15 Ways To Close the Gender Gap In Higher Education

A well-educated population is a key to the long term prosperity of a country. Higher education, in particular, has a direct impact on the social and economic development of a country.

Through the fostering of academic research, knowledge, and high-level skills, we are better equipped to answer global issues, increase the quality of life for society.

Unfortunately, throughout history, educating women was seen as less important and they were encouraged to focus their efforts in other directions. As a result, fewer women entered the workplace or held skilled jobs which led to a huge gender gap.

It is without a doubt that this gap also exists between the two genders in higher education. I know you are here to get the answers to your question on ways to close this gap. Just read further.

Whenever there is a talk about the gender gap, it is common to think it is about males dominating the females. This thought is because females are generally prone to discrimination and are usually at the receiving end.

However, there are many other factors backing the widening of the gender gap in higher education. Even though some people may say that the gap occurs solely because of personal decisions, I beg to differ.

After factors like demography, geographical location, economic and social status, marital status, and choice of major were accounted for, a gap of about 10% still exists. You and I wouldn’t know how to solve this problem completely if we have no idea of what causes it.

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Some of the major factors that contribute to the gap include:

1. Expensive education

Though more women are being admitted into higher education institutions, this increase is not evenly distributed globally.

Women from mid and high-income class outperformed men in post-secondary degrees. However, low-income class, especially from third world countries, significantly lag behind.

The gender gap in the pre-college level is not much (most times, women outpaced the men). Although more men drop out, it is surprising still that the gap at the higher level is wide. There exist free or cheap pre-college education in most countries but higher education is on the high side.

Mend this by encouraging the provisions of cheap higher education platform, if not completely free. Encourage women to go for higher degrees.

2. Occupational segregation

Permit me to ask you this, how many prominent women do you know in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering, and mathematics (STEM)? These fields are still heavily dominated by men.

Even though the number of women in these fields has increased in the past century, women have to go the extra length just to their show their competence in these men-dominated fields.

This separation starts right from colleges where male student troop to technology and science-related subjects where the females preferred arts, commercial and social subjects.

These issues should be tackled from the educational level. Motivate females to go into science, engineering and other male-dominated fields. You should also discourage occupational segregation across the globe. Let there be fairness in remunerations and workforce balance.

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3. Family exigencies

Women are generally expected to stay home and take care of the family. This often has an adverse effect on their skills and experience. It is often thought that women should be the ones to take a number of years off work to raise children. Some are even advised to stop working altogether.

Do you know that fathers are often preferred to work (with higher remuneration of course) because of family ties? On the other hand, women are often discriminated against for this same reason.

It is assumed that women may be less competent and perform below standard and therefore given lower starting remuneration.

A shift is currently taking place where more men are staying home to take care of the family. Both father and mother should be responsible for the welfare of the family. Being a mother does not put off one’s competence. The field should be levelled for both genders.

How then can we close the gender gap?

Now that we have talked about the 3 major causes of the gender gap, let’s take a look at the gap in higher education leadership.

A brief look at history will show you that women are more educated today than at any other time in history. There is substantial progress, men are still more educated than women. Though females represent about 57% of instructors, only about 31% are professors.

There are many contributing factors like unconscious predispositions when it comes to promoting women and negative views of assertive females leaders.

You will notice that about half of the workforce are female. Meanwhile, only one in twenty CEOs is female. Qualification is out of it since women now earn the majority of masters and doctoral degrees. Hence, this piece will throw some light on how the gap can be closed.

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1. Identify the gap

Know that this gap exists. The very first step to closing the gap is to recognize that the gap exists and needs to be closed.

You have taken the first step by reading the article. Nonetheless, knowledge alone isn’t enough. The knowledge must be applied to help close the gap.

2. Be aware of the inadvertent inclination

Mostly because of culture – worldwide, not some third world countries alone – you and I are often inclined to a certain group of people. There are features we see in a man and conclude it is positive but when a woman exhibits the same feature, we term it negative.

It is alright for a man to be as caring and loving as a woman but when a woman becomes assertive as a man, she is considered as aggressive.

An example is a case study of a successful capitalist. Half of the subject knows the capitalist as a man while the other half as a woman. At the end of the study, the man was esteemed competent and efficient.

Though the woman was esteemed the same, she was disapproved as being too forward and aggressive. Some even went further to say they wouldn’t like to work with her.

Since you and I are likely to have this bias, one thing could be done. Ask this question whenever you think you have the inclination. “What if it was a man?” If your action or reaction will change if it was a man, then you must change the act.

3. Communicate the Value of Gender Mixture

The value of a gender-balanced workforce goes beyond mere social responsibility and economic empowerment. Productivity is strongly associated with a gender-balanced workforce. Some organizations exploit this by having mixed board members.

A lot of research has been made which supports that having more women at the higher levels increase the productivity of the organization. You can gain more as a leader in higher education if you preach the value of this diversity and you can measure its success too.

To attain this gender diversity, you must ensure that you have diversified recruiters. Whenever you recruit, make sure that not only the candidates are of mixed gender, make certain that the interviewers too are mixed.

A mixed-gender interviewer panel has lots of benefits. An example of such benefit is that candidates feel more comfortable with a mixed interviewer.

4. Adopt a transparent pay system

79 cents to a dollar – that’s how much women make compared to men in the same position. Remuneration is one of the key motivating factors in life.

If that is taken away, it will adversely affect the drive to attain higher qualifications and performance.

Transparent salary reporting should be set up which will allow for comparison across companies and industries. This will allow for a fair paycheck for people in the same role irrespective of gender.

5. Partner with both genders

A nation that is not fighting for herself is not worth fighting for. It shouldn’t be the work of one gender alone to bridge the gap that exists between the genders.

As much as you have women advocating for this, you should have men to help and support them too.

You should have male friends that will support the promotion of their female coworkers. Though some men may drawback because of the fear of what to say – especially not to say the wrong thing.

You can solve this problem by creating an open dialogue system. All in all, including everyone in bridging this gap, will help everyone feel invested in this initiative.

6. Help prohibit interruptions

Women are interrupted more often than men. During meetings, lectures, or discussions, you should help mitigate interruptions by cutting interrupters off.

Ensure you have a platform that allows women to make their points as much as men would. Make it a rule if you must or policy if you can, to interrupt the interrupters.

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7. Make women’s voices heard

A lot of brilliant ideas have been shelved because it’s from a woman. Sometimes, credit is even awarded to the man, though the idea was originally from a woman.

Pay attention to ideas coming from the mouth of a woman. Help her propagate it if it is a good idea and ensure she receives due recognition.

Allow women to talk about themselves.  Misrepresentation is hard if you are the one representing yourself. Allow women to talk about themselves.

It will not only allow others to know them but will also help promote self-image. Self-promotion is one of the ways to bridge the gender gap, exploit it.

8. The right to own decision

One of the gaps that exist and really prominent is the restricted power to make a decision in women.

When it comes to the decision that is crucial to a woman’s life, you must allow her to make the decision herself.

Do not assume. Ask her. Often times, you will be surprised what her decision is. Let her take control of her life, it’s hers.

9. Respect

There is a thin line between showing respect and actually respecting someone.

Most times, men are shown more respect than women though they held the same position. Female bosses have this issue not only with men but with women too.

To address this, ask this question again, “what if it was a man?” What you are about to say or do to your female boss, would you do the same if your boss was a man?

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10. Encourage women to think beyond “pink collar” jobs

“Pink collar” is a thing. It refers to jobs traditionally associated with women like administrative assistants, secretaries, housekeepers, nannies, elementary and basic school teachers. These jobs are historically women-dominated.

If I may ask you, how many times have you met a male front desk associate?

Check the ads, you will notice that there are more ads placed for female assistants and secretaries than men. This becomes a problem because all these roles – the majority of the pink-collar job – pay far less than other roles.

This means that men historically earn more (or have the tendency to earn more) than women. To close this gap, the compensation of these jobs must increase to attract men. Women must also look beyond being just another regular pink collar employee.

Study how Donna Paulson of the series Suits rose from being a secretary to a COO. Even as a secretary, she still earned more than her colleagues in a similar role.

11. Pick a level field

Now that the horizon has widened, it is high time a fair field is picked. Everyone cannot be Donna.

In women-dominated fields, it is near impossible to stand out. Instead, go for fields that are historically male-dominated.

You will notice that it is quite easier to shine as a woman in fields like technology and engineering than in female-dominated fields.

12. Aid women to develop negotiating skills

Women naturally do settle easily. Little wonder Oliver Twist was a boy. Women should cultivate the habit of asking for more from themselves and others.

If you are paid less, ask for more. If you are being left behind, hitch a ride, and grow your digital skills. Do not be afraid to ask for more!

13. Create awareness

What good is a piece of information that no one knows about? Create awareness about ways to close the gender gap.

Start from your family, neighbourhood, and your workplace. Let everyone around you know that you stand for gender equality through your words and acts.

14. Don’t stop

Now that you have the knowledge and skills, don’t stop. Keep pushing. Use what you have learned continuously and consistently.

Reading this article is good but it will get better as you use these ways to help close the gender gap in higher education. 

Fortunately, the world has changed for the better and women have as much a right to an education as men in most countries. In Britain and the US alone, almost 60% of university graduates are female. 

15. Make some more research

Many other countries are experiencing a decline in interest in STEM subjects and skills that are sorely needed. For example, in an effort to highlight the great strides being made in higher education, the University of Effat in Saudi Arabia has conducted research into the number of women in higher education in the country. 

Their research is extremely enlightening on the access to higher education enjoyed by women in the country which is often in the press for its gender inequalities and treatment of women. 

If you would like to know more, look at this infographic produced by the University of Effat which shows some surprising statistics, including the prevalence of women studying computer science and the increase in female academic teaching staff.  

Check out the infographic below:


Infographic designed by Effat University, Saudi Arabia Women in Education Statistics

Conclusion

Women have long been on the receiving end of a gender gap. Luckily, women have been trying to adjust and close that gap but it is evident that they cannot do it alone.

It is the duty of both men and women to pay adequate attention to the gender gap. We must work actively to close that gap. It will not close by chance. Let’s do it! 😉 

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Post Author: Opeyemi Sowade

Sowade Opeyemi is a systematic, cooperative and collaborative thinker, oriented to follow procedures. He is patient and listens to others carefully, genuinely interested in their ideas, opinions and information.

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