Students talk gender gaps they experience in their majors

San Angelo junior Lanie Williams stands in front of the computer science building where she is one of the few female mechanical engineering majors, a major that is 80 percent men at Baylor. Photo credit: Megan Powers

By Morgan Harlan | Staff Writer

While many universities have reached an equal gender enrollment, many majors are still considerably top heavy with one gender. For example, mechanical engineering is one of the heaviest male concentrated majors and nursing is one of the most female dominant majors.

San Angelo junior Lanie Williams is a mechanical engineering major who is one of the 20 percent of females enrolled in the engineering department at Baylor.

“I never think about being in the gender minority because that’s not my focus,” Williams said.

According to Data USA 93.1 percent of mechanical engineers are male. In addition, 13.2 percent of mechanical engineering bachelor’s degrees in 2015 were earned by women, according to the American Society for Engineering Education

“In my mind, I am as competent as the next student and every faculty member treats students equally,” Williams said. “I don’t enjoy it any more or less than if the ratio were equal.”

Williams said she loves mechanical engineering because of the way it trains her to solve problems, the curriculum challenges her, and the professors are passionate about their students and the work that they do. She said two of her mechanical engineering professors, Dr. Byron Newberry and Dr. Elon Terrell, have made engineering exponentially more enjoyable for her because they want to have genuine relationships with their students.

Sebastian Morales, a junior nursing major from Houston, is currently attending Baylor’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing. He said he has experienced many different emotions and encounters being the rare male in a nursing classroom.

“Having a majority female major was intimidating at first,” Morales said. “I’d be the only male in a lab of 20 students with two female instructors, the only male in a clinical group of eight, and one of the few males in lectures.”

Morales said he struggled to find a solid group of male friends. Many of the interests of his female peer group didn’t align with his own and he struggled to be himself. He also said that males stick out like a sore thumb because he is one of the eight or nine males in a cohort of 118 people.

“There are positives from having a major with a majority of the opposite gender, such as being able to really learn from the other perspective. There is also a lot of emotional support as well,” Morales said.

Seattle junior Diamond Brown is a health kinesiology major, but was previously a nursing major and plans on attending nursing school post-graduation from Baylor.

“It’s really weird being in a classroom of mainly females at first but you meet some of these girls and they are all really awesome and want to see you succeed,” Brown said. “In both of the anatomy and physiology classes I’ve been in, I have met a great group of young women who have gone to great lengths to help me succeed in the class.”

Brown said the class ratio is about four to one, for example 200 girls to 20 guys.

According to College Factual, there were over 120,000 women graduating with a bachelor’s in nursing in 2016 and 87 percent of all nursing graduates are women.

The gender gaps in majors can sometimes offer unique experiences for those in the minority, but it can also be isolating when trying to form friendships.