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Jo McQuilty Social Analysis 231 University of Wollongong Spring, 2010
The research gauged gender composition changes in education as a result of government implemented gender reforms in Australian high schools during the 1980's. The research applied quantitative analysis to university enrolment gender compositions as a supplement to nationwide qualitative research conducted by Jane Kenway and Sue Willis in the mid to late 1990's (Kenway & Willis 1997, ppxiv-xxiv). The University of Wollongong (UOW) was selected as a typical Australian university (Australian Government 2010) and enrolment statistics were researched specifically in the areas of engineering, mathematics and science in response to government initiatives and the subsequent research conducted by Kenway & Willis (University of Wollongong: Library 2010).
Gender reform is expressed and produced in varying ways and the pursuit for equality between the sexes is personal and complex. It is generally accepted that the role of gender, as an identity marker, is subordinate to and complicit in the mechanics of capitalism (Uy Eviota 1992, p9). Although the research found no evidence to dispute this claim, it did reveal how women select particular identity roles while rejecting others and attempt to renegotiate meaning. Government gender reform in Australia during the 1980's acted with the intention of drawing women into particular fields of study (Kenway & Willis 1997, pxi). The research reveals that the reforms did benefit women, but not primarily in the way the government had anticipated. 1
Karl Marx outlines the role of women in capitalist societies being the reproduction of labour, that is, to engage in childbirth and care for children, husband and household in order to ensure the stabilisation and the ongoing production of the labour force (Uy Eviota 1992, pp11-17). The function of females is also as a back up labour force, for example in times of war women have filled the place of men and then return to the household when the war was over. Women also tend to 'fill the gaps' in the workforce to ensure the optimum running of the economy with casual, part-time and intermittent or seasonal work engagements (Van Krieken et al. 2006, pp668-669). Basil Bernstein discusses how these functions and roles for women in capitalism are naturalised and justified in 'The Structuring of Pedagogic Discourse' (Bernstein 1990). Bernstein states that education performs a cultural function for the State in order to maintain social harmony and compliance. He discusses Gramsci's ideas of hegemony where the government gains the consent of the masses and Althusser's interpellation or self-image roles that are 'utilised' in order to produce identity. Bernstein states that the education system works at a symbolic level to regulate how we think, how we feel about our body, our social relations and their specific contexts, and how we project these aspects of ourselves in a temporal sense (Bernstein 1990, pp133-134). However, during the late 1960's and early 1970's women began to question and reject this apparent assigned role in society. The feminist movement had various stages, however, Marxist feminism posits women as serving a function for society positioned in subordinate roles and statuses (Van Krieken et al. 206, pp668-669). As a result of such movements, previously accepted frameworks of knowledge and ideas of objectivity began to be questioned generally. The very epistemological foundations of theory and what we perceived as 'truth' began to be
questioned in terms of both the exclusion they encapsulated, and their inability to allow for and interpret change. In terms of how social theory had embedded gender roles, it prevented women from ever being able to effectively negotiate in society on equal terms with men and ensured that inequality was perpetuated. Not only were female roles protracted structurally through capitalist imperatives, they were also reproduced culturally through media portrayal of women as objects of sex and subordination, and more particularly through education. As a result of such issues, theory began to be reviewed from the ground up to include subjective input from society itself. In doing so, social theory not only began to review the very basis of knowledge and to allow for change, it also became more inclusive of women and to review previously assumed notions of gender itself (Kenway & Willis 1997, ppxiv-xxiv). Through government implemented education reforms, women were encouraged to engage in areas of education traditionally held by men and to attempt to participate in the workforce at more senior levels through an increased pursuit of higher education and training such as at universities (Kenway & Willis 1997, ppix-x). The rate at which women entered universities overtook that of men in 1987 in Australia (Bowling and Martin 1985, p308). Alternatively, theorists such as Immanuel Wallerstein write about the apparent phenomenon of globalisation during the 1980's which he states is a result of American hegemony and neoliberal political policy (Van Krieken et al. 2006, pp35-36). As such, the feminist movement could be viewed as being unwittingly complicit in escalated forms of capitalism expanding globally and only serving the functions of capitalism rather at a heightened or meta level (Van Krieken et al. 2006, pp668-669). That is, the greater rate of women entering the workforce in the late 20th century answers the call of heightened levels of industrialisation, commercialisation and rationalisation in Western capitalist societies as they spread globally. As such, migrants and youth begin to fill the part-time and casual jobs traditionally filled by women, while labour intensive jobs are outsourced to subsistence economies 3
with cheap labour (Uy Eviota 1992, pp18-20). Melvin Ember suggests two forces in explanation of such a phenomenon, that of the the 'pull' of the economy and capitalism resulting from our increased desire for material goods and simultaneously the 'push' of industrial pressures for rationalisation as a result of pressure from population growth (Ember 1983, pp350-351). Eric Louw suggests that feminist expansion of the labour pool also leads to a reduction in labour costs domestically through the mechanism of supply and demand (Louw 2010, p201). Regardless of the discourse of education and broader capitalist imperatives, the women's movement fought to improve the choices, status and achievements available to women. Pressure by women's groups in the 1970's challenged the Australian government for example to implement a scheme of gender equality in high schools throughout the country in the 1980's in order to specifically attract women to areas of education like engineering, mathematics and science which were traditionally perceived as areas dominated by men. The government also implemented schemes encouraging teachers to teach in ways that were more conducive to raising the self-esteem, self-confidence and equality of females and endeavouring to favour a culture that viewed women's education and preparation for the workforce as equally valid to that of men. This was encouraged with the recommendation that teachers focus on spending equal amounts of time with female and male students. Jane Kenway and Sue Willis discuss feminism in Australian high schools during the 1990's in 'Answering Back'. The book details areas of research about feminism which had been neglected. Much had been documented about schemes implemented by the government during the 1980's and 1990's which pursue gender equality in Australian education and workforce, however very little had been researched about the success of these programs from the perspective of those directly involved. The title of the book explains how research was conducted in the late 1990's interviewing headmasters, teachers and students in hundreds of Australian schools to assess the success of gender equality and ascertain if there are real improvements in opportunities available to women 4
as we enter the 21st century as a result of these schemes. 'Answering Back' seeks to gauge the opinions of those in the education system, both teachers and students, and especially women (Kenway & Willis 1997, ppix-xxiv).
The original intention of the research, as outlined in the Research Proposal, was to measure gender composition changes by course type of degrees conferred in relation to total enrolment numbers as a ratio over 33 years. However it was difficult to obtain complete sets of this data. As was discovered, earlier UOW Annual Reports from 1976 until 1985 included enrolment totals for each faculty without gender breakdown but gender breakdown by faculty was included under degrees conferred. While from 1986 until 1994, the format of these Annual Reports changed and provided a breakdown of gender for enrolments by attendance mode (full-time and part-time) by course type and faculty but no gender breakdown for degrees conferred, only a total figure (University of Wollongong: Library 2010). The UOW library was consulted and it was suggested to contact the University's Quality and Planning Unit by email and make a request to view past Graduation Booklets outlining graduation names and courses so that these could be counted up by gender. There can be up to a two week waiting period to access such data though. Alternatively, the UOW online 'Statistics' archives were checked on the library website. These booklets again only included overall totals of graduation by course type but no gender breakdown. It did however provide consistent enrolment data with gender breakdowns from 1976 but only up to 1992, after which the booklet was ceased due to University budget constraints. The Statistics provided comprehensive data about enrolments, faculties, gender and attendance modes from 1976 until 1992. UOW Annual Report data was used to extract the same enrolment variables for the 1994 data only (University of Wollongong: Library 2010).
Additionally, it was decided to reduce the overall period of the research extending from 1976 only to 1994 rather than 2009. Firstly, after 1994 the UOW Annual Report ceased to report any enrolment details but instead only percentages in pie charts without gender or faculty breakdown (University of Wollongong: Library 2010). Secondly, the amount of data was becoming too large and cumbersome and the period 1976 to 1994 served the purpose of gauging any immediate changes in gender composition of courses such as engineering, mathematics and science as a result of Australian government initiatives throughout the 1980's as researched by Kenway and Willis (Kenway & Willis 1997, p3). The period from 1995 onward could be researched at some time in the future to gauge any longer term effects of the governments initiatives of the 1980's. It was also decided to include only every third year in the sample which provided a total of seven sets of data to compare over an 18 year period. This number was chosen because it divided evenly into the number of years where the online data was available and coincided with the duration of a full-time bachelor degree. This presented the possibility of only counting each student once although it did not account for parttime students or students who deferred or repeated failed subjects. Consequently, SPSS was not used for the research as Excel served adequately with only half the amount of data consulted as had originally been planned. It was also decided to categorise by faculty rather than course type as indicated in the Proposal. Firstly, the online data was presented in faculty totals and was the easiest way to replicate the data, but also over the 18 year period courses within faculties changed quite considerably with many additions and subtractions of particular courses and movements of courses between faculties, mainly coinciding with societal trends in technology (University of Wollongong: Library 2010). This made counting up very difficult to commensurate over the period. Faculties were a more constant variable providing the ability to make a greater degree of comparison with only a few faculty changes over the 18 years as can be evidenced in Chart 1 in Results. In light of the Kenway & Willis research, the fields of 6
study that their research focussed on were engineering, mathematics and science, so grouping by faculty still served this purpose (Kenway & Willis 1997, p3). It should be noted though that the 1976 data does not include mathematics as this faculty was introduced after this time but prior to 1979 (University of Wollongong: Library 2010). Further, the change from using degrees conferred to enrolments seemed to pose no problem to the research either. Degrees conferred was originally chosen as a variable because it eliminated the problem of accounting for student drop-out rates by including only those students who completed their degree. Using the enrolment statistics though still provided relevant data to the research project in terms of changes in ratios between gender by faculty as a proportion of total enrolment numbers over the 18 year period (University of Wollongong: Library 2010). Enrolment in a particular course still represented a fairly committed interest by a student to a particular field of study and withdrawal rates perhaps could be consulted and subtracted from enrolment numbers to give a more accurate number of students graduating in particular fields. If it was evident that drop-outs rates for example were significantly greater for first year students, then perhaps only the re-enrolment statistics could be used in future studies thus providing an amount more likely to be representative of graduation numbers. The statistics used in this research combined 'new enrolments' and 're-enrolments' in order to reduce the complexity of the project as this was the format that the data was presented in most of the UOW library statistics and consulting rates of student withdrawal for this project proved too labour intensive, thus would have exceeded budget (University of Wollongong: Library 2010). Further, data was only recorded for Bachelor Degree courses, details were also listed in the UOW Statistics booklet and Annual Reports for Post Graduate courses and Diplomas but this data was not included. Similarly, honours students were not included in the enrolment count as these figures were sometimes 7
combined in the data and most often separate so it was decided to keep them out of the data as the amounts were only nominal and including them would garner no additional information (University of Wollongong: Library 2010). Where honours students had been included in the faculty totals they were subtracted out. UOW also experienced rapid growth over this period so this was factored in with the data because even if female enrolment numbers increased over this period for particular faculties, it may be more representative of the general growth of the university and not specifically representative of women pursuing traditionally male dominated fields of study (University of Wollongong: About the University 2010). For this reason, the total overall student number was noted each year as well as the total number of students by faculty. Students attending by external mode of attendance were counted up in the research with the part-time enrolments as there was no way of determining otherwise and it was presumed to be more likely that these students studied externally as a result of work commitments rather than geographic proximity to campus. Education was the only faculty offering an external mode of attendance in the data consulted. By 1991 mathematics had been merged into the new faculty informatics but was kept separate in the data because its numbers gradually became equal between the genders and all other informatics courses were largely dominated by males. Likewise, information technology was introduced as a subject in the 1982 data and was included in commerce faculty but was subsequently moved to arts faculty in 1985, and again to informatics faculty in 1991. For consistency, information technology was counted every year in this research under the commerce faculty (University of Wollongong: Library 2010). The data was recorded manually from the online records. Firstly, the enrolment numbers were recorded by gender under full-time and part-time for each faculty. Totals were then added up for each column giving totals of gender for both fulltime and part-time across all faculties. Similarly, totals were added up for total 8
enrolments for each faculty by gender and total enrolments per faculty overall. The dominant gender for each faculty was also noted with a letter M=male, F=female where the gender difference was over 5% and E=equal where the numbers between male and female varied less than but including 5%. Then finally a total of all students enrolled across all faculties and all attendance modes was added up. The complete data sets referred to have been recorded in Excel spreadsheets and attached in the Appendices labelled Appendix 1 (Year 1-Year7). The data was recorded in three year increments for a total of seven years including 1976, 1979, 1982, 1985, 1988, 1991 and 1994. This data was then used to reproduce the charts showing gender breakdown for four faculties over the 18 year period in Chart 1, total student enrolment numbers over 18 years in Chart 2 and mode of attendance by gender over the same period in Chart 3. All charts have been included in Results.
Engineering and metallurgy were almost exclusively the domain of men which is consistent with previous research used by Kenway & Willis (Kenway & Willis 1997, p51). In 1976 both these fields of study were nearly 100% male dominated. By 1988 Metallurgy was no longer in existence and engineering was still nearly 100% male dominated. By 1991 engineering enrolments had dropped by 50% but women represented around 7% and by 1994 around 15%. Mathematics on the other hand, consistently represented women by around 30% of total enrolments from 1976 to 1991, and by 1994 women represented around 40% of mathematics enrolments, although enrolment numbers peaked around 1988 and then gradually fell. In 1976 science enrolments were represented by women by around 22%, in 1985 by around 30% and in 1994 by around 49% representing a steady increase. Overall science enrolments reached a low in 1982 then gradually increased over the remaining period of the research with women representing nearly half of all science enrolments by 1991 (University of Wollongong: Library 2010).
What was striking was the large increase in commerce degree enrolments over the period. In 1976 arts degrees had the highest number of students enrolled for any faculty, with a close second in engineering and commerce representing about a third of that of arts. Additionally, the ratios of men to women enrolling in commerce in the mid to late 1970's was around 9:1, but by 1982, total enrolments for commerce were about 75% that of arts, while engineering numbers lay between the two. By 1991, commerce degree enrolments had exceeded that of arts and were nearly three times that of engineering. By 1994, commerce degree numbers exceed that of arts by just short of double and for the first time represented near equal numbers between males and females (University of Wollongong: Library 2010). The 1988 data showed the introduction of education enrolments which were largely dominated by women by around 70% and up to 75% in 1994. Similarly, health and behavioural science was introduced around 1991, this data revealed a 70% enrolment represented by women in 1991 and 73% in 1994. Health and behavioural science enrolments increased markedly though from 1991 to 1994 with 132 and 1161 enrolments respectively. The Law faculty was introduced around 1991 which was represented by women by 64% in 1991 and 56% in 1994. Also in 1994 the creative arts faculty was introduced separate from the arts faculty, out of these enrolments 65% were represented by women. Detailed changes of faculty enrolment numbers by gender including overall totals can be evidenced in Chart 1 for engineering, mathematics, science and commerce over the 18 year period (University of Wollongong: Library 2010).
Chart 1 Enrolment numbers by various faculties with gender breakdown
1400 1200 1000 800 600 400 200 0 Y1976 Y1979 Y1982 Y1985 Y1988 Y1991 Y1994 Female Male
450 400 350 300 250 200 150 100 50 0 Y1976 Y1979 Y1982 Y1985 Y1988 Y1991 Y1994 Female Male
900 800 700 600 500 400 300 200 100 0 Y1976 Y1979 Y1982 Y1985 Y1988 Y1991 Y1994 Female Male
2000 1800 1600 1400 1200 1000 800 600 400 200 0 Y1976 Y1979 Y1982 Y1985 Y1988 Y1991 Y1994 Female Male
In the overall totals of student enrolments with gender breakdown over the entire period, the university witnessed large increases in numbers in the mid 1980's with an increase of around 322 students between 1976 and 1979 to an increase of 1815 students from 1985 to 1988. After this period the numbers decline only slightly with an increase of around 1173 students between 1991 and 1994. Chart 2 – Total enrolments by gender breakdown demonstrates consistent growth in both total student enrolments and female enrolments over 18 years at UOW. Female enrolments in 1976 represented around 25% of total enrolments where by 1994 male enrolments were only marginally greater than that of females. Chart 2 – Rates of growth outlines steady growth overall over the period with a peak student intake in 1988 and then a gradual reduced rate of growth thereafter (University of Wollongong: Library 2010). Chart 2 Total enrolments at UOW by gender at 3 year increments (1976 – 1994)
9000 8000 7000 6000 5000 4000 3000 2000 1000 0 Y1976 Y1979 Y1982 Y1985 Y1988 Y1991 Y1994 Female Male
Rates of growth by total enrolments at UOW at 3 year increments (1976 – 1994)
2000 1800 1600 1400 1200 1000 800 600 400 200 0 Y1976 Y1979 Y1982 Y1985 Y1988 Y1991 Y1994 Increase from previous period
Mode of attendance was also compared between gender for each three year increment across all faculties. The ratio of full-time to part-time students both overall and by gender was relatively constant with total part-time enrolments fluctuating between half and one third that of total full-time enrolments over the period. From 1985 however, female enrolments in full-time study grew rapidly and over the next decade tripled. All other categories held constant ratios with gradual growth evidenced only overall (University of Wollongong: Library 2010). Details are outlined below in Chart 3.
Chart 3 Mode of attendance by gender (1976-1994)
9000 8000 7000 6000 5000 4000 3000 2000 1000 0 Y1976 Y1979 Y1982 Y1985 Y1988 Y1991 Y1994 p/t female p/t male f/t female f/t male
The results of the research indicated that engineering remained dominated by males (University of Wollongong: Library 2010). This suggested that government schemes to attract females into this field of study have been unsuccessful, although there was a slight increase in the number of females enrolling in the last increment and large increases in overall student enrolments throughout the late 1980's. This accords with Kenway & Willis' findings where it is suggested that aspects of the government gender reforms were made in 'strategic error' (Kenway & Willis 1997, p61). Further research would need to be conducted to ascertain why females are not studying engineering. Mathematics showed a gradual increase in female representation over the period. Throughout the 1980's, while the government programs were being implemented, women consistently represented around 25% of the field, however in the 1990's the rate was closer to half (University of Wollongong: Library 2010). This indicated that the high school programs in this field have had a positive flow on effect to university 15
enrolments at UOW. Similar results could be seen with science but to greater effect. These changes took effect more quickly than with mathematics, witnessing large increases in the late 1980's and even greater increases in the early to mid 1990's (University of Wollongong: Library 2010). Further research needs to be conducted beyond 1994 to gauge if these trends continue. The data indicated strongly that the high school programs promoting greater representation of females in science had been successful in the short term at least (University of Wollongong: Library 2010). These changes were considered within broader levels of growth. Over the 18 years UOW student enrolments grew rapidly, with the greatest rate of growth between 1985 and 1988 which represented 36%. These large growth rates were indicative of broader social change and although numbers of female enrolments increased rapidly in some faculties over this time, numbers were considered as ratios of female to male enrolment numbers regardless of overall total. While overall enrolment totals by gender elucidated relative changes in gender composition, it didn't account for the large number of female enrolments in education and health & behavioural sciences which lent the appearance of equality and took the focus away from enrolment numbers represented by women in engineering, mathematics and science (University of Wollongong: Library 2010). Education is one of the key areas of State cultural production as discussed by Bernstein and health & behavioural science is largely the domain of nursing, a profession traditionally occupied by females involving the care of others (Bernstein 1990, pp133-134). In this respect women were not moving into traditionally male dominated roles, rather traditionally female oriented roles were moving into the academic arena which raises further questions regarding definitions of gender equality. For example, were women starting to engage in traditional masculine roles, like engineering, mathematics and science, in order to create gender equality or were 16
traditional female traits becoming equated in status with traits traditionally associated with males like engaging in tertiary education? Similarly, arts and creative arts have always been dominated by women at UOW even though overall student enrolment numbers by 1994 were nearly equal between males and females (University of Wollongong: Library 2010). This particular aspect of the research indicated that although government incentives to encourage women into engineering and mathematics had been less successful, both science and overall female enrolment numbers at universities had been more successful, both representing near equal numbers (University of Wollongong: Library 2010). This indicated that government initiatives with specific subject areas in mind had been less successful and initiatives aimed at raising the general self-esteem, selfconfidence and self-reliance of females in high schools had been the area where government initiatives had produced desired results. Women had effectively used the government initiatives it would seem, to empower their existing gender identities. Kenway and Willis also found evidence of this type of feminism in their research where girls endeavoured to remake the meaning of 'success' and to recognise that 'feminine' things were worthwhile. Kenway and Willis elaborate this idea stating that by encouraging girls it will “...enable them to understand that, while actions are socially constrained, they are not socially determined.” (Kenway & Willis 1997, pp35&46). This assumption however, that all parties can benefit equally, as opposed to a zero-sum concept where for every gain there must be an equal and alternate loss, has been suggested forms the basis of neo-liberal policy reforms where primary government focus is on economy rather than equality (Baylis et al. 2008, p133). UOW modes of attendance ratios for both genders changed very little over the period, although from 1976 to 1994 full-time attendance grew to more than double that of part-time (University of Wollongong: Library 2010). This reflected a reaction to government policies in the 1980's aimed at reducing State welfare with increased focus on the mechanisms of the free market. Such policy reforms 17
led to increased focus of individual self-reliance, heightened competition generally, including the job market, and a large increase in youth unemployment from coinciding global recession. Students came under increased pressure to both work part-time and plan for future careers through study, achieving the latter as quickly as possible in order to obtain a well-paid job and to become economically self-sufficient (Van Krieken et al. 2006, pp169-172). The data in the current research indicated that the economic events of the 1980's equally effected the decision of both men and women to study full-time over part-time at universities in Australia at this time. As such, the mode of attendance data suggests that these economic imperatives outweigh issues of gender. Likewise, the large increase in commerce degree enrolment numbers can be evidenced in the final faculty chart in Chart 1. In 1976 commerce enrolments represented about a third that of arts with a ratio of males to females of about 9:1. Where by 1994, commerce This data also enrolments were nearly double that of arts and represented both males and females equally (University of Wollongong: Library 2010). women over this period. reflected the heightened social focus on the economy equally amongst men and
Further research would need to be conducted to ascertain whether women are completing degrees and in what way they are utilising these qualifications in the labour market. Enrolment figures in the current research clearly indicate that women are engaging more equally in mathematics, and are represented particularly in science and overall student enrolment numbers in Australian universities in comparison to the 1970's. The research indicates that women are being presented with new education opportunities and status. However, education doesn't necessarily equate with economy and gauging female representation in the labour market over more recent periods would provide a clearer indication of whether women are participating less in casual, junior and part-time employment
to fit in around family commitments, and more often in full-time employment in more senior positions. Research of this nature conducted over a more recent period may elucidate a more detailed account of female involvement in the labour force post-'family' as a result of the government gender reforms in high schools during the 1980's. However, the question remains as to who is reproducing labour in the sense that Marx outlines (Uy Eviota 1992, pp11-17). Research on how families allocate childcare and labour force commitments would either need to be further consulted or conducted.
Refer to Excel spreadsheets in document under separate cover.
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Organisation, HRAF Press, New Haven Kenway, J Willis, S 1997, Answering Back, Allen & Unwin, St. Leonards, Australia Louw, E 2010, The Media & Political Process, 2nd Edition, SAGE Publications Ltd, London University of Wollongong, 2010, About the University: Our History, accessed 1/9/2010, http://www.uow.edu.au/about/history/index.html University of Wollongong 2010, Library: UOW Digital Archives, accessed 11/9/2010, http://www.library.uow.edu.au/uowlibraries/digitalarchive/annualreports/index.ht ml Uy Eviota, E 1992, The Political Economy of Gender: Women and the Sexual Division of Labour in the Philippines, Zed Books Ltd, London Van Krieken R, Habibis D, Smith P, Hutchins B, Haralambos M, Holborn M, 2006, Sociology: Themes and Perspectives, 3rd Edition, Pearson Education Australia, Sydney
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