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Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Peripatetic Philosopher gives a peek inside:

The Ascent of the Working Woman

James R. Fisher, Jr., Ph.D.

© January 11, 2018

Amazon’s Kindle Library: $21.95 (paperback); $9.99 (e-book)



Some twenty-two years ago, viewing women through the feminine prism in an attempt to get inside the gender bias, a chapter of The Taboo against Being Your Own Best Friend (1996) was dedicated to male/female statistics:

In 1996, white boys got higher scores in mathematics and science, while girls got higher scores in reading, writing and reading comprehension;

Boys in eighth grade were 50 percent more likely to be held back a grade than girls; boys in high school constituted 68 percent of the special education population;

67 percent of female high school graduates went on to college, whereas 58 percent of male high school graduates did so.

Regarding graduate school in 1970:

Women received 40 percent of all master’s degrees and were 59 percent of all master’s degree students in 1996, earning 53 percent of all master’s degrees;

Women earned only 6 percent of all professional degrees (medicine, dentistry, law), but by 1991 that figure had risen to 39 percent;

Only 14 percent of all doctoral degrees went to women whereas in 1996 that figure had risen to 39 percent;

The medical degree earned during this period by women jumped from 8 percent to 39 percent, and by 1993 42 percent of first-year medical students were women;

Only 5 percent of women earned law degrees, but that figure in 1993 was 40 percent;  

Women received only 1 percent of dental degrees compared to 32 percent by 1991;

In 1996, women earned the majority of the doctoral degrees awarded in pharmacy and veterinary medicine.

The summary concludes:

There is, however, a growing gender imbalance in higher education among minority students.  Among black students who earned a bachelor’s degree in 1990, fully 62 percent were female; among Hispanic students, 55 percent were female, and among white students, the imbalance was 53 percent to 47 percent favoring women.


The feminine resurgence is not only economic but cultural as well.  To an amazing degree it mirrors the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries (which will be covered in a future missive on “The Ascent of the Working Woman”) when the driver was not masculine but feminine dominance in manner, dress, speech, and decorum despite the prominence of the Crusades to the Holy Land during this period.

Today, we see much less evidence of the “glass ceiling,” but now it is the mystical wall that seemingly blocks feminine progress if not achievement.  Statistics bear this out without the necessity of editorial comment.

As of 2015, the gender gap in favor of boys for mathematical aptitude across ethnic groups continues to persist.  It is reflected in the Scholastic Aptitude (SAT) test where boys average higher math SAT scores than girls: 1.65 to 1.00, which has held for more than forty years.  Girls, on other hand, during the same period, have continued to outperform boys on SAT tests for reading comprehension.

In 1994, 63 percent of female high school graduates and 61 percent of male high school graduates were enrolled in college.  By 2012, the share of young women enrolled in college increased to 71 percent while 61 percent remained unchanged for the college enrollment of men.

On the other hand, a most recent report confirms that black women are the most educated group in the United States while being a long way from economic equity or social parity.  Between 2009 - 2010, black women earned 68 percent of all associate degrees (two-year), as well as 66 percent of bachelor’s degrees (four year), and 71 percent of master’s degrees and 65 percent of all doctorates.

Between 1976 and 2012, college students who were black increased from 10 to 15 percent, while the percentage of white students among U.S. college students fell from 84 to 60 percent.  By both race and gender, a higher percentage of black women (9.7 percent) are enrolled in college than any other group, topping Asian women (8.7 percent), white women (7.1 percent) and white men (6.1 percent).

Most dramatic, where men once went to college far more than women – 58 percent to 42 percent – the ratio has now been nearly reversed.  Today, women comprise more than 56 percent of all college students on college campuses nationwide.  Some 2.2 million fewer men than women are enrolled in college today.  The new minority in American society is men.



As of 2010, the most popular master’s degree for both men and women is the Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA).  Why this degree has such eminence is open to conjecture.  Obviously, there is some legitimacy for an MBA in the complexity of the corporate business world, but could this be hiding something, such as providing an anodyne for career anxiety?

From 1970 to 1980, I was an adjunct professor for several public and private universities (University of South Florida, Florida Institute of Technology, St. Petersburg College, St. Leo University, Nova University, Biscayne University, and Golden Gate University) in which all these institutions presented the MBA degree to meet the demand.  The motivation of the students was never clear other than to have an added bargaining chip for promotion.  To put it another way, it was rare to find a student truly interested in management theory and thought to appreciate the efficacies, deficiencies and embedded problems of corporate culture.      

Women were invariably the best MBA students for insight and pragmatic analysis of complex situations seldom becoming lost in the detail.  No surprise, as of 2016, women have earned the majority of doctoral degrees in every year since 2009 including in business curriculums. 

Women started out modestly, first earning the majority of the associate degrees in 1978, a majority of the master’s degrees in 1981, and a majority of the bachelor’s degrees in 1982.

As inflation is a common aspect of modern economic society, the bachelor’s degree has proven the equivalent of a high school diploma in 1950.  In 2015, apparently realizing this, fully 26 percent of college graduates were back in school pursuing master and doctorate degrees, mainly because of the pay gap between a BA and an MA degree. 

Since all students, male and female, are likely married to the machine, the factory mentality and mindset has become endemic to the age.  Good sense and rational appraisal of how cost effective an advance degree may be is seldom likely to be considered.  The mantra is: the bachelor’s degree is meaningless if not worthless; therefore I must have an advanced degree.

Against this rationale, the tuition for a master’s degree at a public institution can be in excess of $30,000 a year, while at a private institution it can soar above $40,000 per year.  Compare this with the average debt of $35,000 per college graduate with a bachelor’s degree in 2015.

Then just how valuable is a master or doctorate degree?  Graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics command salaries from $68,000 to $117,000 whereas degrees of other disciplines (as will be soon shown) can be quite modest in comparison.  Student loans can and often do plague the college graduate for years into their working life.  But new and surprising opportunities are evolving due in part to critical shortages in some professions.

New to the list is the physician assistant.  This master’s degree can earn $87,000 as median pay at the entry level as of 2016.  In the United States, largely because of the physician shortage, physician assistants are nationally certified and state licensed to practice medicine under the supervision of a physician.

Graduate degrees in various areas of education, healthcare and accounting can be far more modest in terms of possible income with an annual salary of $48,700.  What is ironic is that professionals in such disciplines are most likely to be satisfied with their work despite the low paycheck.


Master’s in Biostatistics: medium salary, $105,000

Master’s in Statistics: $113,700

Ph.D., Computer Science: medium salary, $147,400

Ph.D., Economics: medium salary, $125,800

Master’s in Applied Mathematics: medium salary, $124,900

Master’s in Computer Science: medium salary, $125,700

Ph.D., Pharmacy: medium salary, $126,000

Ph.D., Mathematics: $106,600

Ph.D., Physics: $137,800

Master’s Degree, Software Engineering: medium salary, $118,900

Ph.D., Physical Chemistry: medium salary, $134,800

Master’s, Information Systems: medium salary, $116,100

Master’s, Physician Assistant Studies: medium salary, $103,600

MBA, Management Information Systems: medium salary, $117,800

Ph.D., Political Science: medium salary, $116,700


Master’s, Fine Arts (MFA): medium salary, $46,600

Master’s, Early Childhood Education: $48,700

Master’s, Divinity: $48,700

Master’s, Elementary Education: $54,700

Master’s, Reading & Literacy: $58,200

Master’s, Theology, $57,800

Master’s, Special Education: $59,200

Master’s, Graphic Design, $72,700

Master’s of Library and Information Science: $61,200

Master of Arts in Teaching: $60,100

Master’s, Curriculum and Instruction: $60,600

Master’s, Teaching English as a Second Language: $55,000

Master’s, Pastoral Ministry: $60,800

Master of Architecture: $81,100

Master’s, English Literature: $69,500


Some sixty years ago when I was young, economic security, prestige, community respect and unquestioned authority was the prerogative of the family physician.  He didn’t worry about law suits, or being disparaged by his clientele or worry about them second guessing him.  He was trusted as if a god to know and do what was best for everyone in his care without consideration of race, ethnicity or economic circumstances. 

That mystique, although severely tarnished, has survived to this day.  It finds many women, as shown here, both black and white, making huge sacrifices to become physicians.  The only problem is that being white instead of black tacks an extra $60,000 a year on the physician’s paycheck if he is a man. 

Medical doctors who are male earn 8 percent more than their female colleagues, which translates into $20,000 or more for the male physician doing the same work as the equally qualified female physician.  The wage gap is so wide that women physicians teaching in medical schools as full professors make about the same as associate male professors. 

This mythical wall was created more than one hundred years ago when there were few if any female doctors.  The medical profession led by the American Medical Association created its brand as assiduously as NFL owners created theirs.  The AMA now defends that brand, believing itself indispensable if not the infallible authority on medical practice. 

Indeed, the AMA promotes the correct dialogue with female doctors, and claims to advocate equally the interests of female medical practitioners, but the gap between male and female doctors, and now the surging presence of black female physicians has continued to widen rather than shrink over the last several decades. 

For white female physicians this is not as pronounced a discrepancy as it is for black women physicians, but it does illustrate the fact that these highly qualified women of both races are pushing against a wall that although mythical remains a psychological and economic barrier that still holds these women in ascension from realizing their full potential and promise.  It is as if the mystique that dominated my youth sixty years ago hangs on in its irrelevancy to this day. 

The glass ceiling is gone, but this mythic barrier persists and it does so because medical patients today have apparently the same mindset as patience fifty to one hundred years ago, and that is, believing that the white male doctor is omniscient when he is a disappearing phenomenon.  The Ascent of the Working Woman is in control of our creative tomorrow, establishing her essence without fanfare but with due diligence as this book attempts to illustrate.