Self Segregated: Some courses consistently draw lopsided gender distributions

By: Dino Odobasic

As in years and years past, students all around Cedar Falls High School are using the last days of spring in putting the final touches on taking classes that they think best suit them for their futures, and as in years and years past, for some reason a reliable percentage of these choices break down around predictable gender preferences.

Classes like industrial tech, yearbook, engineering and the art and ceramics classes are classes that are many times filled with one gender and lack the other.

Take industrial tech, for example, a strand of classes mostly filled with men with little to no females. Industrial tech teacher Chad Anderson said he thinks that the main reason that many females aren’t in the industrial tech field is because it’s a “more male dominated field.”

“I have talked to some females,” Anderson said. “We have also put up some posters around the school” in hopes that some girls would notice them and think about putting some industrial tech classes in their schedules, but the numbers are much the same.

Junior Kevin Rippentrop is currently taking wood tech, and he said he thinks some of the reason for unbalanced classes like industrial tech comes from the way students talk themselves out of the opportunities by accepting stereotypical ideas. “Girls don’t think that they will be good at these types of classes,” Rippentrop said. He said he thinks that there are girls that think about doing the industrial tech classes but decide not to do it later on.

The same goes with engineering. A lot of men sign up for the class while the females tend to stay away from it. Engineering teacher Zeb Nicholson said he thinks that this has to do a lot with group mentality.

“Girls will stop themselves from putting a engineering class on their schedules because they don’t think there will be other girls in it,” Nicholson said.

He also said he thinks that girls seem to think that the class is hard and that the things students do in the class is guy stuff. “We try to put a lot of the girls in one class so they can be together,” Nicholson said. He does this so that girls can convince other girls that it’s a fun class to take. If a lot of girls are in the class, then it’ll be a lot more fun for them. Since there are a fair amount of projects that are done in the class, Nicholson tries to make a lot of projects gender equitable so no matter if it’s a guy or a girl, they can make their projects look however they want.

Junior Emma Gerdes is currently taking Intro to Engineering because she said she knows that if men can do it, so can she. ¨I knew that the class was going to be mostly guys,¨ but she was still excited to sign up because she wanted that college credit badly, and no one was going to stop her, not even her friends who questioned her why she would take a class like engineering.

While those classes are filled with mainly men, the opposite is true for others. Yearbook, for example, has traditionally been filled with mostly females.

Junior Olivia Mickey signed up for yearbook and said she really enjoys it. ¨The class that we have is really lacking males. Almost every single person in the class is a female.¨

Mickey said she thinks that the reason more females are taking yearbook and not a lot of males is because males think that they will be “judged and criticized,” and that males would rather take a class that makes them look tough and superior, Mickey said..

Yearbook teacher Brian Winkel said he thinks a lot of the reason for lopsided enrollments comes from groups of friends signing up to be in the same classes together, but he also wonders whether some of the reason comes from those who advise students to make their choices. “Over the years of each student growing up in our schools, I wonder if teachers and other staff unconsciously push paths on different genders. For example, when the English department does its course registration, I wonder if I and others have unconsciously relied on stereotypes more than a student’s needs if, say, a girl is stuck between 21st Century Lit and yearbook,” he said.

Classes that have anything to do with art and ceramics are almost filled to the brim with females with almost no males, and art teacher Emily Luensmann said she believes that the reason for the lack of men in her art classes would be that art classes are looked at as more culturally acceptable for women to be good at it.

“It’s also a friend-based class,” Luensmann said. Girls will tell their friends to join the class, which then they will tell their other friends and so on. Luensmann also coaches women’s volleyball, and she sometimes talks about her classes, which attracts some girls to join her classes.

Junior Alexa Doyle is taking pottery, a class that she came into not really knowing what to expect. Her friends didn’t tell her to join the class, but she knew that there would be more girls in it because “It’s pottery class. Pottery is kinda a girl thing,” Doyle said. “Art is looked at as a girl thing.”

Doyle said she doesn’t make fun of the guys that are in her class, and she’s pretty good friends with them actually. She said that more guys should be going out for classes like these. “I don’t really see why guys are refusing to take them. No girls would judge them,” she said.

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