Gender gap exists within campus colleges



 Senior mechanical engineering major Sidney Smith is one of the nine senior female mechanical engineering students enrolled in the Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering. 

“I like my math and science classes,” Smith said. “In high school, someone told me to be an engineer because of that.” 

According to Associate Dean of the Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering Richard Reid, in the past, the civil engineering major has been popular amongst women enrolled within the college. When teaching classes, he also finds that it holds true that women receive excellent grades in the engineering courses. 

“I have never given a female a C or below,” Reid said. 

Although the College of Engineering is predominately male, Smith didn’t let that sway her decision. 

“… The guys get used to you, and I get used to them,” Smith said. “I am one of the top people in my class, so they like to work with me because of that.” 

While the College of Engineering has the largest gender gap with its enrollment being 87 percent male, it is not the only college on campus where one gender holds the majority. The College of Nursing is 85 percent female, leaving males as the minority. 

“I want to work in the emergency department because I know that every day will be exciting and different and really challenge me as a nurse,” said senior nursing student Jake Kloster. “I had a lot of female friends in high school so it’s not that different. Occasionally I feel a little left out when they start discussing dresses or Pinterest, but it’s not a big deal.” 

With the nursing and engineering colleges having the largest gaps, all of the colleges on campus have a gap of at least 28 percent except for the College of Arts and Sciences, University College and the Graduate School. 

“I think you would find that at any university,” said Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Doug Wermedal. “Historically genders have followed sociological norms into certain disciplines.” 


 According to Wermedal’s dissertation, It Was Once So: Gender and Generation in College Yearbook Photos, the first woman to enroll in the College of Engineering was in 1920, but a second woman did not enroll until 1948. Enrollment among women in the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences left a 16-year gap, with the first woman enrolling in 1930, and the second in 1946. 

“…Women traditionally enter male majors earlier and in a solo basis … and men enter traditionally women’s majors much later and always in pairs or groups of four,” Wermedal said.

The first male stepped out of the gender norms almost 40 years after the first female. In Wermedal’s dissertation, the first occurrence of a male enrolling in family and consumer sciences was in 1959, with the second male enrolling in 1961. A similar pattern amongst males in the College of Nursing occurred with receiving its first male student in 1968, and the second in 1969. 

While enrollments within SDSU’s colleges today may look like they follow the typical gender norm, they haven’t always. The College of Pharmacy was evenly split amongst men and women in 2001, but now women are the majority with 66 percent enrollment. 

“We’ve [SDSU] always been a place that would welcome paradigm shifting in the association of gender with major,” Wermedal said. “No where is that more true than in pharmacy.”

Wermedal also noted that SDSU has been predominately female during wartime, when the majority of men were at war. 

SDSU had a 53 percent female and 47 percent male enrollment in Fall 2013, according to When looking at peer institutions and their Fall 2013 enrollments, North Dakota State University measured up to be male dominated at 54 percent, leaving females with 46 percent of student enrollment. The University of South Dakota, noted for the students to be mostly women, is 61 percent female and 39 percent male. The closest gender gap was University of Minnesota Twin Cities, being 51 percent female, 48 percent male and 1 percent undisclosed.

Gender gaps may seem large, but the colleges work to ensure that all majors are friendly to those of all sexes.

“Our faculty work hard to make sure that the disciplines in the majors are for all genders,” Wermedal said. “They know that those majors are enriched by being attractive to all genders.”

In terms of working as an engineer, Reid said that engineers never work independently.

“Employers want males and females on their engineering teams,” Reid said. “Each gender is weak on their certain aspects. They balance each other out.” 

Reid also noted that the College of Engineering has received over $1.6 million over the last ten years for students with financial need and are in an under-represented group, which in the engineering college includes females.

Making an approach to attract the younger female interest, the College of Engineering is holding a camp for eighth grade girls. Girls: Engineering, Mathematics and Science [GEMS] will provide sessions on robotics, forensics and bridges to help give girls an idea of what engineering would be like. Female engineers and engineering students will help put on the camp which will be held Saturday, March 29.

“Our challenge isn’t being a female phobic college,” Reid said. “Our challenge is getting females to understand there are really cool things you can do as an engineer.”