In a country whose population consists of more women than men, more and more younger women have set their sights to pursuing fruitful careers by continuing their education after high school.
Since 1991, more women have annually been enrolled in college than men, according to a study from the U.S. Census Bureau. But from 1999 to 2009, the Department of Education showed that the gender gap in post-secondary education only grew larger as the number of enrolled females increased by 40 percent, whereas the number of enrolled males increased by 35 percent.
SRU’s Women’s Center Director Jodiann Solito said SRU was no exception to the ongoing trend of female students outnumbering the males.
“The female enrollment has always been higher [at SRU] for as long as I can remember, and I have been here 15 years,” Solito said.
Last year’s gender analysis conducted by SRU’s Institutional Research office showed that the population of full-time students attending SRU consisted of 57 percent women to 43 percent men – a gap that has been similar in size since fall semester of 1998.
The 2011 gender analysis also showed that out of the total of 1,534 first-year full-time students, 954 were women and 580 were men.
Research Analyst Bryan Fuhs said several factors are likely causes for the gender gap.
“There is a noticeable shift in enrollment for males versus females, because one of our biggest competitors, actually, is the military,” Fuhs said. “Additionally, more males drop out of high school than females, and more males also end up going to trade schools than females.”
According to Solito, another reason for the significant gender gap at SRU and at schools across the country could possibly pertain to differences in academic performance prior to secondary school.
“Girls typically do better academically all through high school, middle school, elementary school and so on, and so I think there are more women that, once they graduate from high school, are just naturally going to continue on in their education and go on to college,” she said.
With women earning more college degrees than men, women are also gearing up to not only match men in earnings, but to actually pass them. In a cover story for Time Magazine published in March, it was reported that single women in their 20s with no children earned a higher income than their male counterparts.
While reported that women start off earning more on average than men shortly after graduating college, Solito said a lot of women are still struggling to reach levels of equality with men, even while in school.
“Even though women may be the statistical majority on campus, they don’t necessarily rise to leadership positions in, for example, student government and house council,” she said. “Even though women are the majority, numerically speaking, it hasn’t reflected in the leadership of the university – with the students, nor the administration. Until now, that is.”
Earlier this year, Dr. Cheryl Norton was selected to be the next president of SRU by the Board of Governors of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education on April 5, after President Robert Smith retired in late January.
Norton, who assumed duties as president on June 4, became the first female president in the history of the university.
Though Norton holds the responsibility of being the new president of the university, Solito said she also takes on another major responsibility, but of a different caliber.
“[Norton’s presidency] helps to change some of the dynamic, I think, because Dr. Norton will serve as a role model for women who are on campus seeing that women can aspire and stand up to take a leadership position,” she said. “Too often, [young women] don’t see themselves when they look at the leaders around them, whether it be right here on campus, in politics or wherever, there typically isn’t a lot of women [leaders], even at the local level.”
Issues of seeking equality in leadership, amongst other issues that affect women, have been brought to light as a result of having a larger female student population – an effect that Solito said is very valuable in the ongoing push for women to gain equality.
“I think the issues that adversely affect women have been brought to the forefront on campus – things like violence against women, having an on-campus daycare and stations where mothers can nurse or breast feed their children,” she said. “So those are all positive things that happened, and those also enlighten folks to see there are issues they may not have considered before. It makes SRU have a greater humanitarian feel, because we’re all working together to attain a safer and better campus environment.”