Female students make up 52 percent of the student body, but only 41 percent of faculty and 25 percent of professors, according to the 2017–2018 UT Statistical Handbook.
Susan Somers-Willett, Center for Women’s and Gender Studies lecturer, said if the University is not showing female-identified students at UT that women can ascend to the highest ranks of their profession, then society cannot expect them to aspire to those ranks.
“When we witness women and people of color in powerful roles creating change in the world, we are more likely to understand that sharing power across gender and race lines not only as the norm, but is also essential to our collective survival,” Somers-Willett said.
Disproportionate gender representation can be seen throughout different colleges and majors. The College of Education student body is 69 percent female, the Cockrell School of Engineering student body is 74 percent male and the School of Nursing student body is 88 percent female. Somers-Willett said these trends could be caused by a lack of female role models in certain majors.
“In the long view, this kind of occupational segregation can lead to economic disparities across genders,” Somers-Willett said.
Nursing sophomore Kayla Soileau said she has benefited from having a majority of female professors around her because it is helpful when they discuss topics concerning women’s health, such as checking for lung sounds around breast tissue. Soileau also said female professors can relate to her personally when it comes to being a woman on campus.
“Women can work just as hard and be just as smart as men,” Soileau said. “I personally have had many female professors, and they have all been just as knowledgeable about their subject as my male professors.”
Accounting sophomore Madeline Adam said she notices there are more male students and professors in her field. Adam said it is discouraging, but she knows there have been improvements.
“The stigma that girls aren’t as good at the math and science stuff is discouraging as a female student,” Adam said. “I think that, especially being in a (science, technology, engineering and math) major, it’s really important to recognize how far we’ve come in a male-dominated field.”
Adam said while she hopes for more female representation in her major, she is making changes in other fields to help young girls receive an education. Adam is a part of the UT chapter of Girl Up, an organization that raises money for girls’ education in underdeveloped countries.
“Being able to have this education is the most privileged thing, and I’m so grateful for it,” Adam said. “I think even though a lot of people don’t realize it, we need to use (our privilege) to help underdeveloped countries who have no choice on their situation.”
Soileau said she sees hope for the future, but for everyone to have an equal voice, there must be equal representation in leadership positions.
“Hopefully once the future generations are educated on women’s inequality, more little girls will grow up and strive to be in more leadership positions, such as a college professor,” Soileau said.