Women are moving on top of men in America

Summary:  Long-time readers have seen some stunning but accurate predictions during the past 7 years. The secret to this track record: predicting things that have already happened, but that our preconceptions prevent us from seeing. Here’s another.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Woman in Charge



  1. See the future by looking at the present.
  2. Women as leaders.
  3. Hollywood shows us the future.
  4. Conclusions.
  5. For More Information.
  6. Poor Castle, a beta in his own show.


(1)  We can see the future if we look at the present

What will America look like if current trends continue putting women on top of men? I (and others) have written about this for 5 years, yet the narratives of women’s oppression remained so strong that the facts have only recently penetrated to public awareness — and few have yet considered their implications. Enrichment programs for women, scholarship programs for women, job programs for women — all adding to the growing gap in women’s performance over men’s.  People are beginning to notice: “Women’s Participation in Education and the Workforce“, Council of Economic Advisers, 14 October 2014.  Some of their observations, about which they draw no conclusions (wisely, too inflammatory)…

  • Women’s college going has surpassed men’s in recent decades and has continued to increase. Women are more likely to go to college and graduate school and more likely to graduate from when they go. In 2013, 25-34 year old women were 21% more likely than men to be college graduates and 48% more likely to have completed graduate school.
  • Women now account for almost half of students in JD, MBA, and MD programs, up from less than 10% in the 1960s.
  • College-educated young women are now as likely to be employed as doctors, dentists, lawyers, professors, managers and scientists as traditionally female-dominated occupations such as teachers, nurses, librarians, secretaries, or social workers. … The share of occupations in which women are at least 80% of all workers has remained relatively constant.
  • Men and women with professional degrees have similar earnings in their 20s.
  • Women earn more than men in 16% of all married couples and 29% of married couples where both spouses work. These shares have nearly doubled since 1981.

See the future in the relative graduation rates of women vs. men. More women have bachelor’s degrees; more women have some graduate school, and the gap is widening…


Women's graduation rates
Women’s Participation in Education and the Workforce“, Council of Economic Advisers, 14 October 2014.

(2)  Women as leaders

For another perspective on the future see this Pew Poll asking about leadership qualities: most see little difference between the genders. But a third see women as better in many ways, while few see men as better. That’s a large edge for women, and might prove decisive as the biases about their proper role fade away.

Pew Poll about leadership skills by gender

(3)  Hollywood shows us the future

The arts help us see leadership passing from men to women. The first wave of equality in film passed long ago (e.g, V.I. Warshawski in 1991, GI Jane in 1997).  Carol Danvers took the mantle of the dead Captain Marvel in 2012. Thor becomes unworthy of the title, which passes to his girlfriend Jane Foster (with Mjolnir) in 2014. The leadership of SHIELD passes from Nick Fury to Daisy Johnson and then Maria Hill. An all-female Ghostbusters hits our screens next year. Many more movies and TV shows about female superheroes are coming.

We see the future even more clearly in the more mundane shows. For several generations TV sit-coms show the typical American family with a powerful wife and her foolish lesser husband, as do commercials. Now TV shows generalize this pattern, with dysfunctional or broken male characters supported by solid, wise, often omnicompetent women. Beckett dominates her beta husband Castle on “Castle”. The TV show Elementary features Joan Watson as vastly superior in almost every sense to Sherlock Holmes (decisively so in the finales of season 1 and 3); his nemesis, Jamie Moriarty, is superior in every way (she’s defeated by Joan).

Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road

Even action-adventure films, male’s last bastion of superiority, have begun to show a shifting balance from near-equality of the leads (e.g., as in most Bond films for the past 20 years) to the dominant woman. For example, the lead actor in Max Max 4 is Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), not Mad Max (Tom Hardy).

The Disney films show the future the most clearly, perhaps since Disney designs them for girls who will become the future’s leaders. The early Disney Princesses passively waited in center stage for rescue by their Princes. Then they were partners in adventure with men: Pocahontas (1995), Aladdin (1992), Mulan (1998), The Princess and the Frog (2009), and Tangled (2010). Now they are part of all-women ensembles with men in minor roles only: Brave (2012) and Frozen (2013).

Queen takes King

(4)  Conclusions

Men have the edge in the generations now in power, people born in 1975 and later. We’re seeing a demographic transition in which women shift to a superior position. It’s already happened, but demographic transitions take decades to play out. In 20 years the generation taking power will have more women than men with the college degree that’s the first step on the ladder — equal fractions of men and women with the all-important advanced educational credentials that lead to the top.

That generation grew up with attitudes far different than their parents about gender roles, and attitudes radically different than those of their grandparents. The resulting social revolution will be beyond anything we can imagine today as almost every aspect of society will change.

See tomorrow’s post for examples of war in the films of the future.

(5)  For More Information

For more about this trend I recommend reading “The Rise of Women: 7 Charts Showing Women’s Rapid Gains in Educational Achievement” (Russell Sage Foundation, 2013) and “Percentage of Bachelor’s degrees conferred to women, by major (1970-2012)“. The latter shows that women are catching up fast in the sciences: 40-45% in Math, Statistics, and the Physical Sciences in 2012, and 58% Biology degrees. Got to love the author’s response (a guy) to women getting the majority of biology degrees: “Even better!” Equality was yesterday’s goal.

How did this happen? I suggest starting with these books…

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about Women and gender issues, especially these posts about our adjustments to a society with moving women on top of men…

(6)  Poor Castle, a beta in his own show

Beckett ropes Castle in S07E07
From Castle S07E07 – “Once Upon A Time in the West”.



34 thoughts on “Women are moving on top of men in America”

  1. Winston Smith

    There is double edge sword to “women on top”, increasing women will find that they will have to shoulder the economic, social and political responsibilities that they once expected men to do. All this advancement has been as an individual, not as a citizens who has obligations to society. This has been a major recurring theme of Fabius Maximus.

    Perhaps a darker example of this “women on top”, is the present moral panic of campus sexual assault. Since women are 57% of university students and growing, many women would know realize that the males and the relationships that they imagined for themselves will not eventuate, hence the moral criss. So women begin to see themselves as victims of society, rather than as citizens of society, of whom society is dependent on to function properly.

    So on the one hand women are coming out on top, while on the other hand women are also retreating from society into narcissism and paranoia.

    1. Winston,

      You raise an issue I’ve wondered much about. The institutions most gripped by the sexual assault panics are the universities and military, both on the cutting edge of women’s ascent to power. Especially in the military, it seems incongruous that women are said to be as tough as male soldiers — ready for front-line combat — yet need extraordinary protections when drinking with men, often voluntarily lapsing into a state of “diminished consent”. It’s the binary state of women today, flipping between Cinderella and Xena Warrior Woman as the the script requires.

      It’s difficult to honestly describe these tensions, so the media frequently resort to fantasy. as in this May 14 story in the Marine Corps Times:

      …{about} home life for many Marines of the Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, who wrapped up a series of combat arms assessments at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms in May before splitting off to Bridgeport and Camp Pendleton for further testing. Marines assigned to the task force’s infantry and weapons elements lived side-by-side in one- and two-man tents — regardless of gender — the way a future integrated unit might expect to live during field training or downrange on a deployment. Despite the close quarters and privacy challenges, Marines said they settled easily into the arrangement.

      “Everyone’s pretty professional about it,” said Cpl. Carolina Ortiz, 27, a member of the task force’s artillery assessment. “Nothing less than green-on-green [respect] and everyone’s comfortable following the rules, so nobody sees anything they don’t want to see.” Most female Marines chose female tent mates for their weeks of living in the field, Ortiz said, but they had the option of rooming with a male Marine if they preferred.

      … In more serious moments, some male volunteers told Marine Corps Times that adjusting to integrated life was awkward initially, but grew more comfortable as the unit spent time together. “It was really strange for some people at first,” said Cpl. Kevin Rodriguez, 22, who was directly assigned to a staff position at the artillery unit. “But now it’s like we’re brothers and sisters. It happened really fast …

      Just good comrades! No screwing in the bushes like bunnies. As a long-time Boy Scout leader, I suspect this is “socialist realism” reporting, painting a politically correct picture. No sexual assault problems here.

  2. Are women really ready for what they have wanted and wrought?
    PEW like Polls are meaningless except that they confirm the Glasses many have been given to wear and see the world through. And these Glasses are overwhelmingly a Feminized world. “Women” are better at…..***; is that what we are seeing today in reality? No doubt the big Change is afoot.
    What I wish to see is the statistical over lay of the use of prescription Mood Enhancing drugs by Gender. …..and.by children of these families. It’s out there. I have anecdotal info from professionals in Psych and Teaching.
    It will not take “20 years “. The results are already apparent if you can see them. And it’s like a Virus, immunity comes from repeated exposure with that concommitant pain and struggle. It is air borne and no one is safe.


  3. In my approximately 10-year career working in business and finance on the West Coast, my personal experience has been that more than half of the people I’ve worked with professionally, and perhaps slightly less then half the senior and upper management, have been women.
    If I didn’t know better, and if I didn’t read about demographics or statistics, and if I didn’t read posts like this one above, then I might not realize my situation wasn’t typical.
    I think many people born after about 1975 would feel the same; we see how tv shows like ‘Mad Men’ present the patriarchal workplace power structure of the 1960’s, but we have no personal memory of the time when men were in charge of everything.

    1. todd,

      “perhaps slightly less then half the senior and upper management, have been women.”

      Gender ratios vary greatly, and by field more than geography. Teaching, libraries, social work, some areas of health care have been matriarchies for generations (e.g., when I was a social worker in the late 1970s in northern Appalachia). Some — like engineering and the military — have been patriarchies until the past decade. Most departments of Investment Banks have been boys clubs (despite frantic efforts by the senior management, desperate to avoid litigation). Many banking departments’ management have been gender integrated for a long time (e.g., retail banking).

  4. How Can I Use Feminism To My Advantage? by Megan Heller

    “Knowledge is power. In this competitive, male-dominated world, a woman must take advantage of all the resources at her disposal. Luckily, I found a way to take the idea that men and women should be socially, politically, and economically equal, and make it work for me. Now I’m subverting the dominant paradigm—and raking in the benefits!

    I learned about feminism at least 10 years ago, but at that point, I still didn’t know how valuable it was. Of course, I believed that every woman had a right to an education, proper healthcare, political representation, and equal career opportunities, but I never saw the point in spending my valuable time working for the empowerment of all women. All that changed when I started school at Macalester College and met Erica. Everyone in the dorm was afraid of Erica, because she attacked the racist and sexist welcome-week party. By the fourth day of classes, Erica was a dorm-wide celebrity. I heard girls talking about her in the bathroom, boys talking about her in the dining hall. Nobody even knew I existed.

    What was the difference between Erica and me? You guessed it: feminism. Well, not for long, sister. Once we became closer, Erica told me that she didn’t care about the stupid luau anyway. She had bigger things to worry about, like defending women against the so-called Right’s war against reproductive liberties. Her work at the Campus Coalition For Women sounded thrilling. I wanted to cash in on the centuries-long subjugation of my gender, too!

    Many modern women are afraid to call themselves feminists. I often remind these weak, confused women of the words of Gloria Steinem: “In my heart, I think a woman has two choices: Either she’s a feminist or a masochist.” When I first read Steinem, she awoke ambitions I never knew I had. I wanted to be just like her—powerful, famous, and financially well off.

    Since my awakening, I’ve memorized quotations from feminists of all stripes, from Betty Friedan to Susan Faludi. Decades of activists have left persuasive arguments in support of my campus group’s private study lounge in the student union. Hey, whatever works. Take that, International Students Club! Have fun studying in the library, with all the other losers who don’t have a dedicated study lounge. …

    Not all feminists have this attitude…


  5. Maybelline Introduces Line Of Injectable Makeup To Enhance Appearance Of Internal Organs

    NEW YORK—Saying that women no longer need to settle for plain, drab internal tissue, the cosmetics brand Maybelline introduced a new line of injectable makeup this week to enhance the appearance of wearers’ organs. “With our new injectable makeup options, women can finally have the type of flawless, gorgeous-looking digestive and cardiopulmonary systems they’ve always wanted,” said Maybelline spokesperson Diane Moss, adding that women will soon be able to use a 10cc Maybelline syringe to apply their new set of cosmetics, which currently include a “bold and flirty” line of lung shadow; blood vessel mascara for thicker, longer capillaries; and spleen foundation to cover unsightly blemishes and provide a smooth, even look to the lymphoid organ. “Our selection of over 300 shades of heartstick ensures that women will be able to find the perfect color and level of shimmer to enhance their atria and ventricles for nearly any occasion. And the youthful definition that comes from a quick thoracic injection of pancreas rouge is certain to provide women a boost of confidence before they step out the door each morning.” Moss added that Maybelline would also cater to those women looking for a more natural look by introducing an injectible line of products designed to conceal the fact that they’re even wearing organ makeup at all.”


  6. Fabius Maximus,

    I don’t find your arguments particularly compelling in this matter. Let me explain where I need to hear more to be convinced.

    1) “We can see the future if we look at the present”
    It’s worth looking at these trends and projecting our expectations on the future, but we should not be deluded to think that while things are trending a particular way that that negates the fact it isn’t that way now. If women were paid the same as men for the same job and gender biases were not a reality now, then your argument would mean more to me. Things are different from the “bad old days” or the “good old days” but they aren’t equal now. That’s where the conflict is. Is it becoming equal fast enough?

    2) “For another perspective on the future see this Pew Poll asking about leadership qualities: most see little difference between the genders. But a third see women as better in many ways, while few see men as better.”
    I think this is a fascinating perspective from Pew and yourself. Where do women have the advantage? in “being honest and ethical” and in “mentoring” and providing “fair opportunities” and in “compromise.” What business values these things more highly regarded now than “negotiating profitable deals”? And given the stridency of politics today, who is clamoring for people who can compromise well? The skill set that women are perceived to have are important in getting things done but they are not skills that mesh well with the stated goals of feminism of being seen as equal to men.
    Additionally, while this is one aspect of how women are perceived, you can see this study here:
    (Study finds scientists review male resumes as being more competent just because male)
    (study finds math teachers grade female students worse when they know they are girls!)
    There are serious and real prejudices to women in some particular areas, and while there are certainly real trends and changes occurring to our society that are impacting young men more than other groups, I think capitalism’s ruthless interest in efficiently extracting value from where there is value is more to blame than feminism. Your 3rd point is an excellent example of this.

    3) “Many more movies and TV shows about female superheroes are coming. It’s just the first step to action-adventure equality.”
    This is certainly a perspective that can be taken. But, feminists can look at the current list of Marvel movies that have come out and are projected and see only a pittance that are female led and driven and that’s also a perspective that has some truth to it.
    The reality is that capitalism dictates everything in our country now and so we shouldn’t be surprised that movie companies and every other cultural money making venture is seeking to wring additional coins from the air. They want all the money they can get and now that women are earning more, they are trying to get that money from them too.
    NFL and NBA are both trying to attract more women in search of more money so you should expect that these organizations change as much as they think they can get away with in order to be better positioned to make that money.
    This is an economic proposition and it is sad and tragic that the Christian, cultural conservative crowd allied itself to the political leaders who would seek efficiency in all areas. That search for efficient extraction of money is now being used to undermine the culture they seek to protect.
    All that being said, I don’t think the “Ghostbusters” really counts as some sort of cherished cultural artifact or even Mad Max really.
    And if you’d like me to give a list of movies and tv shows that conform to the normative gender roles and were popular I’d be happy to point them out.

    4) “The resulting social revolution will be beyond anything we can imagine today as almost every aspect of society will change.”
    I don’t think that you’ve proven that the extent of this demographic change will be greater than the proliferation of birth control has been.

    PF Khans

    1. PF Khan,

      I have had this conversation hundreds of times since 2003. I point to trends and speculate where they will take us. Rebuttals point to the past and deny change.

      My guess is that you will be astonished as the future does in fact bring change. Only time will tell who is correct.

    2. Fabius Maximus,

      That is a very unfair characterization of my challenge to your post. I dispute some of the evidence that you presented. I didn’t deny that change was happening, I challenged your narrative on what’s driving the change and the extent to which it has already made an impact.

      PF Khans

    3. Fabius Maximus,

      I honestly think I do grasp what you’re saying. It’s not that hard to comprehend. Gender is a huge part of how decisions are being made in our society and the idea that we yank the levers and change it without thought is stupid. I don’t think you have proven that the coming changes will be more severe or more drastic than the ones we have already experienced in scope or scale. It’s not my job to propose a more workable future forecast, I provided you what you generally ask from commenters that disagree, a reasoned argument supported by evidence. Your dismissal of that is your loss.

      PF Khans

      1. PFK,

        Here’s a few specifics.

        (1) “but we should not be deluded to think that while things are trending a particular way that that negates the fact it isn’t that way now”

        That’s quite an example of missing the point. This post was speculating about the future if trends continue. 90% of your comment follows from this error.

        (2) “I don’t think that you’ve proven that the extent of this demographic change will be greater than the proliferation of birth control has been.”

        Yes, you’ve completely misread the post. First, I cannot imagine how one can compare the magnitude of two such different forms of social change (fertility rates and gender roles). Second, I never said it was greater.

        (3) ‘What business values these things more highly regarded now than”

        That section is too bizarre to bother replying to.

    4. Fabius Maximus,

      OK, I get it, I’ll leave you alone to your thoughts. In the future could you just disable comments on posts you’re not interested in hearing feedback on?

      PF Khans

      1. PFK,

        You give comments. I give my opinion. I don’t mind you disagreeing with me (most of the comments here do so).

        You appear to find disagreement with you to be disturbing. That’s not my problem, and certainly no reason to change the site’s comment policy.

    5. Fabius Maximus,

      “You appear to find disagreement with you to be disturbing. That’s not my problem, and certainly no reason to change the site’s comment policy.”
      I find dismissal to be irritating. I find your consistent misjudgement of my intentions to be disturbing. I brought counter evidence to you in good faith and in the interest of hearing how you explain your opinion in spite of it. Your response has been to ignore my explanations and to call them bizarre. Not particularly friendly or conducive to discussion.

      You don’t think I understand your opinion, it sounds to me like your opinion is that the current evidence suggests that a seriously different world is coming, and soon, where women will dominate the intellectual, social, economic, and political scene of America and that that will me radical change. I see some evidence that women have adjusted better than men to the newest economic and political order, but I also see evidence that the gender lines are pretty well entrenched where they are and that while there’s a lot of energy being poured out in our culture to shift them further, it doesn’t seem as though it’ll budge too much. There’s clearly more change coming but it seems more likely to me that the economic and political powers that are currently operating on the scene are much more likely to change America according to selfish economic woes than any sort of equality agenda. Put bluntly, what’s an all-female Ghostbusters mean when there’s no mandatory maternity leave in the US?

      PF Khans

  7. In regards of 3, on the issue of the narratives prevalent or rising in Hollywood I would take the issue from the perspective that people like to see in the movies what they dont see in real life, fictive examples of that they aspire themselves to be or believe themselves to be. Marketing is a factor too, In some instances like superhero toys, toys are not made of superhero females, according to indiders because they already have the girls market taken over by the princess stuff.

    The same can happen if you have a guranteed male audience as in Mad Mad and want to gain an extra by appealing to female audiences that dont buy the adult version of the princess genre. Women want to see Imperator Furiosa kicking ass as an aspirational entertainment, just like they want to see sex and the city.Why do women deeply aspire to fiction? That would be the question

    1. Azul,

      “to see Imperator Furiosa kicking ass as an aspirational entertainment”

      I frequently see that belief, but seldom supported by numbers. The women’s market for fiction is dominated by “bodice-rippers” — and 50 Shades of Grey. The big film hits in sales to women are films like Twilight. Perhaps women will flock to see Mad Max and buy the new Thor, but so far I just people asserting the fact on ideological grounds. I’d like to see evidence before believing.

  8. F.M. Editor, Ask any feminist you know if she watched Kill Bill. Get fucking real dude, please

      1. catcher,

        Follow-up note. Even granting your point, I don’t see how that’s a rebuttal. Kill Bill was 2003, nicely in the timeline I described — a step beyond the 1991 V warshawski and the 1997 GI Jane & Starship Troopers, and before the current gen of women superheroes.

        Expanding this timeline, we’d start with the first action-adventure women. To look at some milestones along the way: The Avengers (1963), Girl from UNCLE (1963), Wonder Woman (1975), Charlie’s Angels (1976), Alien (1979), Aliens (1986), Xena (1995), Kill Bill (2003), Catwoman (2004), Elektra (2005) — note the trend of increasing realism and violence — plus women assuming a more central role.

  9. Editor, PFK, as an eagle scout leader I recommend a no holes barred virtual conceptual match, its the only way, philosophers. military, business and Don Bosco Explorers agree. Or else just shake hands and pay respect to each other

  10. Interesting discussion, FM. I wonder what your take is on the Alien films. I thought the Ripley character was somewhat pioneering(1979)–first female movie sci-fi hero that I can think of. In the second film there was a female marine in the platoon that was a the equal or superior to anyone in toughness and courage. That film predated GI Jane by ten years(1986).

    Also, I wonder if you’ve heard of the British show Absolutely Fabulous. Predates Sex In the City by 6 years and is much funnier imo. One of the few shows or films that allowed women to act selfishly and irresponsibly–just like men.

  11. Editor, PFK, as an eagle scout leader I recommend a no holes barred virtual conceptual match, its the only way, philosophers.

    Holes? Or holds?

    Freud would have a field day with this one, uninentionally pointing up how men still view women despite all FM’s alleged transformation of “women moving on top of men” (yet another Freudian slip so hilarious that this entire post deserves its own special issue of The Onion).

    1. Thomas,

      That is quite a misread of this post. It says absolutely nothing about a change of men’s attitudes, but rather is another in a series describing the changing power relations between men and women.

      The title was deliberately written. If you think perhaps you will see why.

      If you read more carefully you might laugh less but learn more.

  12. Undoubtedly FM intended to erect a set of hard protocols for understanding the deep penetration of women into a variety of societal roles, but I think his ejaculations at this point are overwrought…
    Gotta love it when men write about women’s roles in American society. It’s just so adorable.

  13. Obviously it means that any conformal mapping of a complex variable which has continuous partial derivatives is analytic.

    1. Thomas,

      To assert that silly mockery “obviously means that any conformal mapping of a ..” is even more foolish than your original statement. To say big words does not create meaning.

      Try saying something clearly, then readers can evaluate your sense.

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