Gender Equality for Students Enrolled in Colleges and Universities

Introduction

It may be interesting to start this discussion with the issue that many female students and faculty are not distributed proportionally across various academic fields (Kaplin & Lee, 2007). Another interesting trend that is relevant to note here is a gradual increase in the number of women enrolling in what was seen as the preserve of men or the male-dominated fields of study (Joeckel, Chesnes, 2009). All these points have their driving forces behind them, some of which will form the basis of this paper. Among all these points, perhaps, the most commendable contribution to the academic system of the US is the Title IX legislation, which is meant to form a bulk of this study as we seek to look at its impact over time, especially on grounds that it vehemently speaks against discrimination of any kind for admission into learning institutions.

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A Historical Analysis

The deaths of a sizeable number of students forcing several colleges to enrol female students in different courses were the factor that greatly influenced college attending patterns after the war had been over. It could be said from a modern point of view that the Morril Land Grant Bill of 1862 had a certain impact that we should not understate. Giving the issue more careful consideration, the bill greatly advocated for the allocation of land to states, primarily for education purposes where among many other lessons, there was the teaching of military tactics (Bowen et al., 2005). We may view this as a milestone in the education sector, and its contribution to the academic situation of those days cannot be sidelined as there were colleges established as an aquatic grant, urban grant and so forth, to cater for the emerging needs of that time, all of which drew their inspiration from the Land Grant Bill. However, it should be noted that the bill neither mentioned any gender ratio proposal nor made any recommendations in this regard.

Fast forward to 1972 when the world was opening up to the discussion of the issues of discrimination and segregation of all sort, so much was happening at that time, especially concerning the problem of discrimination. That bill, which sought to advocate for total inclusion of girls in school activities, could go without making history (Walters & McNeely, 2010). Moreover, the bill directed that all the government-funded institutions should not have exhibited any signs of gender discrimination in representation or sporting activities. Other guidelines were issued and amendments were done to cope up with emerging issues concerning this matter.

This background provides us with a platform through which we can look at the steps that have been made towards balancing gender performance in various colleges and universities.

Frame Work-Gender Equality for Students Enrolled In Universities and Colleges

The importance of undertaking academic studies is to try to seek questions to sometimes unpredictable questions while trying to understand why some things happen in a particular (Renn, 2009). By examining gender equity for students at Mercyhurst University and other colleges, we may be able to point out developing patterns in the enrollment of students to various courses or shifting interests as well as the preferred choices of courses for these students, and the reasons that may drive them towards a certain field as opposed to a competing one. Besides, we will be able to establish the extent to which Title IX influence gender equality patterns.

To get a scope of how these patterns unfold, we may look at the findings by the American Council on Education conducted in 2006 which revealed that the leadership stood at 23.0% for women filling presidential positions at all the colleges, while it was at 77.0% for men (Babcock & Laschever, 2007). More specifically, 26.6% of all the college presidential posts at public institutions were held by women, while at private institutions, this rate was 18.7%.

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Another survey indicated that the participation of women in academia dropped significantly the higher they climbed the ladder; this was a phenomenon recorded in the corporate world as well. The table below illustrates this characteristic.

Characteristics
Figure 1. Characteristics

NB: The arrow shows the ascending order of the careers.

How can these findings be interpreted?

  • First, they point out a comparatively low women involvement in the outlined positions.
  • They may either show a low turnover of women in these institutions or indicate unwillingness by females to participate.
  • They may as well be attributed to a non-conducive atmosphere for women’s participation which can ultimately be termed as intimidating.
  • The study also pointed out that women earned less in their respective faculties than men regardless of whatever rank you may want to study and the per cent of what women earned in comparison to what men earned was put at about an average of 80%.

These findings can be corroborated with the findings of the Board of Trustees at Mercy Hurst University in 2010 where issues of gender inequality were practically evident after being demonstrated. An indisputable perception of male dominance was evident when it was cited that both the male and the female students felt that the school was less friendly to women. Other findings pointed out were the following:

  1. Men occupied the majority of conspicuous leadership positions in the institution because seven out of the nine administrators were male. This was greatly attributed to the fact that there were hardly any public announcements to register to fill these positions because the administrators were simply appointed. However, the lack of a public vetting system for these jobs affected both the men and the women willing and able to handle them, though, to great extent, women were the most affected.
  2. The 2010-2011 catalogue of the institution tended to indicate that there were no women in the top positions at the administrative costs of the institution, further suggesting a possibility of continuously being left out of consideration for these jobs. Again, it cannot be argued that there were no qualified women candidates for these jobs, but rather the institutions lacked a mechanism to incorporate them competitively.
  3. Turning to the tenured faculties, the institution’s numbers again revealed a male dominance trend where at least 70% of positions were held by male professors and only 30% by females. This gives men an advantage when it comes to statutory roles like department heads and deanship and promotions. The actual numbers stand at 38% tenured by the male professors and only 16% tenured by the male professors, again revealing an imbalance (Bowen, 1996).

These rates, although taken from a small population sample, can not be viewed as just numbers but should indicate outright and not obvious discriminatory phenomena in some cases. This raises several questions that relate to the effectiveness of many awareness strategies that are set out to face the public concerning this matter.

Analysis

Whether consciously or not, our institutions of higher learning tend to display a bias of male learners against their female counterparts. Admittedly, this imbalance might have naturally occurred where the number of male students admitted to particular institutions just happened to outweigh the number of female students admitted at the same period. The reasons behind such a rationale may not be quite obvious and artificially castigated to some extent to achieve a certain objective. Someone may rightly argue that this kind of trend best suits the military academies where the male candidates may be more preferred due to better physical parameters that they are likely to have compared to the women. Naturally, men have a better ability to expose and respond to challenging physical situations than women (Klenke, 1996). However, in a typical institution of learning, there should be a display of some sense of balance as opposed to the trend that has repeatedly played out in the cause of this study.

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It becomes worse when you focus on the administrative department of an institution where the top layer of the administration seems to be filled mostly by men as has been sharply pointed out. This means that men have a rather measurable advantage when it comes to competitiveness in various matters. From a common-sense point of view, this trend is observed even in the political quarters. Here, we do not need scientific quantification to conclude that men constitute the bulk of important key decision-making positions worldwide.

The Reasons of the Gender Imbalance

The question of what causes gender imbalance in learning institutions may not have direct answers. However, from a common point of view, the issue of cultural differences, beliefs, traditions as well as issues of accessibility of learning institutions may come into play (Lafreniere & Longman, 2008; Toutkoushiana, 1999). On the contrary, there might be completely different reasons why male and female ratios are not equal. Clifton (1996) notes that even countries like the USA, although having allocated quite a substantial amount of money to its post-secondary school education system, still face the gender challenge of access to higher education. Many students are falling out before completion of their degree or do not even go for it (Dahlvig & Longman, 2010).

According to AAUP (American Association of University Professors) (2008), the lack of satisfactory hiring practices, information on the vacant positions, qualified tutors, as well as reluctance to take into account one’s family needs and low salaries are the main factors of gender inequity.

It could also be caused by the reason that according to other career choices might have led to the imbalance being experienced in the post-secondary institutions.

Effectiveness of Title IX and Other Laws

In most cases, we always try to correct imbalances in one way or another, and the issue of gender imbalance does not differ much within the pace whether it is shown at school or in the workplace, or any other place in the society.

As mentioned above, one of the checks and balances put in place by the American government was the introduction of Title IX also known as the Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act. To a great extent, this law played a major role in creating a harmonized school environment, especially at the high school level. By stating that there should not be discrimination of any kind whatsoever, in particular at government-sponsored schools, the law took care of a group of people who could have been termed as the disadvantaged regarding skin colour, race, and for the case of this study, those who might have been discriminated on gender basis.

The legislation stands that there should be no discrimination in sporting, or any other activities as well. Sporting activities form part of the school programs, thus the law allows for the full participation of persons of any gender in any kind of sport.

Fundamentally, the law provided a set of guidelines that were greatly instrumental in ensuring that gender inequality was taken care of appropriately.

While we are at this discussion, we should not overlook the thing that to a great extend, the law seems to give women an upper hand in various matters, The relevance of the law, as it was during its inception, was backed by the rampant discrimination of those days. However, as it is in life, some things are overtaken with the lapse of time.

Today’s world has become overly dependent on substantive completion. This made the woman rise to fight against male dominance and stand up for their right in many ways. Although we must admit that a certain level of male dominion has been maintained over time, a contemporary woman is not afraid of competition and challenges. In this regard, Title IX was posed as a document that emphasized protection of the rights of women as well as one that stated that it did not mean to threaten to infringe men’s rights. This issue was argued out in the light of the fact that since both genders play almost equal roles in today’s society, there is no need to have a law that seems to lean too much towards the protection of one gender.

This is the same rationale behind the arguments against affirmative action. Affirmative action simply refers to legislation that seeks to establish a legal framework that is geared to enforcing recognition of one thing or another. For instance, in a bit to increase the number of female students acquiring post-secondary education, the government may implement a law that would ensure to stipulate a minimum and the maximum number of female students who attend colleges at any given time. This may not be a very appropriate way of achieving balance and end up empowering one gender more than the other, thus creating a protest (Darling-Hammond, 2010).

Recommendations

Without any doubt, there is no single solution to the problem of gender inequality whether about acquiring higher education or obtaining jobs at these institutions and elsewhere. Nonetheless, several issues might be addressed to bring out this seemingly elusive sense of balance.

We have established that women are the most disadvantaged when it comes to filling leading positions in higher institutions of learning. First of all, it would be better to review the laws that guide the admission of students to higher institutions of learning as well as the other laws concerning higher education. Such laws include Title IX to reflect what changes with the lapse of time as opposed to the view that these changes are in favour of one gender.

The community must also be encouraged to cultivate a motivational way of ensuring that the gender that is not well represented at any given level or in any particular field has an opportunity to change the situation. A good example is women in science. For a long time, women did not seem to embrace science and scientific studies easily; this was the thing that led to a deficiency of women in that field. We can say that women are still in the process of being integrated into scientific studies. The number of women in science as compared to that of men is relatively low even nowadays.

There should also be a level playing field for fair competition. This means that any legislation that is implemented must put into consideration the needs and demands of each gender to develop harmonized programs.

Period studies into the matters should also be conducted to deal with emerging trends and examine what might be viewed as the causes of disparities between genders. Information on statistics available for the number of participants from any given gender on a far-reaching and weight matter should be availed to encourage others who may feel obliged to follow in their footsteps.

Conclusion

We cannot say for certain that gender imbalance is something that can easily be dealt with. History has shown that this matter is too great to escape the attention of any of us, which is why it is not an issue that can just take care of itself. Having this in mind, we must ask ourselves about the benefits that we may gain from advancing formalities that support one side or the other. If there is an advantage in admitting more females than males to the institutions of learning and allowing them to fill more leading positions, then we must fight for that. However, achieving a certain level of balance can give more benefits as opposed to any other point of view, thus it is, therefore, worth pursuing this aim.

References

  1. AAUP (American Association of University Professors). (2008). Gender equity guidelines for department chairs. 
  2. Babcock, L., & Laschever, S.(2007). Women don’t ask about The high cost of avoiding negotiation– and positive strategies for change. New York: Bantam Books.
  3. Bowen, W. G., Kurzweil, M. A., Tobin, E. M., & Pichler, S. C. (2005). Equity and excellence in American higher education. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.
  4. Clifton, C. (1996). Affirmative action in higher education: A case for clarity. Community Review 14, 59-66.
  5. Dahlvig, J. E., & Longman, K. A. (2010). Women’s leadership development: A study of defining moments. Christian Higher Education, 9(3), 238-258. doi:10.1080/15363750903182177
  6. Darling-Hammond, L. (2010). The Flat World And Education: How America’s Commitment To Equity Will Determine Our Future. New York: Teachers College Press.
  7. Kaplin, W. A., & Lee, B. A. (2007). The law of higher education, Student version. NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
  8. Klenke, K. (1996). Women and leadership: A contextual perspective. New York: Springer Pub. Co.
  9. Lafreniere, S. L., & Longman, K. A. (2008). Gendered Realities And Women’s Leadership Development: Participant Voices From Faith-Based Higher Education. Christian Higher Education, 7(5), 388-404. doi:10.1080/15363750802171081.
  10. Toutkoushiana, R. K. (1999). Special populations: The status of academic women in the 1990s no longer outsiders, but not yet equals. Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance 39(5), 679–698. doi:10.1016/S1062-9769(99)00023-X
  11. Walters, J., & McNeely, C. L. (2010). Recasting Title IX: Addressing gender equity in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics professoriate. Review of Policy Research, 27(3), 317-332. doi:10.1111/j.1541-1338.2010.00444.x
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