OU gender gap broadens

By Sarah Hunton

Observing the student body at Oakland University may leave you asking yourself one question: Where are all the men?

According to “Educational Attainment in the United States: 2010,” a report released by The Census Bureau that analyzes education levels obtained by Americans 35 and older, 37 percent of employed women age 25 and older have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 35 percent of employed men.

Scanning OU’s campus, one might think that these statistics do not demonstrate the gender gap accurately. At OU, women make up 60 percent of the full-time student population and approximately 64 percent of those living on campus.

OU is not the only school in Michigan where the gender gap is visible. At Western Michigan University, the female to male ratio is 51-49, at Grand Valley State University it is 62-38 and at Michigan State University the female to male ratio is 56-44.

Chynele Stewart, communications major at OU, previously attended Central State University in Ohio.

“I’m actually a transfer student and at my other school it was a 10-to-1 ratio… I’m used to it being more women than men,” she said.

Dr. Julia B. Smith, Associate Professor and Ph.D. Coordinator in the Department of Educational Leadership at OU is researching this topic. She was interested in researching if school was becoming a gendered institution, as well as why more boys are dropping out of high school and less are moving onto college.

What Smith has discovered is that men who have a stronger feeling of family responsibility are more likely to drop out of high school and find work, instead of

moving onto an institution of higher education.

“Boys are dropping out of school to go to work and girls are not. So either going to college is equated with

getting better jobs for girls but not boys, or it is easier for boys to get work straight out of high school than it is for girls,” Smith said. “I think

possibly both of these things are true.”

Celson Belton, a recent biology graduate at OU, also believes family responsibility to be a contributing factor to the gender gap on college campuses.

“Men are usually looked at as the

provider of the family,” Belton said. “It’s more important for men to find an immediate source of income, versus going to college and becoming educated.”

Stewart thought Dr. Smith’s reasoning for the gender disparity can be seen in everyday life.

“Honestly, where I’m from, men tend to get jobs right out of high school and it’s harder for women to find jobs right out of high school,” Stewart said. “So women have to get an education in order to be as

successful as they want to be. So, I think it’s just the way of the world.”

Lower cost and commuter colleges are also more likely to attract women because they attract the ‘non-traditional’ student.

“There are more women than men that go to college later in life,” Smith said. “If you look at the non-traditional student, the one who comes back to college after having been out of a while, it is about 70 to 75 percent female.”

Although the Women’s Liberation

Movement has opened doors for women as far as school and employment are

concerned, Smith doesn’t think that more women are in school because they have opportunities not previously granted to them.

“I think that the actuality of what is happening is that men have a stronger

economic drive earlier in their lives than women do,” Smith said. “Women still have the expectation that they’re going to get married and have someone help take care of them.”

As far as the future is concerned, Smith has two hypotheses on what may happen.

“There are essentially two directions that I could see these going,” she said. “One is that education becomes increasingly

identified as a female thing to do.

“The other thing that I see happening as a potential for the future is that if the

economic situation is as such that the labor market arbitrarily shrinks, we could have more men going to college in order to get jobs.”