OPINION: Increased enrollment of women does not mean gender equality

Early last year, USC doctoral student Kursat Pekgoz filed Title IX complaints against USC, Princeton University and Yale University despite having no affiliation with the latter two institutions. In his complaint, Pekgoz claims that these institutions host programs that discriminate against men. The programs in question are women’s initiatives like the Yale University Women’s Organization and the Women Empowering Women Leadership Conference. In response, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights launched investigations into Yale and USC, both of which are still open.

The Office for Civil Rights should not spend time investigating this complaint at any of the three institutions. Pekgoz’s complaint is unfounded and focuses solely on a singular statistic rather than looking at the equality of specific rights and structures within higher education.

Though female representation is increasing at universities like Yale and USC, there are still societal and structural disadvantages that women in higher education face. Admissions and hiring both suffer from bias, and fields dominated traditionally male have a track record of low female enrollment.

The main evidence Pekgoz depends on is the close-to-equal representation of genders at Yale, and increasing numbers of female enrollment. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that Yale’s enrollment during the 2017-18 academic year comprised 49 percent female-identifying students and 51 percent male-identifying students.

But this is just overall enrollment. There are variations in gender proportion within each school and field of study. There are variations in aid, scholarships and leadership positions. Overall enrollment does not reflect other areas of student opportunities.

In areas of study like management or law, there are significantly fewer women than men enrolled at Yale, according to the university’s most recently published student profile fact sheet for the 2016-17 academic year. Furthermore, there are 20 percent fewer women than men working toward doctorates at Yale.

Even after graduation, there is a clear gender wage gap, despite the sample pool having the same degrees from the same institutions. A Forbes study of the gender wage gap for new graduates published last year reported that “the average male in [the] study is earning $59,000, while the average female is earning 19 percent less with a salary of $48,000.”

At its core, academia is nowhere near closing the gender gap, and to get rid of these initiatives would hurt progress towards equality. Every dean and department chair of Yale School of Engineering and Applied Science are male. Yale’s department of mathematics consists of only one female faculty member.

Women are still underrepresented in leadership positions and roles in which they can take advantage of resources that are available to the entire student body. The initiatives Pekgoz takes issue with provide various scholarships and resources to women — much needed opportunities to get their feet in the door.

“I oppose feminism in colleges because women often have special privileges in academia that men do not have,” Pekgoz said in an interview with Refinery29. “That’s probably why male enrollment is so low.”

Feminism is a call for equality, and these “special privileges” Pekgoz wants to eliminate are steps towards equality, not away from it. In our patriarchal society, opportunities for women can be far and few in between, and these initiatives and programs level the field for women to enter academia and bring higher education closer to equality.