When it comes down to boys versus girls, studies are finding that there might be favoritism for one gender over the other in the American education system.
On Thursday afternoon, as part of the Stop the Hate panel series presented by the Center for Diversity and Unity, a panel and a group of students discussed how to “Stop Gender Inequality in Education.”
The event focused on breaking down the definition of gender, generally defined as the socially constructed roles, behaviors and activities attributed to certain people. No matter what school students attend, studies suggest women are being pushed to the side for their male counterparts.
There is even underrepresentation for women at Weber State University. WSU has 31 women executives, which makes up only 16 percent, while the remaining 84 percent are male.
“It’s disheartening that we still see gender roles in jobs,” said WSU junior Kate Sorben. “You’d think by now, especially in education, that women could play a bigger role in multiple fields. You’d think it’d be something like 50/50.”
In 2009, in a briefing in STEM education, David Sadker, a lead researcher in gender and equality in education, said a woman with a college degree makes just a little more than a man with a high school degree.
“(A) University of Michigan study recently discovered . . . parents are still buying more science toys, more math toys and actively engaging with those toys with their sons rather than their daughters,” Sadker said. “. . . Has anyone been to a Toys ‘R’ Us recently? You have pink aisles, you have blue aisles. If you want to visit the 1950s, that would be a good place to start.”
Barry Gomberg, WSU’s director for affirmative action and equal opportunity, stated that of the seven colleges that make up WSU, there are even fewer women represented in the natural and applied sciences, as well as the business and economics departments. However, WSU does oblige to Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendment by providing gender equity in all of its programs and activities.
Many other nations also praise boys over girls in education, leading many females to feel their chances of fair learning are being threatened.
According to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development website, studies show time and time again that girls are being short-changed. They are often called upon less in class, not given as much praise or rewards as boys, and are less likely to be given the opportunity to be in leadership positions.
Girls are also shown to be discouraged from certain classes in math, science and technology. In many classes, boys outnumber girls by as much as 2 to 1, if not more, depending on the amount of available courses at certain schools.
Another issue is the fact that girls are held to a slightly higher standard than boys are, to the point that boys can get away with more aggressive natures like starting fights, name-calling or being rowdy. Girls tend to receive much more discipline comparatively.
This doesn’t only apply to students. In the job market, this is also relevant to the fact that men tend to get jobs over women or have more opportunities to receive pay raises or promotions.
“There needs to be equal opportunity for all,” Gomberg said, “not just when it applies to education, but also when it comes to the employment opportunities.”
Anette Melvin, a WSU assistant professor of teacher education, said she believes schools should not be defined in terms of males and females, because every student is intersectional.
“We are multiple beings,” Melvin said. “One’s gender impacts another, so we shouldn’t just label ourselves just as one thing.”
When describing her past, Melvin discussed being multiracial, having a German mother and an African-American father, and how she really didn’t know how to accurately identify herself. She talked about how people would distinguish her separately from them, calling her “Gemischt,” or “mixed” in German.
Melvin said she shared this experience not to receive pity, but to show that people shouldn’t identify themselves in only one way.
“You have all different kinds of family . . . because it take a village to raise a child,” Melvin said.
Melvin closed the panel with one final thought on the matter. “At the end of the day, it just comes down to equality. It’s a very broad and legal issue that needs some straightening out.”