The first American college to grant a degree to women was Mississippi College in 1831. Since then, the accessibility of higher education to women has grown to the point where it is now. Women and men walk beside each other on campus, earn the same degrees, and take the same courses. Higher education in America appears on the surface to have been equalized. But unfortunately, under the surface, women still face hardship in the system.
There is still inherent misogyny in the higher education system, despite the many efforts to encourage women through scholarships and even women-only universities. This misogyny is characterized by many things. This includes the low number of female students in male-dominated fields of study, lower numbers of female faculty, the exclusivity of women with children, lack of actual actions for rape victims, and even simply the attitudes within the educational environment.
Many colleges have programs to encourage women to enter STEM fields, but there is still a substantial gender gap in those degree fields. Many things contribute to this gap. Gender stereotypes are the primary reason for this. STEM fields are viewed in society as masculine. These stereotypes instill in girls from a young age that they do not belong in math or science career fields. The stereotypes subconsciously lead girls away from male-dominated careers. Sometimes these stereotypes also discourage girls and cause educators to underestimate them. A study by the University of California found that more women than men drop out of STEM courses and college in general.
Something that may alleviate this is changing the faculty gender ratio. The American Association of University Women found that only 27% of tenured faculty at four-year institutions are women. It has also been found that women faculty members are often not promoted to higher ranks. Tech is lucky to have a female president to serve as a role model to her female students. However, at a lot of colleges, male professors outnumber female professors. This is a solid contrast to the male to female ratio of teachers in primary and secondary education. If college students had more examples of women in their field of study, they might feel more encouraged to pursue their degrees.
Colleges may also increase their female demographic if they are more courteous to women who have children. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research observed that between 2011 and 2016, the number of students who are parents decreased by 15%. Reasons for this include a lack of funding for parent students who cannot afford both college tuition and childcare. If colleges provided more scholarships or childcare programs, the number of women with children enrolled in a college program might increase.
Lack of representation is not the only inherent misogyny in the education system. Upper-level education is also full of microaggressions and double standards. Microaggressions are indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against a minority group. Double standards are rules or principles that are unfairly applied between groups of people. An easy example of this is the way men and women write emails. Have you ever noticed how female professors or students go out of their way to appear friendly in their emails? This usually occurs in the usage of exclamation points, words of gratitude and apologies.
Meanwhile, it is more common for male students or professors to send simple emails with sharp points. There is no reason for this occurrence other than a need to conform to societal standards. Being underestimated in classes, especially in STEM fields, is a type of microaggression. Female students find themselves outnumbered, but they also may face condescension from their fellow male students.
These are not the only examples of hardships that women face in upper-level education because of their gender. The education system in the United States has come far, but there is still a way to go before female students achieve true equality.