thesis: The logic used by DEI apologists is incoherent, arbitrary and stinks of biased social engineering. DEI staff at major institutions such as UVA are the source of thinly veiled DEI loyalty oaths and they chill free speech. Credit to the Wisconsin legislature which is poised to cut all funding the university system would use for diversity initiatives. Estimated cuts total $32 million