2/11/13

Leveling the Academic Playing Field For Women


It used to be colleges and trade schools were the exclusive domain of men, unless it was a female-specific profession like nursing or secretarial work that enticed a woman to think of a future career path.

Over the years, the walls gradually lowered, and finally they shattered with the advent of the equal-rights movement in the 1970s and 1980s. Soon women were seen carrying briefcases around Wall Street, they were in the courtroom as attorneys, or in the emergency room as doctors.

Nowadays, it is not uncommon to see men and women together in all walks of life at college. There are still some areas, however, where women are playing catch-up. Just as Title IX leveled the playing field for female athletes in high school and college, recent years have seen women lapping the opposite sex in college degrees. A recent CBS News article cited more women earning college degrees than men.

Where do women need to play catch-up? There are several male-dominated industries attracting women in larger numbers. Educational institutions are offering scholarships to break these barriers down. More and more schools encourage female students to enroll in male fields by offering financial incentives.

Title IX was previously mentioned. This was originally designed as a way to make sure girls and women had equal opportunities to play sports in high school and college to the boys. It also has become a way to ensure these same girls and women can get scholarships for college and enter their study areas.

The Society of Women Engineers offers financial assistance to females wanting to enter engineering programs in college or into the computer field. They also encourage girls to take more science and math classes in high school to prepare them for college-level courses. One person in particular who is not an engineer but who has acted in Hollywood has gone one step further.

Danica McKellar, best known for playing Winnie on the ABC sitcom The Wonder Years, has published several books having to do with math and self-esteem issues. The message she is teaching is females should not be ashamed to be smart or to do well in math and science. As one of her books suggests, “Math Doesn’t Suck”; rather, it is the gateway to high-paying jobs in the computer and math field.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is also encouraging women to attend college and study oceanography, marine biology and archaeology through the use of scholarships. This kind of ties in with McKellar’s emphasis on math and the sciences, another way to break the barriers toward a round of education previously dominated by men.

A field previously unknown to women was bible studies, as the profession of religion was previously a male-dominated field. Now, a biblical seminary school may offer lecture-study programs geared toward women. This is a way to level the playing field for females to study without any of the stigma previously attached.

Another way to get girls and young women interested in college in the future is to offer workshops geared toward one sex only, where adults can mentor their younger protégé. These do not involve scholarships, but they do encourage girls to study harder, get good grades and get that admission into the college of their choice.

No longer are colleges and universities specifically male-dominated. It is now the men playing catch-up, and more and more opportunities are available for women to take charge.
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