How are female students using their voices on campus? Confronting the difficult issues
By Amelia Tran, Officer of Research
In the last few years, we have seen an unprecedented number of positive movements in gender equality, as well as an awakening as more and more women have spoken up for themselves and catalyzed change through their brave actions.
Curious about how female students at Northeastern University (NEU) are using their voices to either advocate for themselves or make a meaningful impact on their communities, Women in Business (WIB) has conducted a survey on Gender Equality in Higher Education and in the Workplace. Our survey includes 29 questions around the experiences of female students in the classrooms and at the firms where they have interned. As 95 percent of our 56 female participants major in Business Administration, all of whom are WIB members, the survey findings might not be applicable to other majors at NEU or generalized.
Male or female?
Among our survey respondents, no one has observed more female than male students in their business classes. More than 57 percent of the respondents believe there have been more male than female students in their classes. Roughly 29 percent believe the distribution has been 50/50. The rest are not sure, mostly because they indicate that they have not paid enough attention (Exhibit 1).
Not only do the female students have more male classmates, but they also have more male professors. Approximately 64 percent of our respondents agree they have taken classes of more male than female professors. About 18 percent believe that the number of classes taught by male and female professors they have taken is the same. However, the good news is 18 percent of our respondents have taken more classes by female professors.
It is no wonder that the co-op program is a NEU’s trademark. One question in our survey is whether the respondents think it would be better for a female student to have a female co-op advisor. While Yes constitutes 46.43 percent of the responses, 39.29 percent are unsure. 8 respondents, accounting 14.29 percent, maintain that a female advisor will not make any difference. The female students who answered Yes all agree that female co-op advisors would better understand their struggles and other complexities of being women in the male-dominated business world with various corporate stigmas. A few respondents believe that female co-op advisors could better advise on how to confront gender bias and to leverage their strengths as women in the workplace. Some of key words used by these survey participants to describe their relationships with their female advisors are understanding, empathy, amazing, relatable, and comfort (Exhibit 2).
Exhibit 2: Male vs. Female Co-op Advisors at Northeastern University
· Bar chart shows the preference for female co-op advisors among respondents
· Word cloud shows the popularity of words that respondents used to describe their relationships with their female co-op advisors
How to use your voices?
One piece of good news from our survey is that around 68 percent of our respondents have never experienced gender bias on campus. However, the remaining 32 percent still have. Also, when the respondents were asked who they would talk to if they were to experience gender bias on campus, most of them chose their friends and family over faculty members such as a professor or an academic advisor. These points affirm that there is a lot of work to be done to ensure all Northeastern female students feel safe and comfortable expressing themselves.
Women-focused student organizations are great for female students to find a supportive community and to use their voices to initiate positive change. About 61 percent of our respondents actively participate in more than two women-focused student organizations which focus on various academic and professional areas. Some frequently mentioned names are Women in Finance, Women in Economics, Women in Mathematics, Sigma Kappa Sorority, Women’s Interdisciplinary Society of Entrepreneurship, Her Campus, and Smart Woman Securities.
According to our findings, roughly 46 percent of our respondents occasionally discuss gender equality issues with their male friends. Unfortunately, there are still 32 percent who never and 18 percent who sometimes touch on this subject.
With these findings from our survey, the call to action is clear: We must create an environment where female and male students are comfortable with conversations about gender equality — a balance in representation across all genders and not pushing men out of these conversations.