With feminism enjoying a resurgence worldwide, and with over 50% of the American workforce now female, a growing chorus of voices are calling for universities to accept equal numbers of male and female students in every subject. However, much like the Nordic law requiring a minimum percentage of corporate board members to be female, this policy is actually disguised discrimination and extremely counterproductive.
Traditionally, university entry has been merit-based, and should continue that way. Merit based entry promotes competition among students starting from the school level. Students realize they have no inherent free ticket to university and thus work for the best CGPA, taking up sports, debating and music as well, to stand out from their peers. Extrapolating from this, we will see the economic benefits of a driven, competitive and efficient workforce, like increased wealth levels, consumer spending and technological innovation. As it stands, the US ranks 25th out of 34 countries on standardized science tests, so does reducing competition make sense? To take one example, would the US have rushed Armstrong to the moon without the Russians breathing down their necks?
Furthermore, such a policy would lead to misallocation and waste of government and university resources. A demand for equal numbers of male and female undergrads would mean that some below-par students would be accepted to fill the quota. Thus, university time and funds would be spent trying to bring these students up to scratch, which is far from guaranteed. Once the student enters the workforce, his net contribution to the economy vs. the funding spent on him would be lower than for bright students accepted by merit alone. With universities and governments increasingly cash-strapped, it would be illogical to misappropriate funds on below-par students while top students are turned away because of their gender.
Lastly, the requirement would in practice be, ironically, discriminatory. What if more men had better grades than female applicants? Should they be turned away because they exceed the male quota? How is this fair to people who worked hard in school? What if there were an overwhelming majority of intelligent female applicants? If they were turned away because of the quota, wouldn’t that defeat the policy’s aims? And anyway, if women can compete with men, as feminists vehemently attest, let them compete with men, Why the need to slight women with this patronizing favor?
Proponents of this law no doubt bleat that improving women’s access to education is necessary. Yes it is, and governments should remove cultural prejudices against women’s education, and set up more schools to facilitate increased enrollment. A quota, however, will turn away some intelligent men and women, shortchanging everyone. Democracies and capitalist societies succeed on the belief that whoever outcompetes the other gets the reward. To advocate tertiary education allocation on a gender basis is to advocate a return to the Dark Ages.