Working Paper 2018-4

Do Campus Contexts Matter?: Bringing a Cultural-Organizational Approach to the Problem of Gender Gaps in Undergraduate Fields of Study


Ann Mullen, University of Toronto

Jayne Baker, University of Toronto

UT Sociology Working Paper No. 2018-04

June 2018

Keywords: Higher Education; Gender Segregations

Full Article


Despite gender parity in earned bachelors degrees, large gender gaps persist across fields of study. The dominant explanatory framework in this area of research assesses how gender differences in individual-level attributes predict gaps in major choice. We argue that individualistic accounts cannot provide a complete explanation because they fail to consider the powerful effects of the gendered institutional environments that inform and shape young men’s and women’s choices. We propose a cultural-organizational approach that considers how institutional characteristics and cultural contexts on college campuses may shape gendered choices and thus be associated with patterns of gender segregation across fields of study. Analyzing institutional data on all U.S. degree-granting colleges and universities, our results reveal substantial inter-institutional variation in gender segregation. Further, structural and contextual institutional features related to peer culture, curricular focus, institutional commitment to gender equity, and the gender proportionality of the student body correlate with heightened or diminished levels of segregation.


This research was supported by SSHRC.

Congratulations to Professor Jayne Baker, recipient of a U of T Early Career Teaching Award

Congratulations to Professor Jayne Baker, recently awarded an Early Career Teaching Award. The University of Toronto has been awarding this prize since 2015 with up to four early career faculty members honoured each year. The award recognizes “faculty members who demonstrate an exceptional commitment to student learning, pedagogical engagement, and teaching innovation.” Professor Baker is an Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream in Sociology at the University of Toronto, Mississauga. There, she teaching the large introductory sociology courses and courses in the sociology of education. We have pasted the award citation below from the full notice of awards on the Provost’s announcement page here. UTM News has also profiled Professor Baker’s teaching here.

Jayne Baker
Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream
Department of Sociology, University of Toronto Mississauga

Professor Baker has been an Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto Mississauga since 2012. Her research centres on hierarchies among university institutions (Sociology of Education) to increasing student learning in core concepts and competencies including research and writing (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning). With a colleague, she is also investigating effective strategies for preparing first year students for testing in the context of a large course that lacks face-to-face opportunities structured into the course. Professor Baker teaches courses at all levels and sizes, from 12 to 1,000. In addition to teaching required courses in research methods and introductory sociology, she also teaches courses in education and a course on masculinities. She has also spearheaded the integration of writing instruction and support in the research methods course required for all Sociology and Criminology, and Law and Society majors and specialists. As part of her interest in supporting student learning and engaging students outside of the traditional classroom, Professor Baker frequently works with undergraduates and graduate students within her own research. She has also mentored graduate students in their teaching through a Teaching Fellowship model developed by her Criminology, Law & Society teaching-stream colleague, Professor Nathan Innocente. Professor Baker has also worked actively on the curriculum of the Department of Sociology’s five programs, including design and implementation of curriculum mapping.


Professor Jayne Baker on the Times Higher Education Rankings for 2018

Sociology Assistant Professor Jayne Baker was recently featured in an article by UTM’s student newspaper The Medium, discussing the Times Higher Education ranking for the University of Toronto. The article explored what criterion are taken into account to determine university ranking and what the rankings mean to the UofT community. Professor Baker, who researches the sociology of education, gave insight into what the University rankings mean and what social factors (such as socioeconomic background of students) may influence a University’s success.

We have posted an excerpt of the article below.

What does it really mean to be No. 1?

U of T is ranked number 1 in Canada and the 22nd in the world by Times Higher Education rankings

Jessica Cabral | Sept. 18, 2017

In the recently published Times Higher Education 2018 university ranking, the University of Toronto placed 22nd out of the top 1,000 universities in the world and preserved their standing as the highest ranked Canadian university for the eighth consecutive year. Tied in position with the National University of Singapore, U of T continues to maintain a comfortable spot among some of the world’s highest ranked post-secondary institutions. But, what kind of relevance do these university rankings hold? What, if anything, do they tell us about the quality of the learning experience?

“Rankings are a funny thing, in that they are popular to discuss, especially when you’re at the top, but are sometimes taken to signify more than what is actually being measured,” says Jayne Baker, an assistant professor in the department of sociology at UTM, in an email to The Medium. “Rankings are commonly used as evidence of institutional prestige. However, I think we could all agree that many institutions with high rankings would continue to be prestigious were those rankings not to exist at all.”

As an example, Baker explains that regardless of the presence of yearly university rankings, American Ivy League institutions, known for frequently landing top positions across national and international ranking systems, would continue to maintain their distinguished reputations among employers, provide their students with optimal employment opportunities, and produce powerful leaders because of their established history and selective admissions processes.

“Another important factor to acknowledge is that these are institutions that have historically, and to this day, accepted students from wealthier backgrounds,” says Baker.

Having learnt from published research in the sociology of education, Baker explains that children from families with “higher socioeconomic status” are “associated with better educational outcomes and more advantageous social networks”. Later in life, these factors ultimately contribute to the individual’s success in obtaining a career and their pursuit of education beyond an undergraduate degree.

Baker notes however that,  “the interesting thing about Canada is that our university system is not marked by the kind of steep hierarchy among institutions like you’d find in the United States.”

If institutional history and household wealth play integral roles in developing the high status of American Ivy League schools, what then are the factors that the THE take into consideration?

Read the full article here.