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
Keywords: Higher Education; Gender Segregations
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.