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?
CoBE 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