By Amanda- Marie Quintino
Arts and Entertainment Editor
With female enrolment soaring, it’s a woman’s world at Canada’s universities. Can the boys ever come back?
Twenty-five years ago, the idea of recruiting men into university programs would’ve been laughable. But in 2006, it’s a real possibility.
A recent study conducted by Statistics Canada found that females now account for about 60 per cent of Canada’s university students and have been the dominant gender on campus for two decades.
So, where have all the men gone? And should we leave them there?
“Trades people have been around since the beginning of time,” said Bruno Antidormi, senior vice-president for Fixed-Price Contracts. “The money is in the trades industry now and young men are starting to see that.
“Not everybody wants to be pushing a mouse all day. Maybe less men are in university because they see that there’s a brighter future for them laying bricks or hammering nails.”
A recent Maclean’s article claims it is common for 20-somethings working in the trades to make at least $100,000 per year.
University is about more than just making money, so does the government have a social responsibility to entice men into the classroom? This is an area of considerable disagreement between those who see recruitment as a university issue, and others who point the blame towards the secondary school system.
Tanya Blazina, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, thinks it’s up to post-secondary institutions to bring men in.
“It’s up to the universities to make their programs attractive to the desired demographic,” said Blazina. “The schools have the biggest role to play. If there’s a shortage in males entering universities, it’s their job to tackle that problem.”
But Ryerson President Sheldon Levy disagrees.
“My hypothesis is that more males are dropping out of high school and therefore they’re not going on to any form of post-secondary education,” he said. “By the time they’re ready for post-secondary, the proportion of the female-male split has already gotten to the point where females are 60/40. The problem is really at the high school level.”
Despite the obviously imbalanced rise of studentenrolment, Lucia Cascioli, manager of public affairs and communications for the York Region District School Board, insists these statistics are an “insignificant factor” in encouraging students to attend university.
“We look at students as students,” she said. “We don’t put them into a gender box or base our programs according to whether they’re male or female. Our guidance counsellors look at their students’ academic abilities and we let our students know the various options open to them after high school — university, college, apprenticeships, workforce.
“University is only one option and regardless of whether or not less males are entering it, doesn’t play a part in the way we guide our students.”
However, Paul Stevenson, a guidance counsellor at Thornlea Secondary School, feels the board should implement programs specifically targeted at males based on the recent data.
“I remember years ago when we talked about not enough females going into math and science programs,” he said. “But it seems to me that now the pendulum has swung and we have to find a way to start swinging it back.”
It looks unlikely that it will swing back anytime soon.
“We don’t have any programs in place to specifically recruit males into Ryerson,” said Charmaine Hack, director of admissions. “We promote equally to males and females.”
Currently, the only male dominant programs in universities across the country are math and engineering, with even those areas beginning to experience a shift.
Women will continue to outnumber males for decades to come, says Ryerson sociology professor Jean Golden.
“You’re looking at the children of the second wave feminists,” she explained. “We’re the group that fought very hard for educational and employment equity, overall women’s rights, and now our children, this current generation, is putting what we fought for into action.
“Back in the 1960s and 1970s, women faced a glass ceiling and a restricted workforce and were discouraged from going on to study after high school and instead were encouraged to get a man, put on an apron and do their domestic duty.”
But although young women are beginning to enter post-secondary institutions in larger numbers, it is important to realize that more than 50 per cent of the women going to university are enrolled in the “stereotypical female dominated programs,” Golden added.
University seems like a woman’s world now, but it’s been a long time coming.
“Just because there are less men in university now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” said Donna McKinnis, marketing representative for mega-contractor Ellis Don.
“Women have fought long and hard for equal recognition and they’re finally getting there.”