Why don’t we have more women in CoBE?

Look at the faces of the students in your next business class.  Are there more men than women in the room?  The number of UW-Whitewater women students majoring in business has been declining over the last several years, and in 2012, the ratio of women to men in CoBE was 34:66.   In the university as a whole, the gender ratio was roughly equal at 49 women to 51 men.  So why are the numbers of women going down in business?

Dec. 2012 commencement 2CoBE faculty and administration have been trying to find out why this phenomenon is occurring.  No clear answer has emerged.  Is the change related to the economy?  If so, what is the relationship between women’s enrollment and the economy?  Is the change due to questions about the integrity of some business practices in the news – whether it’s financial debacles such as JPMorgan Chase or personnel practices at Walmart? Does the problem arise because women business faculty are outnumbered by men faculty?  Are women seeing more opportunities in careers outside business?

Last spring, a student group surveyed CoBE students about their gender-based perceptions and experiences.  Earlier this month, the college Advisory Board spent the greater part of their semi-annual meeting reviewing enrollment statistics and looking at declines in women’s proportion of total CoBE students. No obvious answers emerged.  Plans are moving forward for a survey of women students who were admitted to UW-Whitewater and intended to major in business but then did not enroll.  Why did they leave?

Though the cause of the enrollment decline remains hidden, one thing is sure: the business world needs the capabilities of women.  Perhaps you’ve seen the TEDTalk or read the book Lean In by the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg.  She wrote, “The laws of economics and many studies of diversity tell us that if we tapped the entire pool of human resources and talent, our collective performance would improve.”  A diversity of perspectives leads to a diversity of creative solutions.

Perhaps you have some insights into the decline of women students in CoBE.  Why not share them with us?

Written By: Dr. Lois Smith, Associate Dean, College of Business and Economics

One thought on “Why don’t we have more women in CoBE?

  1. Lois, your article on the declining rate of woman enrolling in the CoBE is most interesting – and concerning. Having invested 3 decades in a successful sales and marketing career in the high technology industry, a male-dominated environment, this is a topic most relevant to the future success of the business community and to the career options available to women.

    Having recruited, managed and led many sales teams in various technology organizations, I can confidently say that woman have great opportunity to excel in business – especially in those industries traditionally dominated by men.

    Here are a few perspectives to consider:

    Being unique (a woman in a male-dominate environment) is a good thing: If you’d like to increase your opportunity to get a job post-graduation, seek a career in business. Companies want diversity in their workforce and will be interested in considering you.

    Woman are a “natural”: Success in business is not about being competitive or dominating – it’s about emotional intelligence. As a male peer of mine recently stated, “woman have an innate ability to ‘read people’, giving them a distinct advantage in overall communication, negotiation, networking and persuasion, key attributes of successful business people”.

    Improve work-life balance: If you’re seeking work-life balance, a career in business, especially sales, offers great flexibility in your work schedule.

    Limitless options and ways to contribute: Whether your interests are in health, high-tech, finance, music and art, education, or anything in-between, there is a business venue to match your passion.

    Those of us who have had the opportunity to benefit from successful business careers should accept the challenge to demonstrate to young woman that there is great opportunity to excel in business – the business world needs you!!

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