Gender balance will give diverse ideas in sciences, humanities

Today, as part of National Engineers Week, the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) will host more than 200 female high school students for Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.

Historically, STEM fields such as engineering, mathematics and physics have been male-dominated. At UM, only 29 percent of undergraduate engineering degrees are awarded to women. This is still higher than the national average of 18 percent, according to the National Center of Education Statistics.

Though STEM fields have received the most attention for gender ratios, other fields with notable gender imbalances shouldn’t be overlooked.

At UM, women only comprise 36 percent of graduate business students, while 82-83 percent of all nursing and health students are female. A 2009 Survey of Earned Doctorates showed notable discrepancies in philosophy, religious studies and economics, which are all male-dominated.

Active efforts to close the gender divide are also required for fields beyond STEM. Diversity is sought in STEM for the greater array of ideas, rather than for the sake of having more diverse scientists and engineers.

Likewise, a wider variety of ideas in fields like philosophy can also advance society and culture in ways that science cannot. Not only will the classrooms be enriched with more perspectives, but each student will also benefit from more diverse ways of thinking and problem-solving when they immerse themselves in different fields of study without the intimidation of “male-dominated” or “female-dominated” stereotypes.

It was not that long ago that this school became the center of a divisive case of gender dynamics in philosophy, when previous Professor Colin McGinn was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a graduate student. The case sparked a discussion among philosophers around the world about problems relating to philosophy’s reputation as the “whitest, malest field of American academia,” a stark example of the de facto deterrents attached to many non-science fields that still need to be tackled.

While gender discrepancies in STEM fields are very large, they are just one large obstacle in a much longer journey. We cannot let this one hurdle blind us to other areas in which much-needed women and men are not sitting at the table.

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.