KC Wednesday: Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? A Look at Male Student Involvement
This KC Wednesday installment comes to us from the Student Leadership Programs Knowledge Community and is written by Kim Piatt, Coordinator of Leadership Development at The College at Brockport and Region II’s representative to the Knowledge Community.
Utilizing the Research of Maria Chang, former Graduate Assistant for Leadership Development
All over the country, I am hearing from colleagues in leadership development and student activities that they are struggling to achieve gender balance. We are seeing a significant difference between the number of females becoming involved when compared to the number of males. Now we are not only seeing a decreased population of men within higher education, but of those attending college, fewer and fewer choose to participate in clubs, organizations, leadership programs and even honor societies. In the Spring 2012 semester, Maria Chang, Graduate Assistant for the Leadership Development Program at the College at Brockport, completed her master’s thesis “Apathetic or Disinterested College Men: Exploring Factors affecting Low Male Involvement in the Leadership Development Program.”
In her research, Chang found that gender norms, or what are considered to be “traditional gender roles” played a large factor. A program that focuses on social change, rather than positional leadership, tends to entice female students who prefer to work cooperatively, rather than competitively. Similarly, programs designed to promote social interaction and personal growth may not be as attractive to male students who would prefer to focus on skill development and career preparation. Finally, when it came to students influencing other students, male participants found it difficult to “bring their friends along,” while female students are inclined to sign up and complete the program with friends.
As a result, at The College at Brockport, we have implemented the following strategies to recruit and retain male participants in our structured Leadership Development Program:
- Advertisements that emphasize the impact involvement in the program can have on a future career
- Utilization of male junior and senior role models to articulate the benefits of the program to freshmen and sophomore students
- Emphasis on the competitiveness and prestige of the program. While any student can participate in the initial certificate, only those students who are truly dedicated will make it all the way to the final Capstone certificate.
- Matching of male students to male mentors, particularly with connection to major
Time will tell if these strategies are successful, but for now, the struggle to draw in the Y Factor continues.