Gender imbalances occur across Lehigh’s colleges


Gender imbalances in several of Lehigh’s undergraduate colleges serve as an incentive to increase gender equity on campus.

Meg Munley, a research analyst at the Office of Institutional Research, said the office compiles and reports this data each year so administrators can consider the information in their decision making.

“We think it’s important to have gender equity at the university,” said Krista Evans, the interim director of admissions. “It’s also important for us to have equity across our colleges.”

The P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science has the highest gender disparity of the four colleges. In fall 2017, men comprised 67 percent of students enrolled in the engineering school and women comprised 33 percent.

An opposite imbalance is seen in the College of Arts and Sciences, where men comprised 39 percent of students and women comprised 61 percent.

Munley said the process is slow, but gender equity in Lehigh’s colleges has increased over time.

“The ’70s is when (Lehigh) started to admit women at the undergraduate level, so there are going to be smaller percentages there,” Munley said. “But even back to the ’90s, you’re looking at around 16 to 17 percent female in (the engineering college).”

In 2012, men comprised 73 percent of the engineering college students and women comprised 27 percent. In the past five years, there has been a 6 percent increase in female representation. In 2012, 63 percent of students in the College of Arts and Sciences were female and 37 percent were male. Since then, there has been a 2 percent increase in male representation.

The College of Business and Economics is now 54 percent male and 46 percent female.

Evans said she is proud of the improvements Lehigh has made in regard to shrinking gender disparity. However, some students said they still notice imbalance in their classes.

“I think girls should try to do more things related to STEM,” engineering student Caroline Smith, ’21, said. “I definitely agree there are more guys than girls in my classes.”

Smith said she decided to participate in the preLUsion program, Lehigh Women in Engineering, for this exact reason.

Lehigh is competing with other top institutions to create less disparity, especially in the engineering college. One of these institutions is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where from 2014 to 2015, 51 percent of students receiving bachelor’s degrees in engineering were female. At George Washington University, women comprised 42 percent of students receiving bachelor’s degrees in engineering.

Evans said it’s important to have representation among both genders in each college as well as diversity in students’ backgrounds. She also said it’s important to have female faculty in the engineering college.

There are certain majors within the colleges that have greater female representation, according to Lehigh’s 10th day census 2017 data.

According to that data, 61 percent of students primarily majoring in bioengineering and 60 percent of students primarily majoring in accounting are female. Meanwhile, 65 percent of students primarily majoring in mathematics and 83 percent of students primarily majoring in physics are male.

Evans said there is no quota for gender by major, but Lehigh does admit students according to college. Admissions officers look at the majors for which students apply, but gender does not affect a student’s acceptance. Evans said if a prospective male student were applying to major in religious studies, it would spark interest in the Admissions Office, but it wouldn’t be a deciding factor.

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  1. What a waste of time to worry about gender equity. Let the students decide what they want to study & boys generally tend toward math & Therefore engineering & girls lean toward the arts. Engineering includes often working in factories, mines, & construction sites which traditionally are not very enticing for women.

    Stop trying to govern equity but let the individual find their niche.

    • Patriot2 is a classic example of overt gender bias by a person hiding behind a pseudonym. Patriot2 seems to think “nature” alone is why genders tend toward different fields, without recognizing that “nurturing” the genders toward those career paths starts before kindergarten and expands through the educational years. This is a simplistic, one-sided, unintelligent position. The writer clearly has focused only on mathematical concepts, and has no background in social sciences, which stunts the writer’s critical thinking.
      Simmons BSNursing’75, Lehigh BSEE’82, MBA’88 Utility Engineer

  2. Amy Charles '89 on

    Part of the problem is that Lehigh has a fat, deep, old, ugly strain of misogyny, which shows up in comments like the one above routinely. I have a daughter. If she told me she wanted to go to Lehigh, I’d tell her she was on her own: I wouldn’t help pay for it. I’m not paying to increase her chances of getting sexually abused and marginalized while she’s in college.

    I see nothing in B&W stories, contact with Lehigh staff, or in my last visit to campus that tells me things have changed significantly, on an institutional level, since Lehigh fought the parents of my classmate, Jeanne Clery, who wanted answers about their daughter’s rape and murder. Lehigh fought them tooth and nail — and the student body’s general attitude wasn’t much better, especially as the fight wore on.

    It’s a lot to ask, you know. Asking young women to pay giant money to come be treated…not so well. Marketing people: let’s hear your painful justifications for why they should do that.

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