The Education Gender Gap at YSU and Across the Nation

By Elizabeth Lehman

There are more women majoring in education than men at both Youngstown State University and across the country, but further down the road in the education career path, there are more males in the role of superintendent.

According to the YSU’s Office of Institutional Research’s statistics, there are 1,073 total students enrolled in the Beeghly College of Education, with 275 males and 798 females. That puts the percentages at about 25 percent male and about 75 percent female.

The amount of male education majors at YSU is slightly higher than the nationwide average, says the National Center for Education Statistics.

According to the NCES, in 2012-13, there were 21,805 males who graduated with a bachelor’s in education, compared to 82,842 females. This is about 20 percent male and 80 percent female, giving YSU about 5 percent more males in the program than the national average.

Charles Vergon, YSU professor in the department of educational foundations, research, technology and leadership, said the pattern of male underrepresentation in teaching has been historically true in modern times, especially in elementary schools.

Vergon said that while there are fewer male elementary school teachers, there are disproportionately more males in superintendent roles.

“That is particularly true in the most senior role, the superintendency,” Vergon said, “Where a little less than 30 percent tend to be female for instance — notwithstanding that females comprise a large majority of all K-12 educational professionals.”

At YSU, the most prominent difference between genders in the College of Education is in the early childhood education major. Out of a total of 390 students majoring in early childhood education 363 are females and 27 are males.

Ron Rowe, assistant superintendent for Mercer, Pennsylvania area schools, said there is a more equal number of female and male teachers in secondary education.

“Education in general is made up at about 72 percent of all teachers [being] female and a predominant number of them are at the elementary level,” Rowe said. “You get closer to 50 percent when you get into the secondary teaching subjects.”

Rowe said that female elementary school principals are common in Pennsylvania, but says that male superintendents are generally more common.

“The one position that doesn’t seem equitable is superintendent,” Rowe said. “In Pennsylvania, for approximately the last four years, females have been at about 28, 29 percent.”

Rowe said there are a three main types of barriers in place leading to the gap in gender distribution among superintendency roles: structural, social-cultural and intrapersonal.

He says structural barriers are inherent to the organization of the system. The social cultural barriers range from a perception of differences between male and female leadership styles to sex discrimination and bias against females.

“Like line of experience, you have to go through the high school principalship to become the superintendent,” Rowe said. “So that’s just our overall society thinking females are not as administrative as males.”

Intrapersonal barriers are those which are individual to the person.

Vergon said that female presence is slowly increasing in the role of superintendent.

“Trends indicate that females are increasing their presence in administrative roles, including the superintendency particularly over the last 15 years, although the gender gap remains substantial,” Vergon said.

Rowe says that when his three daughters grow up he does not want barriers imposed upon them.

“[It] is something that we as an institution, students at YSU, public education society in general, need to be aware of, and take a look at and see how we can most equitably educate our young people,” Rowe said.