Gender gap apparent at USI

Roberto Campos

In 1960, there were 1.55 men for every woman enrolled as an undergraduate in college.

Researchers call the gender-based inequalities present in education and the workforce a “gender gap.”

World Economic Forum’s 2011 Global Gender Report shows the U.S. has seen a reversal in the “gender gap.” Women now outpace men in enrollment at four-year colleges – by a ratio of 1.4 to 1. Women are also graduating with more degrees.

USI is no stranger to the gap.

According to the USI Fact Book, which dates back to 2003, women have held a higher enrollment rate at the university by an average of 60.7 percent.

Each year the Office of Planning, Research and Assessment (OPRA) collects data on student enrollment. The Fact Book for 2012 revealed that while the amount of men enrolled at USI had decreased by 5.9 percent from the previous year, women had decreased by 1.5 percent.

Gender Studies Director Steven Williams said it’s not such a bad thing.

“I think it’s a positive thing overall, not that I think that it’s important to have more of one gender than another,” Williams said. “I like the fact that (the gender gap) is relatively equal, and that it’s not back in the days when it was kind of the expectation for women to be in college.”

In the 1980s, women became more serious about school and their future professional careers, and less concerned about securing husbands. Access to contraceptive pills also allowed for better planning.

“There was a time not too long ago when it was expected that young women would finish high school, but there really wasn’t much reason for them to go to university,” Williams said. “Their function was to find a man who would provide for them and their family, and for them to be at home and be the homemaker. The idea of women going off and getting a degree was viewed as not very feminine … and if you did this it would put men off and men wouldn’t want you. Thankfully, we’re over that.”

Women are obtaining a majority of postsecondary degrees compared to men and have been closing the “gender gap” in the job market.

A 2012 economic news release by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics reported that men held 11.5 jobs compared to women, who held 11.1 jobs from the ages of 18 to 46.

USI President Linda Bennett is part of the 26 percent of women that occupy presidencies across the U.S., a number that has grown by 3 percent since 2003.

“Our university is pretty balanced (when it comes to administrative held roles),” Dean of Students Angela Batista said. “Two out of the three vice presidents are male and I think that we have a different perspective because you have a female president who is a great leader. It helps to have a different experience.”

The U.S. ranks 37 in the World Economic Forum’s female-to-male enrollment ratio, which, like many other developed nations, is seeing more women in college than men. Qatar is No. 1 with a ratio of 6.31 to 1, while Great Britain is ranked 38 and Canada is ranked 42.

“I don’t think (the gender gap) is going to get much more imbalanced than it is now,” Williams said. “I would be surprised if it ever got to the point when we were 70 percent to 30 percent female.”