While the fight for equal pay rages on, equal representation in careers between men and women remains an issue that won’t go away. Nationally and at Temple, certain careers and fields of study are segregated.
The average difference between the percentage of male and female undergraduates at Temple between 2012-2014 was 1.93 percent, meaning the enrollment has been approximately equal between men and women each year. This balance is not reflected in the gender stratification of certain schools, though, like the School of Social Work or the College of Engineering.
In 2014, the School of Social Work had the largest gap between female and male students; 83.3 percent of the students were female and the remaining 16.6 percent were male.
Lydia Smith, a junior social work major and secretary of Temple’s Social Work Student Club, said men are deterred from majoring in social work partly because of public perception.
“It’s seen as a traditionally female field to go into,” Smith said. “When guys go to college they’re probably not conscious of it but they’re thinking, ‘What’s gonna be a field that gives me the ability to help someone?’ For some reason they don’t think social work, they think medicine … engineering.”
In 2014, Temple’s College of Engineering had 82.7 percent male and 17.1 percent female enrollment—a 65.6 percent difference.
Shawn Fagan, director of Undergraduate Studies of the College of Engineering, stressed the same idea regarding women’s exposure to engineering.
“I think it’s awareness. I don’t think it’s ability,” Fagan said. “I don’t think there’s enough information out there … it needs to happen not necessarily on our level. It needs to happen at the K-12 level and also organizational levels.”
Temple can not combat these issues of gender stratification alone because they do not originate here.
Affirmations of what each gender should specialize in have been ingrained in young peoples’ brains since childhood, a report by National Association for the Education of Young Children that focused on “the impact of specific toys in play,” said.
Unfortunately, girls are steered toward playing with dolls and being nurturing figures while boys are shown a more hands-on play experience, encouraged to build with Legos, and play assertively.
Although seemingly petty, these trends create a ripple effect, resulting in an altered expectation of what a female or male should study.
“Girls are taught, ‘Nurture and mother’… boys are taught, ‘Do something, go out on your own, and create things,’” said Smith, who has taken classes on the subject matter.
Society’s effect on choice of study is also seen in Temple’s nursing program, a line of work traditionally perceived and marketed for women. The national average for men seeking a Bachelor of Science in Nursing is 11.4 percent, and at Temple, it is 10.3 percent.
“It’s a real important role … as population grows and gets older, we need more hands,” said Nancy Rothman, professor and chairperson in the College of Public Health for Nursing.
The need for male nurses is a reality, she said. Men in the profession can help lift heavier things, carry elderly patients to baths, and provide a more representative face for a communities, which are not traditionally mostly female.
Increasing the enrollment of males or females in a certain school of study will become more likely when they see a representation of their gender in the front of the classroom and in the seats next to them, shown within the bioengineering major at Temple which has a surprisingly even distribution of 58 percent male to 42 percent female. Coincidentally, bioengineering is also a major with more representation of females in the front of the classroom at Temple.
I agree with Fagan; gender stratification in education can not be combated single-handedly, by Temple or any other higher level educational institute because that is not where the problem begins. Society needs to take on the challenge of separating gender biases and occupational choices. In a society where women are emerging as political leaders and administrative heads while men shake the stigma of being stoic and embrace paternalism, change is a movement that can no longer be applied only to how people in the workforce are treated.
We’ve been conditioned to follow these trends in the early stages of life and we are all responsible, but can be part of the solution, to integrate genders into traditionally segregated fields.
Grace Shallow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.