College newspapers and mainstream media outlets alike oftentimes ruminate on the gender gaps that exist in numerous degree plans. While most attention turns toward the lack of women in STEM fields, many majors overwhelmingly experience a crush of females with very few men signing up. These gender gaps exist in schools in every state — Michigan, New Jersey, and even California. The actualities of which diplomas currently experience grossly unequal distributions of sex probably contain few surprises. After all, arbitrary, outdated standards dictating how men and women should and should not conduct themselves still influence American society; things may be improving little by little over time, but the following major choices still prove that some stigmas need more shattering.
For the sake of consistency, all statistics have been culled from this Ask Dr. Salary blog post by Katie Bardaro unless otherwise noted.
Fashion design stands as the most gender-stratified college major these days — quite a shock for anyone who mentally gravitates toward the STEM fields whenever the subject pops up. A staggering 95% of the discipline is made up of females, and the reasons for this ought to be obvious. Thanks to unfortunate (and as The Guardian’s Hadley Freeman points out, entirely wrong) stereotypes of men interested in fashion as less-than-masculine or gay, any Y chromosomes considering the degree plan and resulting career paths turn toward something a little more “socially acceptable.” Fashionista.com ranked Rhode Island School of Design as one of the top 20 design schools in the nation.
Men make up 93% of construction management degree programs, making it the most male-dominated major these days. In a New York Times article, Roxanne Rivera declares these days the most ideal for women hoping to enter into the industry. Despite discouragement from the men in their lives, many of the perceptions that construction workers refuse to take orders from ladies prove largely false in application. Competent leaders’ directives speak for themselves, Rivera reveals, and despite standing as a gender minority in the industry, women will not face nearly as much adversity now as they once did.
According to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the few women who pick the college and career path tend toward medical and energy applications. Though they slowly seem to seep into mechanical engineering, 92% of majors are still of the masculine persuasion, and even within the industry everything stays rather gendered. Because of prevailing sexual norms and stereotypes, ladies socialized to act as caretakers prefer jobs that help society. ASME and other organizations hope to broaden their presence in numerous mechanical engineering fields. Available to both men and women, ITT Technical Institute offers an excellent bachelor’s program in construction management to students in nearly every state, including Alaska!
Ninety-one percent of electrical engineering degrees wind up in the hands of men, owing to the history of being painted as an inherently “masculine” pursuit. Although other engineering paths have been experiencing a slow trickle of more and more ladies, all things electrical don’t seem to follow the trend. Theories regarding the phenomenon abound, but nobody has yet to pinpoint a definitive reason why women pass up electrical engineering in favor of their counterparts in other industries. Most of them involve the usual negative social portrayals of technologically gifted women as sexually undesirable or simply not intelligent enough to keep up with their male contemporaries. Some colleges or universities have groups or organizations designed as support systems for women in engineering, such as the Women in Electrical Engineering group hosted by Stanford University.
Much like fashion design, the home-and-business-decorating degree plans remain almost the exclusive domain of women — to the point that academic inquiries have been launched on the topic. Once again, rampant homophobia ruins it for men hoping to pursue such careers, meaning ladies make up 90% of interior design majors. Heterosexual men do, in fact, work in the industry, but society manages to mock them as scornfully “feminine”; and in a climate that shames anything beyond rigid gender norms, one can sadly see why even the most talented and passionate interior designer males opt for a different diploma.
Most future Feynmans these days will probably hail from the XY set unless more schools, professionals, and organizations reach out to the lady folk. Eighty-nine percent of physics degrees are conferred to men, and The American Physical Society (with offices in Maryland, New York, and Washington D.C.) continuously searches for sustainable solutions encouraging women to enter into the discipline. Stronger leadership from female and male mentors alike, an emphasis on astronomy (apparently a subject many science-leaning ladies love), and supportive environments free of gendered biases hold the key to establishing a more equitable physics scene for future female thinkers and innovators.
Tie: Social Work and Nursing:
Even in a supposedly “enlightened” society, stigmas regarding male nurses and social workers flit about freely. Thanks to stereotypes painting any sort of physical and emotional care (outside of doctoring) as inherently female, men rarely sign up to major in either subject, leaving women to dominate at 88%. Upon graduating and launching their careers, many guys speak openly about their experiences (both anonymously and publicly) in order to chip away at the ideologies that hurt people of all genders and gender identities — not to mention their patients!
Like most of the other engineering disciplines, aerospace largely entertains the male demographic, claiming 87% of the majors out there. And, like most of the other engineering disciplines, a history of limiting gender stereotypes (which cut both ways, obviously) roadblock women from entering into fields they might otherwise consider. Many organizations nurture a more sex-equitable climate via workshops, scholarships, mentorships, and other programming meant to smash through unfair societal restraints.
By this point, it’s safe to assume that perpetuated mindsets forcing women into caretaker pigeonholes and men into the strong, innovative counterpart are to blame for serious gender gaps in industries like occupational therapy. Eighty-six percent of majors are female, and NPR notes that they also comprise 90% of the professional field as well. Many of the same tired old stigmas levied onto men who roll with nursing and social work apply to occupational therapists, an unfortunate phenomenon both males and females in the field hope to eventually quell.
Tie: Civil Engineering and Computer Science:
And tied for the 10th most gender stratified college majors: civil engineering and computer science, each dominated as 85% male. Stereotyping is, of course, the culprit here, with solutions running the gamut from mentoring and scholarship incentives to special interest organizations offering support, advice, workshops, conferences, and other initiatives meant to close up the prodigious gulf.