By Christine van der Horst
— AUC is a female dominated environment. With the male/female ratio growing slightly more disproportionate every year, the institution has reached a point at which close to two-thirds of its students are female. The Herring discussed the matter with staff and students to shed light upon the situation by identifying possible explanations for the sex gap, as well as discussing the consequences and the desirability of potential solutions.
Academic Core faculty member Lara Mazurski, who teaches the Gender and Sexuality course at AUC, explains the uneven sex division by pointing to recent data from the Dutch Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS) . The data shows that Dutch women between the age of thirty and fifty, have never before been as highly educated as they are today. According to Mazurski, it is no coincidence that among this generation’s offspring, the same trend can be identified.
“There is a clear correlation between the parent’s education level, cultural gender expectations, and children’s performance,” Mazurski said. “Today, we don’t tell girls they can’t do math because they are girls: so they become mathematicians,” she said. As Mazurski explains, this group of highly educated mothers has changed gender norms and through this, they may have given rise to the growing number of women attending universities in the Netherlands.
Mazurski’s reasoning only partly explains AUC’s sex gap, as it is focused exclusively on Dutch developments while AUC is an international university, composed of a mix of Dutch and international students. In addition, AUC’s male/female ratio is more disproportionate than the UvA’s or the VU’s, whose population is comprised of 56 percent female students to 44 percent male students. This, combined with the fact that an unbalanced ratio appears to be a reoccurring pattern among Dutch University Colleges, suggests the academic program of the Liberal Arts and Science colleges may be the cause for female domination.
|University College||Current Male/Female Ratio|
|Amsterdam University College||34/66|
|Erasmus University College||35/65|
|Leiden University College||31/69|
|University College Groningen||40/60|
|University College Maastricht||31/69*|
|University College Roosevelt||36/64*|
|University College Utrecht||35/65|
|University College Twente (ATLAS)||54/46*|
* UC Maastricht, Twente & Roosevelt did not respond to The Herring’s request for current data, so the table uses 2015 numbers. You can find the full set of data for 2015 here.
“I have heard people say that the Liberal Arts and Science program appeals more to women, as women like to keep their option open and are more soft skill orientated than men,” Anne de Graaf, Head of Studies Academic Core, said. “But I don’t think we can generalize like this,” she added.
Judi Mesman, Dean of Leiden University College, links the ratio to the honors program. “Girls have a tendency to get better grades than boys, which makes them more eligible for honors programs like UCs in the Netherlands,” Mesman said.
Maarten Frens, Dean of Erasmus University College, argues along the same lines, stating that the selective aspect influences the ratio. “It has been theorized that this [the popularity of selective programs among females] may have to do with differences in development at the age of 17/18 between the sexes,” Frens said. “I am however not aware of solid research in this respect,” Frens admitted.
AUC’s Dean, Murray Pratt, argues that it is AUC’s specific orientation towards Science that may appeal more to female students. “Even within the Science major, the majority of students is female,” Pratt said. “AUC is one of the only places where girls can study Science in a not male dominated environment, which may be a reason for them to apply,” Pratt said.
The manner in which the male/female ratio at AUC impacts academic life has not yet been researched thoroughly. ‘’It [the male/female ratio] possibly influences the academic environment in some cases to some extent,” Pratt said. Mazurski also had difficulty answering this question. “Although I’m sure the ratio has an impact on academic life at AUC, I would really have to sit down for this one,” Mazurski said.
Tim Moolhuijsen, third year Social Science major, thinks female domination may limit different viewpoints during class discussions. “On the other hand, the amount of women makes AUC far from a patriarchal community, which has actually taught me a lot, especially about feminism and gender equality,” Moolhuijsen added.
Tanisha Farbrother, first year Social Science major, said that male students may feel overwhelmed or outnumbered by the female students during class conversations. “I’ve noticed that males sometimes struggle to speak up, dependent on the confidence/personality of the people in the class,” Farbrother said.
“Although I would not be able to tell you how the ratio affects AUC academically, I can definitely imagine it can cause for problems in the dorms,” Anne de Graaf said. Students seem to support De Graaf’s statement. Many students touch upon the large ‘’choice’’ heterosexual men have compared to heterosexual women and how this affects social life at AUC.
“I think many girls jump on the little number of guys left that are available,” Lizzy Da Rocha Bazilio, First year Social Science major, said. “Guys have their pick, whereas girls do not. I heard people say ‘sixes become eights’,” Da Rocha Bazilio added.
These different dynamics in the dating pool influences both men and women. Several students note a certain arrogance among male students. “I feel like the guys here get so much attention that they become quite cocky,” said a female first year Social Science major who wanted to remain anonymous. Tanisha Farbrother explains that the ratio can also create rivalry among girls. “It has caused some awkwardness and arguments between females who are aiming to be or sleep with the same guy, especially due to the closeness of living space,” Farbrother said.
Furthermore, some men mention having more female friends than they had before studying at AUC. Most of these men identify this as an enrichment rather than a problem.
Mahdi Austian, second year Social Science major, said his female friends changed his outside school activities. “I am spending less to no time with friends on games and more time spent on other wider audience activities such as going to the movies, watching a series together, or exploring the city,” Austian said.
Ally Johnson, also a second year Social Science major, said to be more comfortable talking about subjects such as periods or sexual interactions because of his female friends. “I feel I have a better although not complete understanding of the ‘female mind’ now,” Johnson told The Herring.
Despite the problems it may cause, students do not believe that a 50/50 ratio is something AUC should actively strive for. “I feel if more girls apply or meet the acceptance requirements there should be no reason to force the ratio to be closer to 50/50,” Johnson said.
Anne de Graaf would not recommend affirmative action either. “All my life I have been working in male dominated environments,” De Graaf said. “I think the ratio at AUC, although unbalanced, is refreshing,” she said. Moreover, De Graaf mentioned that offering places to male students instead of their female counterparts just because of their gender [sic] would be simply humiliating. “This would wipe away all their talents, skills and experience,” De Graaf explained.
Cas Evers, Admissions Officer at AUC, said they keep a close eye on the divisions and diversity in general during the admissions process. However, there are other targets to be met that have priority over the male/female ratio. “To AUC, it is more important to have three hundred students every year, than to have a balanced male/female ratio,” Evers explains.
Evers emphasizes that the possibilities for the admissions office to change the ratio are limited. “The ratio is even worse among applicants,” Evers said “And the number of applications is not large enough to have the luxury to choose boys over girls,” Evers added. According to Evers, the most improvement can be gained through AUC’s outreach. In the past, as Evers told The Herring, AUC sends emails directly to male high school students with an interest in science. “Through the use of such strategies AUC can attract a specific group of students,” Evers said.
Although Dean Murray Pratt admits the disproportionate ratio is not ideal, he does not find it too problematic. “AUC is not a dating agency: the ratio’s impact on life at the dorms is not our primary concern,” Pratt said. He also questions the importance of gender [sic] in general. “I like to think of AUC as a place that does not oblige people to conform to gender stereotypes,” Pratt added. “That said, how important is gender anyway?”, he questioned.