Reports and misreports: the link is nursing

Two items, linked by nursing.  The first is a report in The Guardian that Anne Milton, the minister for women, has criticised Sir Philip Hampton for saying that the reason for the much-debated gender pay gap at the BBC is that women had “let it happen” by not doing enough asking.  Sir Philip is not just your run-of-the-mill businessman; he is leading an important review into the role of women in business, so his views matter.

Ms Milton took exception to the remark, and rightly so.  Sir Philip’s defence is that he was simply acknowledging differences in behaviour, but it was to say the least a careless phrase.  Ms Milton urges businesses to ask themselves whether they are not missing out on the skills of their workforce – as they almost certainly are.  Her main focus was on enabling women to fulfil their potential, over their working lives.

Ms Milton has herself changed careers.  She entered Parliament when she was 50 – her previous career having been as a nurse.  So she will have been interested to note that there has been a recent 9% upturn in the entrants to nursing studies in higher education  -the second topic of this post.  This is one – but only one – of the reasons why women are once again far ahead in university entrants.

27% of young men are expected to go to university this year, compared with 37% of young women.  This is a heck of a gap.  It makes a nonsense of the way A levels results were generally reported as showing that men had come back to outperform women.  The excellent More or Less programme dealt with the issue of why the results were so oversimplified.  I blogged on this at the time it was announced, but MoL does a much more statistically sophisticated job than I could on the A level results themselves. It’s basically to do with man more boys taking Maths A level, a subject where a far higher proportion to students get A*s.   Meanwhile a higher proportion of women than men get A*s in 26 of the 37 subjects. Many more take A levels, so proportions can be misleading anyway. And as we see, many more use the qualification to get into university.

Final note on nursing:  28 women were recruited into nursing degrees for every man.  I have to say the scale of the imbalance surprised me – I might have guessed around 10:1, but not this level.  A classic example of where we could do with a better gender balance, encouraging more men to go against the stereotype.

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