Book by Linda J. Sax
Review by Denise Dooley
Academic Advising
College for Creative Studies, Detroit

Are we still Raising Ophelia or is there a generation of young men being lost in Guyland? Attention grabbing publications have frequently focused how women have been shortchanged in a man’s world or, more recently, how young men are lacking motivation and losing out due to gains made by women.  Men and women are different and in a more balanced effort, Sax uses the extensive data collected by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) to examine the differences.

The early chapters are an examination of male-female differences for students entering college utilizing data collected from the 2006 CIRP Freshman Survey, while also looking at trends in the data from the last 40 years. Use of such recent data is valuable to academic advisors currently working with the millennial generation. Some of the areas Sax examines are of particular interest to advisors, such as; academic self-confidence and engagement; psychological and physical well being; major and career aspirations. Her findings offer statistical support for what advisors are experiencing in their daily interactions with students. “Consistent with their lower ratings of emotional health, women report higher levels of stress than men, with more than twice as many women as men reporting that they frequently feel overwhelmed by all they have to do. Notably, the gender gap in feelings of stress has grown over the years.” (pp.33 - 34)

The focus moves to her main question, are men and woman are affected differently by their experiences in college? The data reviewed is slightly older, relying on the 1994 Freshman Survey and the College Student Survey completed by the same cohort, in 1998. A follow up with a more recent group would provide more valuable data. In examining areas such as personality and identity; and academic outcomes, Sax offers some insight valuable to advisors in their work with other staff and, in particular, faculty.  “Knowing that women and men respond differently to their interactions with professors may enable academic advisors and psychological counselors to respond more effectively to students who are having difficulty in college, whether personally or academically.” (p 225) All advisors could benefit from reading this book, but especially those advising majors which are predominantly male or female. 

Sax manages to organize the book in a readable manner, considering the large amount of data and frequent reference to related studies. Throughout the book she calls for further research, citing the need to consider even more variables, such as race or economic factors, along with gender. One of her frequent references, Pascarella, supports this need as well, “As a total body of evidence, the research of the 1990s essentially limited itself to the estimation of general effects. This is perhaps understandable. If an intervention has the same impact for all participants, then the resulting interpretation is both relatively parsimonious and neat. However, a small but growing percentage of the evidence on college impact produced since 1990 has clearly indicated that limiting one’s vision to general effects can frequently be misleading and mask dramatic differences in the impact of an intervention or experience for different kinds of students.” (Pascarella, 2006, p. 512)

Piper, M. (1994) Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls. New York:Penguin.

Kimmel, M. (2008) Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men. New York: Harper

Pascarella, E. T. (2006). How college affects students: Ten directions for future research. Journal of College Student Development, 47(5), 508-520.

The Gender Gap in College: Maximizing the Developmental potential of Women and Men. (2008). Book by Linda J. Sax. Review by Denise Dooley. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 352 pp. ISBN # 978-0-7879-6575-4
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