Women outnumber men in college enrollment

By June Bunch – kbunch@unca.edu – Staff Writer | April 15, 2015 |

Recent data displays females outweigh the number of male freshmen students on campus by roughly 20 percent, according to UNC Asheville’s latest factbook.

“There’s been an ongoing wave of change regarding women’s education and job opportunities,” said Anne Jansen, a UNCA faculty member affiliated with the women, gender and sexuality studies program.

In less than a decade, female freshmen applications rose from 55 percent in 2004 to 61 percent in 2014 at UNCA. The gap in the student gender demographic at A-B Tech, albeit a bit less, documented a 55 percent female student makeup during the past decade.

“Women are becoming engineers and scientists, and men are really asking themselves who they want to become,” said Kenneth Betsalel, a UNCA political science professor.

Dating back to the ‘40s, males held the majority percentage of students enrolled in college, according to university factbooks. However, records indicated this majority began to shift in the ‘80s as female enrollment leveled with the male to female ratio.

“I think of the mid to late ‘60s as a period of massive institutional change in general, a historical period where women were asked explicitly to join the workforce in ways they hadn’t been asked to before,” Jansen said.

During World War II, many men fought across the sea while leaving vacancies in jobs historically viewed as male dominated, Jansen said. According to her, the ‘40s introduced feminine empowerment which eventually grew into more permanent jobs during times of peace.

“The masculine stereotype of the military drew more men to war while ladies stayed in their cities and went to school to get jobs close to home,” said Rachel Foster, a psychology student.

Growing job variety began opening doors for women in recent decades, Betsalel said. According to him, female motives to enroll into different fields of study steadily increased when opportunities arose from earning an education.

“I hope the facts might prompt discussion regarding college as a place where titles like man or woman might be seen as obsolete categories. I would like to see instead an institution preparing less for particular professions and more for genderless studies of empirical possibility where either gender qualifies to take on any job,” Betsalel said.

He said previous stereotypes of male or female dominated jobs no longer apply because colleges recently began creating a space to decide which interests strike curiosity, regardless of gender.

No majors remain off limits to either gender even though preconceptions of female loaded literature classes and male filled physics lectures still persist, according to Betsalel.

“We were socialized to buy into certain gender norms growing up and it’s our generation’s job to unlearn those conventions,” Jansen said.

Women enrolled in classes exceeded men while professors teaching students were recorded by UNCA’s factbook as 67 percent male. In regards to professors, males take the lead, but according to statistics, females hold higher percentages of other university positions.

“You do have women in a variety of professional fields and studies now, but you also have huge income disparities and a large disproportion of men in positions like CEOs of businesses. When you have women in those same fields, they’re underpaid and are the huge minorities in certain systems of power,” Jansen said.

However, last year women made up the majority of the UNCA’s system of power, holding 58 percent of UNC Asheville’s executive administration positions according to university data.

“The paradigm shifted,” Betsalel said.

Factbooks from the University of California, Davis and New York University also concluded similar findings to UNC Asheville’s gender gap, showing more than half of students enrolled as female attendees there as well.

“A long time ago women were not going to college. Past generations would have been proud to see how far we’ve come,” Foster said.

 

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