Women rise above numerically
By Becky Somerville
The population of Canadian women enrolling in university is rising almost as quickly as the cost of tuition, a trend which is reflected at Western.
According to a study released last week by Statistics Canada, the number of female students aged 18 to 24 in full-time undergraduate studies has grown steadily since the 1992/93 school year.
Over the last five years, the national population of women in Canadian universities increased by 6.4 per cent to 236,000, while the number of male undergrads declined 2.4 per cent to 182,200.
Statistics from Western undergraduate enrolment were consistent with the report. In 1992/93, female enrolment was 8,060 compared with 8,300 in 1997/98. Male enrolment fell from 8,054 in 1992/93 to 7,517 in 1997/98.
Western's VP-academic, Greg Moran, said while he could not explain what the increased female enrolment indicated, it is important the trend is looked at.
He added women may be reacting to a cultural transformation, where in the past women may not have seen a university education as as much of a possibility as it was for men. "There have been clear changes in our culture," Moran said. "It's good news that more young women are seeing [university education] as an option for them."
Moran said post secondary education was helping women get into fields where they continue to be underrepresented.
This increase of female undergraduates is not similarly reflected in graduate programs, explained Katherine McKenna, director at the Centre for Women's studies and Feminist Research.
"Certainly [the study] doesn't translate to more women coming through the system as faculty members," she said, adding the same percentage of women are not seen continuing on to graduate or professional programs.
Enrolment in graduate programs at Western in 1997/98 was dominated by 1,479 males compared to 1,039 female students.
Aniko Varpalotai, associate professor at Western's faculty of education, said female enrolment in Canadian universities can be attributed to the social mentality that for women to get ahead, they have to get more education.
Male enrolment may have decreased because there are more jobs available to them without an education, Varpalotai said. "A university education doesn't level the playing field."
Pete Hill, VP-campus issues for the University Students' Council, said the increase was positive. "When historically men have been in the majority in higher education, it's very positive to see a larger proportion of women educating themselves to better their future."