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Gender Imbalance in higher education Essay


Currently, institutions of higher learning around the world have already been populated by both genders. A few decades ago, gender imbalance was commonplace in institutions of higher learning around the world. The Western world was the pioneer of championing for gender balance in institutions of higher learning.

Today, the achievement of gender balance in higher learning is still in progress. Equal representation of both men and women is yet to be achieved in institutions of higher learning. Institutions of higher learning play a vital role in developing professionals and other pillar personalities in the society. The people who dominate politics, the economy, and other key professions in the society are usually products of higher education. This means that gender balance in institutions of higher learning will inevitably spread to other areas of the society.

Governments in the West have spearheaded several campaigns with the aim of achieving gender balance in institutions of higher learning. Some of these campaigns have been effective while others have not achieved much. It is widely recognized that gender imbalances in institutions of higher learning tend to translate into other forms of discrimination. All stakeholders in branches of higher learning should be aware of the need to foster equality in their institutions.

Gender imbalance in institutions of higher learning affects both genders. This imbalance mostly touches on learners’ choice of subject and adherence to gender stereotypes. Commonly, women are on the receiving end of gender imbalance. This paper will explore the issue of gender imbalance in higher education using European data.

Overview of the gender issues

Gender as addressed in this case refers to the existing social concepts regarding males and females. These concepts inform a society’s behavioral expectations in males and females. This means gender perceptions sometimes dictate how a people in a certain society act or behave. Over time, these ideologies can transform into ideologies that are reflected into everyday life.

Gender based ideologies feature in households, marketplaces, community settings, and states or countries. Higher education and its accompanying institutions are also influenced by gender-based ideologies. This is in spite of the fact higher education is thought to be free of weak ideologies.

Institutions of higher learning in most European countries have almost an equal number of students from each gender. However, the situation in institutions of higher learning is not replicated in the rest of the society. The representation of women in the other important spheres of the society is lacking. Men have dominated the world of politics, the business world, and other leadership positions. Ironically, the top leadership in most institutions of higher learning is dominated by men.

The connection between subject choice and gender also features in higher learning. For instance, very few women graduate with degrees in science, mathematics, and technology. On the other hand, women form over 75% of graduates in health, welfare, and education degrees (Ledwith and Manfredi 19).

When the level of learning goes one notch higher to the doctorate level, participation of the female gender decreases. According to statistics, this decrease amounts to about thirty percent in most European countries. Decreased female participation in the doctorate level explains why top leadership in the society features less women.

Gender imbalance affects almost all aspects of higher education. The effects of this imbalance plague higher learning in different forms. The higher learning environment is also subject to different forms of stereotypes.

These stereotypes create “a picture of a typical student in each subject, a typical doctoral student, a typical professor, and a typical governor of an institution” (Sen 30). Pursuers of higher education might feel obliged to act in a manner that fits into some of these stereotypes. All the above pointers paint a picture of the prevailing gender issues that affect higher education in Europe.

Higher education

Access to higher education marks the beginning of the relationship between gender and higher education. Both genders rarely have any problems when seeking entrance into institutions of higher learning. Most countries in Europe admit more females than males into their institutions of higher learning (Schomburg and Teichler 98). However, the process of admission to institutions of higher learning usually begins in the secondary school level where most students pick their areas of study.

This means that gender stereotypes that are characteristic of the high school level are likely to affect what most students in the institutions of higher learning choose to study. For instance, students can pick up undertones of gender stereotypes from their high school teachers. This brings the issue of teacher training into the equation. Teachers in high schools and other tertiary learning institutions should not perpetuate gender-based stereotypes that might affect students’ choice of study in institutions of higher learning.

Students also gain admission into institutions of higher learning based on their families’ advice. Some students can be advised to choose certain professions by their family. Sometimes these advices are based on gender stereotypes that may be carried on to institutions of higher learning (Kaufmann 100).

Another issue that can influence gender balance is the activities that transpire within an institution of higher learning. Interaction between genders can have an effect on gender balance in higher education.

All students should expect the same treatment from their lecturers, professors, and other administrators. There are instances where students from either gender expect leniency. Scenarios like these usually lead to gender based discrimination or sexual harassment. It is up to administrators of institutions of higher learning to ensure equal treatment of all students.

In addition, performance appraisals need to be conducted in an open and well-defined manner. Standardization of these platforms plays a big role in ensuring incidences of gender bias are eliminated. Institutions of higher learning should also improve the students’ experience in these institutions by providing feasible role models. Not all instructors in institutions of higher learning should be ‘just instructors’. The institutions’ administrations should invest in a few professionals whom the students can emulate.

In Europe, approximately 8% of students in higher institutions are parents (Pascall and Lewis 353). Being both a parent and a student can be a challenge for most people. Nevertheless, the challenge is usually bigger for female students. It is within reason for institutions to provide these student-parents with a more flexible schedule. An arrangement such as this one would go a long way in fostering gender balance in institutions of higher learning.

The issue of gender-based pay gap affects almost all countries in Europe (Schomburg and Teichler 108). Whenever students are undertaking higher learning, employment concerns are usually close to their hearts. Many female students have to work harder or earn less than their male counterparts. Higher learning institutions should dispel these notions by ensuring their employment policies are free of gender discrimination.

For instance, the institutions should strive to ensure they employ an equal number of male and female workers. In addition, pay levels should be standardized for both male and female employees. Research shows a decrease in the number of women seeking a masters’ level of education (Pascall and Lewis 361). Although no research has proven it yet, this decrease might be related to the disparities in salaries. When men earn more, they can afford to pay for the high tuition in masters’ programs.

Research and gender

Gender issues mostly feature on social science research. However, sciences and mathematics ignore the gender aspect in their research. For instance, all the famous scientists are women. If there was research that concentrated on the achievements of female scientists, it would be easier to catch the attention of female students. Integrating the gender issue into all research subjects could be beneficial to both genders.

Gender and administration

Gender imbalance in higher learning is a continuation of the imbalance in institutions of higher learning and countries at large. The administration of various countries and institutions of higher learning is dominated by the male gender (Jacobs 180). Although there are various legislations that have been instituted to deal with this issue, more stakeholders need to be involved in the matter. The current situation indicates that efforts to streamline gender balance in higher education are a joint effort between various institutions.


Unless all areas that present gender disparities in institutions of higher learning are addressed, gender balance will not be achieved in these institutions. In addition, achieving this gender balance requires constant data collection and analysis. There is need to streamline gender issues in the adjacent stages of higher education namely high school and employment. Other administrations such as political and educational administrations also need to address the issues of gender imbalance in their institutions.

Works Cited

Jacobs, Jerry. “Gender Inequality and Higher Education.” Annual Review of Sociology 4.1 (2006): 153-185. Print.

Kaufmann, Franz-Xaver. Family Life and Family Policies in Europe, New York: NY, Oxford University Press, 2002. Print.

Ledwith, Sue, and Simonetta Manfredi. “Balancing Gender in Higher Education A Study of the Experience of Senior Women in a New UK University.” European Journal of Women’s Studies 7.1 (2005): 7-33. Print.

Pascall, Gillian, and Jane Lewis. “Emerging Gender Regimes and Policies for Gender Equality in a Wider Europe.” Journal of Social Policy 33.3 (2004): 373-394. Print.

Schomburg, Harald, and Ulrich Teichler. Higher Education and Graduate Employment in Europe: Results of Graduate Surveys from Twelve Countries, New York: NY, Springer, 2006. Print.

Sen, Amartya. “The Many Faces of Gender Inequality.” New republic 5.2 (2001): 35-39. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Gender Imbalance in higher education'. 14 September.

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