By Jewell Tomazin firstname.lastname@example.org
One student barely notices it at all. A few think it’s noticeable, but not important. And one professor thinks it changes the way students participate in class.
Most students at Flagler College are female. In fall 2015, 1,526 students were female and 975 were male, the college’s website says. That’s a roughly 60 and 40 percent split.
Students Michael Chandler and Sean Hatton agreed that the gender gap is the reason they have more female friends than male, while Selbe Dittman and Wade Carroll said they don’t think it influences their social lives.
“It’s not like you walk around campus going, ‘Man, there’s so many more girls around here than guys,’” Carroll said.
Hatton thought the difference was more noticeable.
“There’s obviously a bigger dating pool (for straight men) because there are that many more girls than guys,” he said.
Dittman said almost all of her female friends only have a few male friends — and for a girl to have mostly male friends “is rare at Flagler.”
Despite different sentiments about social life, those students all said the gender gap affects academics. Carroll said that in his gender, race and class in the media class, discussions are affected by the gap.
“Where there’s like, 20 girls and four or five guys, the conversation can get skewed,” he said.
The gender gap in student enrollment is characteristic of colleges around the country. According to a March 6, 2014 report from the Pew Research Center, 71 percent of females were enrolled in college immediately following high school in 2012, compared to 61 percent of males.
Paige Chapman, a communications professor at Flagler College, said she noticed the gender gap in her experiences as both a student and educator in Iowa and Florida. She teaches Carroll’s class about gender, race and class in the media, and she said that while the gap doesn’t change the way she teaches any class, it affects students’ behavior in the classroom.
“Students bring in unique experience, and that’s why I like to have a diverse classroom, because every student is going to bring in something another student has never experienced before,” she said. “Whether it’s students of different races or students of different genders, not having one of those pieces in the classroom changes what’s going on in the classroom. It changes the way that we can look at a topic or talk about a topic.”
For Hatton, a psychology major, being a male student means being a minority.
“In two of my psychology classes, I’m one of two guys,” he said. “So when we cover gender studies, it makes a difference there.”
But Chapman and Dittman, both part of the communication department, said that their classes are filled mostly with female students. Chapman said since she began teaching in 2007, she has always noticed the disparity.
“A 60/40 split was never a surprise for me, and a split that’s even bigger than that isn’t unusual in communications classes,” she said.
Chandler said that as a business major, “there’s a good mix of both” genders in his classes. All four students interviewed said the proportion of both genders in each class seems to depend on the field of study and the course’s subject matter. But none said gender was “a big deal” or had a dramatic impact on the overall experience at Flagler College.
There is no single explanation for why the gender gap exists, but an April 2016 study shows that one likely factor is the absence of fathers and changing family dynamics in some households. The study, conducted by the Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies, says the gap started to grow in the United States about 18 years after the beginning of major shifts in family structure.
“Males were at greater risk than females of not attending college if they had experienced father absence from birth,” the study says.
The study found from a sampling of 24- to 32-year-olds who did not have a father at home from birth, 61.3 percent of women had some college education, while the figure was 49.2 percent for men.
“Changes in family structure may have contributed to the widening gender gap in higher education,” the study says.