Section: News

In classroom, gender gap persists

In classroom, gender gap persists

Professor Erler teaches Gender and Politics

Sixty-five percent of political science majors in the class of 2016 were male. Political science is not alone — similar gender gaps are evident in a multitude of majors, from economics to women’s and gender studies.

“Is this sending the message to women that [political science] isn’t for you?” Associate Professor of Political Science H. Abbie Erler asked.

At Kenyon, gender disparities within majors have remained fairly consistent over the past five years; the gender ratio of students attending the College currently stands at 53 percent women and 47 percent men.

In the class of 2012, 14 women and 22 men graduated with a degree in political science, according to the Office of the Registrar. The disparity increased slightly last year: In the graduating class of 2016, there were 14 women and 26 men who had majored in political science.

Erler said the political science courses that tend to be male-dominated contain a female population that is self-selecting. “They’re used to being in these classes that are male-dominated,” she said. “But when you have … women who are not [political science] majors, you can see how that would be a … weird environment.”Erler added that the phenomenon may self-perpetuate, discouraging women from majoring in political science. Incoming students may look to the roster and, seeing fewer females listed as political science majors, decline to sign up for courses despite an interest in the subject area.

Economics, another popular major, has also remained male-dominated. Katie Guyot ’17, an English and economics major, said women in economics courses tend to leave the department when they receive poor grades — which reflects a national trend, according to Harvard economics professor Claudia Goldin.

“A lot of men go into [economics] thinking, ‘What else am I going to major in?’ while a lot of women only stay if they’re doing well,” Guyot said.

Guyot pointed to her senior honors class in economics as evidence.

“In my senior honors class, there are eight people, and seven of them are women,” Guyot said. “Clearly, of the women that are in the economics department, they’re doing pretty well.”

Female students are not the only ones conscious of the disparity. “I’ve noticed in some of my economics classes that the gender gap is noticeable,” Evan Frazier ’17, a math and economics major, said. “It would be nice to have more of a balance, just for the sake of balance.”

A gender gap does not always mean men are always in the majority. In the Class of 2014, six of seven women’s and gender studies majors were women, according to a Collegian article published on Nov 20, 2014. Among English majors, 43 women and 26 men graduated in 2012. This gap narrowed slightly last year, to 36 women and 28 men comprising English majors in the class of 2016. To some students, a more even ratio can come with advantages.

“One thing I’ve noticed is that almost everybody talks,” Alexander Raske ’19, an English major, said. “There aren’t really any people who regularly dominate class discussion, which you really get in male dominated class environments, I’ve found.”

Erler’s is still unsure of what should happen to address these disparities, but she hopes that students and faculty alike will take note of the gender gap and continue discussing and analyzing it.    

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