Gender Issues on U.S. College Campuses for Women

4 gender equalities that still exist with the higher academic world

College is a place filled with great educational opportunities for both male and female students. As a hopeful student myself, I once thought it offered a level playing field for both men and women to succeed. Sure, it’s been decades since the women’s movement started (I watch Bomb Girls with pride and inspiration), and because of pioneering women it’s easy to paint a picture of gender equality achieved in terms of student access, equity, and opportunity—for both men and women. Yes, we’ve come a long way my sisters, and higher-education statistics do show that the majority of college and university undergraduates are women, encompassing approximately 58 percent nationally, appear at the top of the honor roll more than men do. Plus, more women graduate college compared to their male counterparts. However, sadly with the great accomplishments come the old hurdles and discrimination that are more hidden today, but in actuality never really went away.

The fact is that hidden behind the walls of the college campus women still face the fear of sexual assault; harassment; financial fears associated with paying tuition, buying cheap textbooks and even paying back student debt; and future career hurdles that men don’t have to worry about. The false notion that women are not being as qualified to succeed follows a women, not men, from the college classroom and all the way into the professional world.

1. Women worry about sexual assault on campus

When I was a student my university offered nighttime volunteers to walk students from class to the dorms on campus. It’s not hard to believe that the volunteers were rarely used by male students. It’s a sad reality that men can feel a lot safer than women walking through campus, or anywhere, alone. And the statistics show why rape and sexual assault are very real dangers that exist not only in the larger society but also behind the safety of the campus gates all across the U.S. The New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault shows that:

  • 1 in 4 college women will be the victim of a sexual assault during her academic career
  • The majority of sexual assaults go unreported because the women knew their attacker
  • 76% of males on campuses believe that forced sex is acceptable under some circumstances

Realities like these cause women to have to watch their every move on campus, and if they are unfortunately attacked, they are less likely to come forward in a world that somehow places responsibility on the victim because they dressed provocatively.

2. Women have lower academic confidence

If women are topping the grades in their classes compared to men, why do they have less academic confidence in their skills? Research from Indiana University shows that women tend to underestimate their academic abilities more than men. Understandably, this can drastically limit a female student’s professional future. This is especially true for women in “boys club” dominated fields of study—like science, math, technology, and engineering.

3. College women suffer higher levels of stress and depression

Stress relief is a must if you’re taking the four year trip down academic lane. However, with more discrimination and self-doubt to contend with, women tend to spend most of their time studying, meeting with instructors, joining student groups, and doing volunteer work to spice up their resumes. Male students, on the other hand, find lots of time to join fraternities, playing sports, party, or play video games—relieving the stress while women try to balance it all. Can you imagine worrying not only about finances (a common student concern), but also about walking alone after class to your car?

4. Women worry about the financial future

Any student’s financial future as they enter college is a cause of constant stress. However, women not only borrow the equal thousands of dollars in student loans that men do—the average female U.S. college graduate is paid less than a man with the same education on top of that. As a woman with a remaining school debt, I not only understand the stress of escalating debt while in school; I can understand the realization that I’m going to have a harder time paying back that debt then a man. Renowned women’s right activist, Gloria Steinem, claims that women are indentured when they graduate college or university because they will “earn an average of $2 million less over the course of their lifetimes than men”. Can you imagine the kind of stress and self-doubt that creates for women students every day of college, 24 hours a day? Especially when 2010 Bureau of Labor statistics back up that statement showing that women earned an average of 81 cents for every dollar their male counterparts did.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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