Hector Frias was in class when one of his professors said that he would one day know how difficult pregnancy is.
“She was talking about pregnancy and labor and said something like ‘It’s very painful, you’ll all know what I’m talking about someday.’ And I’m just kind of like, ‘I hope not.'”
Frias is a junior studying Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS), a major that is made up of 94 percent women, making it the most female-dominated area of study at CSU.
On the other end of the gender spectrum, the College of Engineering is mostly dominated by men.
For every man in Health and Human Scienes, in which HDFS is a discipline, there are approximately two women. In the College of Engineering, there is one woman for every four men.
When Lauren Prentice, now a senior, started as a freshmen as a mechanical engineering major, there were 550 males and 71 other females studying the same thing.
“I definitely shock people when I meet them and tell them my major,” Prentice said.
Currently, the College of Engineering is home to 16.38 percent of undergraduate, on-campus CSU men and only 4.106 percent of women. These numbers have vastly improved over the years. In 2007, the ratio was 6 men for every 1 woman.
In an effort to support gender minorities in disciplines around campus, CSU has programs to aid students who may feel underrepresented.
One such group is the Women and Minorities in Engineering Program, which was created in the 1980s. Its goal was to help female students through the major and assist them in becoming successful in their field.
“The goal is to have higher numbers of our underrepresented students completing the engineering degree,” said Aaron Benally, program coordinator.
On the flip side, the College of Health and Human Sciences is mostly dominated by women. At the census for this current fall semester Health and Human Sciences claimed 22.89 percent of women on campus and only 12.01 percent of men.
“One reason could be that our students go on to work in education, counseling, healthcare and sometimes law and student affairs,” said Anne Van Arsdall, HDFS Director of Undergraduate Advising. “These are varieties of careers that can be more women-populated.”
Perhaps the most equally represented college is Liberal Arts, which has been the top choice for men for years and annually fights with Health and Human Sciences to be women’s number one pick.
This semester, 17.77 percent of males and 21.38 percent of females who are full-time on-campus undergraduate students are majoring in the Liberal Arts.
Dean of Liberal Arts Ann Gill said she could make some guesses for why this is the case.
“There is not a historical pattern of one gender or the other in most of the Liberal Arts disciplines,” she said. “Back in the old days, agricultural sciences and engineering were more populated by males, whereas what was called ‘home economics’ was more females. We don’t have any of that history in our disciplines; people don’t carry around historical notions of what gender is supposed to be in our particular field.”
Many believe that the historical connotations of majors could be a factor, including Prentice.
“I think it’s just the stereotype. You’d think that building things and doing things with your hands would be a man’s job,” Prentice said. “But I think people are coming around to the idea that women can do it and they can do it better.”
Not only has Prentice gotten used to the lack of other females in her college, she actually enjoys it and believes she could use it to help her in the future.
“I don’t have a problem with it. To be honest I kind of came into this major liking the fact that I’d be the minority,” she said. “I had teachers who suggested I go into engineering because I’d be able to get scholarships and jobs easier.”
Frias also doesn’t mind being in the minority in his classes, but would support more gender diversity.
“[HDFS] is dominated by women and there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said. “But I feel like we should have more women in science and engineering just like we should have more men in HDFS.”
Collegian Campus Beat Reporter McKenna Ferguson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.