Last week’s Higher Education Supplement in the Australian reported that women are doing better than men in completing higher education qualifications (39.1 attainment rate among women; 25.8% for men) see here. But beware of statistics:
Trevor Gale, education policy and social justice chair at Deakin, said more detailed data was needed. “We need to ask: which boys?” he said.”I suspect the data would show it is boys from low socioeconomic status backgrounds and regional areas who are lagging behind.”
Professor Gale said gender shouldn’t be addressed in isolation from issues such as wealth and location. He said students in elite private boys schools were very likely to go to university.
These figures come on top of the announcement of higher numbers of women making partner in law firms this year, discussed in an earlier blog here. Perhaps the trickle up theory really will work. Higher numbers of women performing well at university might really lead to more women in leadership positions across the profession. So perhaps now the issue is diversity. One area that might be considered is family background. The federal government is pushing universities to increase the numbers of students from low SES backgrounds. I don’t know of any Australian studies assessing the SES background of law students or law firms. Our study (Published in the Legal Education Review 2010 here), of Monash law students a few years ago found that the majority of those students came from backgrounds with extremely high parental incomes and education levels. I suspect there is a lot more to be done in this area ….
Do you think the ‘trickle up’ theory works? Are low SES background students able to ‘make it’ in the law?