Students overcome gender gaps in career fields

by Samie Gebers 527 views0

We are in the 21st century. Gender norms have changed, movements for equality have succeeded, and rights have been obtained. Then how come there are so many fields of study that seem to be dominated by a specific gender?

Students often find that when they do not fit the stereotype of their career field, it can be challenging fitting in.

“In the beginning of the semester, I was so intimidated to ask questions and ask for help because I didn’t want to be known as ‘that one stupid girl in computer science,’ ” says Chanya Dudley, an aspiring computer scientist at CSUN who is currently living in SCV.

Chanya Dudley studies for her computer science final.
Chanya Dudley studies for her computer science final.

While it can be frightening at times to be in a classroom filled with boys, Dudley explains how there can be some perks. She recently announced via social media that she will be the ambassador for the 2015-2016 Stanford University SHE++ organization, empowering girls to take on the challenging field of computer technology.

“In the years that I have taught the subject, the number of female students in my classes has been fairly consistent,” says one of COC’s professors of computer sciences, Benjamin Rivera.

According to COC’s public information officer Eric Harnish, there are currently 518 students pursuing the field of computer science. Out of those students, 69 of them are female.

“I think the field of computer science is male-dominated because it began in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s when American society viewed gender roles differently,” says Rivera.

While many female students find that entering a field with so many male counterparts to be potentially challenging, Rivera believes that students will be presented with equal opportunity.

Statistics show that there are many other careers that seem to be dominated by men besides the computer science field. For example, in most states in the US, there are twice as much male physicians as female physicians and women only share about one percent of the employment in automotive service technical careers. However, at COC, seven percent of the students participating in automotive technology are female.

According to Catalyst, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expand career opportunities, the top 10 male-dominated industries include first-line firefighting, operating engineers, and electronic home equipment installers and repairers.

The top 10 female-dominated workforces include office clerks, receptionists and secretaries, bookkeepers, accountants, auditing clerks and childcare workers.

Anthony Oquindo, a student majoring in nursing at California State Channel Islands and former student at COC, finds himself in a female-dominated field where 90.6 percent of registered nurses are the opposite gender.

“When I was a kid, I wanted to be a nurse,” says Oquindo. “When people heard that, they would think it was weird. Now, it seems like the idea of males in the nursing field is becoming more and more acceptable.

While 90.6 percent may seem like an intimidating statistic for men going into that career, the percentage of men in the nursing field would have been significantly lower decades ago. A U.S. Census Bureau Study found that the proportions of men in the nursing field have been on the rise from 3 percent in 1990 to 10 percent in 2013. At COC, 336 out of the 1,545 students involved in nursing programs are male.

For COC pre-nursing student Anthony Cleary, he takes the gender gap in his future career to be a blessing rather than a curse. “Programs at universities are looking for diversity, so they welcome males with open arms,” says Cleary.

Professors see the change as well. “In the past, many would have questioned males in that role,” explains nursing professor Diane Baker. “It takes a lot of nurturing and caring to become a nurse, traits that are often associated with females. However, our society is growing more accepting.”

For COC emergency medical technician student Justin Yung, he explains why his field is dominated by males in the profession.

“I’m not sure why this field is mostly dominated by men. It may be due to the history of emergency medical technicians. EMTs and firefighters were pretty much born together and since most firefighters are men, it would make sense that EMTs are also the same gender. However, that is quickly changing more and more as females make their way into the workforce,” says Yung.

Females going into that field will find themselves surrounded by a population consisting of males making up 72 percent of that field.

Explaining why there can be a gender gap in certain careers can be a tricky subject to take on. While some industries seem to be neutralizing the ratio of males to females, others remain static. This can be a problem when students look at what field or what major they pursue and sees the setbacks that may entail.

While COC considers itself a pretty diverse campus, many of the classes may not seem so. However, this is a trend for many other college campuses and career fields.