By Christine Nappi, Senior Writer
Women’s involvement on campus is higher than their male counterparts– despite the college’s male-dominant gender ratio.
According to the manhattan.edu facts and stats page, 54 percent of the 3,894 undergraduate students are male, and 46 percent are female, which places Manhattan College in a unique position. Compared to the national average for the 2020-21 academic year, 59.9 percent of college students are female and 40.5 percent are male, as per data from the National Student Clearinghouse research group.
Although Manhattan has more male students, a statistic that is seemingly uncommon compared to national reports, women still continue to thrive on campus. More women than men on campus are leading clubs, getting involved, and spearheading change, even though they are outnumbered.
Sharon Ortega, the assistant director of student engagement, notes how there are 1,821 students involved in a club, with 648 of them being active club leaders. Of this number, 64 percent of current club presidents are female and 52 percent of current club vice presidents are also female. During her time here, Ortega has seen an increase in female involvement and finds that it’s increased feelings of inclusivity on campus.
“Women have an amazing presence on campus,” Ortega wrote in an email to The Quadrangle. “As a female, it’s a very proud thing for me. I’ve been at Manhattan College for close to ten years and I’ve definitely seen an increase in female club leaders on campus, so I’m confident that we’re moving in the right direction.”
Ortega describes that a number of clubs on campus are working to empower women and help them succeed, such as Women in Business, the Society of Women Engineers, Women in STEM, Sigma Delta Tau, Alpha Pi Phi, the Rainbow Jaspers and Student Government.
One organization on campus that advocates for women is the Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center. The center advocates for intersectional feminism and social justice and is a welcoming space for all members of campus to go to.
Gabriela Sandoval, a sophomore international studies major, is a gender justice advocate in the LWGRC. She’s been working at the center since February 2021 and finds that it is an essential part of campus life. As she notes, the LWGRC acts as a safe space for every different type of self-identifying woman.
“I think the LWGRC overall is literally the best place ever, in so many ways, ” Sandoval said. “We help women, we act as a safe space for them, a place for them to reach out for guidance, for mentorship. There are so many opportunities for women to speak out, to learn. In so many ways the LWGRC is a very comforting place for women and has helped a lot of women in so many different ways.”
The center was founded in the fall of 2016. It’s establishment was spearheaded by a group of students who were passionate about rethinking consent, sex, and gender on campus, and wanted to provide tools of support for students. Associate professor of philosophy, Jordan Pascoe, Ph.D., helped these students organize plans for the center and ensured that their voices were heard in this process.
Pascoe describes that the college was a male-only institution until 1974 and the integration of women into the college was slow. As Pascoe notes, the college simply enrolled women with the assumption of equality without rethinking how everything operates. Due to this, the college’s policies needed to be updated overtime, and the LWGRC became a driving source in advocating for change and justice.
“A lot of [the LWGRC’s] early work was really looking at the college’s mission, at the college’s policies,” Pascoe said. “We went back and looked at climate reports on gender going all the way back to the 80s to look at what kinds of inequities people had identified over the course of several decades to look at what policies have been implemented to address those. We needed to kind of rethink some of the ways that our mission applied to these questions and we needed to rethink policies… and the college sort of decided it needed to take a more systemic approach to solving it.”
Pascoe describes how today the LWGRC examines what structures maintain male domination, and works to revise those structures and champion diversity. In Pascoe’s experience, she finds the college to be extremely supportive in these initiatives and making change.
“I think that one of the core projects of the LWGRC is organizing in order to see what established systems don’t see that maintain these patterns of male domination, whether its structures that oppress women and people of color, or its simple keeping the numbers of men really high on campus or high in particular fields,” Pascoe said. “I think the current center is doing an amazing job of thinking about including diverse student groups and conversations with different languages and so on and so forth. I think there’s a distinction between saying that fighting against male domination is really hard at the college and saying that seeing the sources of domination are really hard and then actually what can articulate them.”
Sandoval finds that the center has been successful with this initiative, and is one of the many organizations on campus that helps empower women and provides them with opportunities.
“I know a lot of women are very active on campus, and this just goes to show even though like we are a male dominated campus, women are just as hard working,” Sandoval said. “I’ve never felt as if I couldn’t achieve something because I was a woman. I’ve gotten like endless opportunities here, the same as a man, and I’ve progressed even further than my male classmates. So I think [Manhattan College] cultivates a really strong empowering energy to women on campus.”
The Society of Women Engineers, better known as SWE, is a club in particular that advocates for women in engineering, a stereotypically male-dominated field and one of the most popular areas of study at the college. Senior civil engineering majors Ashley Hickey and Helena Lippolis, the current president and vice president of SWE, describe how the organization serves as a fun and safe environment for female engineers across all concentrations to support each other both in and out of the classroom.
“Once you’re part of SWE [and] go to classes, you’ll see other members and I feel like thats a nice, important thing,” Lippolis said. “Sometimes theres classes where you are like one of five girls, so it’s nice to have the support inside the classroom.”
Echoing Lippolis, Hickey describes that being outnumbered by her male counterparts doesn’t negatively impact her, but is something to get adjusted to when entering the engineering program. Although she describes the men in the program to be welcoming and supportive, she hopes more females are represented in the field in the future.
“Some classes you have like a handful of girls in, like my sophomore year, I had the first class that I was the only girl and it is sort of intimidating like when people pick first you may not be someone that the guys pick first,” Hickey said. “So, it’s definitely nice to have more equal representation and I hope that someday we get there.”
Although Hickey and Lippolis describe how women engineers may feel outnumbered at times, they also describe how men in the engineering department are supportive and are allies of women’s empowerment. Whether it be their male professors or classmates, the department wants the best for them.
One organization that advocates for women’s success is He for SWE, a subsidiary of SWE. He for SWE consists of all male engineers who practice allyship for their female classmates and advocate for the inclusion of women in engineering.
Jimmy Frawley, a senior civil engineering major and co-president of He for SWE, describes how the organization brings attention to women in engineering, and encourages them to stay and succeed in the field. He finds that He for SWE is important to have at Manhattan because the college is male dominated, unlike the rest of the country, and has a popular engineering program.
“I think He for Swe is really just bringing more attention to [women in engineering],” Frawley said. “We are a much more male dominated school and the country has more women in college, so I think part of it is because we are an engineering school, typically. So there’s just more men and if we could talk about it more, shed light on it.”
Despite being outnumbered in the classroom at times, Hickey describes that that’s not the case when it comes to women’s involvement on campus. As she’s noticed, women-led clubs appear to be a “natural thing” on campus.
“I definitely feel like most of the clubs are mainly women-run, woman-involved, and I feel like that’s probably just like a natural sort of leader thing,” Hickey said. “We definitely have a good amount of males that are smart and I don’t know, maybe just not as driven to like make change as the females are, but it’s definitely super inspiring.”
Lippolis agrees but also finds that the specific reason women are more active on campus is because of a subconscious feeling for women to prove themselves to others.
“Sometimes women are more driven or people like to say they’ll care more about their classes and like that, but also maybe subconsciously… you feel more like you have to prove yourself sometimes because you are a female in that role and you do want to show how you can achieve all these things and also handle running events for clubs and like things like that. So it might also just be like wanting to put your best foot forward because you know that you’re in like a male-dominated industry.”
Senior finance and marketing major Sarah Dziewit is one of the many female club leaders on campus. As the President of the Investment Club, Dziewit leads a team of 40 students as they manage a real-time, real-money investment portfolio of $90,000.
Similar to Hickey and Lippolis, Dziewit describes being one of only a few females in her finance classes and has felt outnumbered.
“At my 9am class, I’m one of two girls and you definitely feel the pressure, sort of all eyes are on you if you’re answering a question,” Dziewit said. “It’s like ‘oh my God, like she actually knows finance.’ So there’s been little instances along the way where it’s like ‘whoa she’s a girl in finance’ where you definitely feel singled out.”
Although Dziewit describes that the Investment Club has a tremendous amount of male members over female ones. Although intimidated, she says that that didn’t stop her from joining. Coming into college, Dziewit didn’t know much about finance, but the current members of the club encouraged her to join and made her feel included. As she says, the club works on four investment pitches a year, so team camaraderie makes students feel welcomed regardless of their gender.
In the club’s 15-year history, Dziewit is only the second female president. Since her freshman year, she’s been one out of five women who are active in the club, but since becoming president, she’s advocated for more gender equality in finance and encouraged more women to join. She finds that her position as president can inspire more women to get involved in finance.
“My advisor Professor Annabi is always saying ‘you’re leaving a legacy by being the second woman to lead this club,’” Dziewit said. “And it’s always been important to me just because I felt so minority-like my whole four years, like I want the future girls of the club to take charge and to hold more positions of power. I hope in the future there will be more female presidents… if it inspires any girl that has zero investment knowledge but just wants to learn more about it, that’s all I had hoped for.”
As president, Dziewit often communicates with other club leaders in the School of Business. As she describes, the women in the school of business are extremely active and in charge of many initiatives, despite being outnumbered by men.
“You will see that the women on the executive boards are the ones absolutely taking charge, communicating with each other, getting the nitty-gritty stuff done than makes the club function,” Dwiewit said. “I think that despite the amount of men in finance that we have and the men in the business school, the women are the ones that are standing out [and] getting the awards, leading our events and things like that.”
Another organization on campus that has a large amount of female involvement is the student government. Of the nine executive committee members, six of them are women.
One of these members is Liola Moody, a senior political science and international studies major, who serves as the executive vice president. Although Moody is an active member of campus life alongside other women, she had some apprehensions when coming to Manhattan, given that it was an all male college until 1973 and since then has remained male-dominant.
She describes how as a new student in the political science department, male professors and classmates were a bit tougher and combative when she’d answer questions.
“Especially in the beginning [of college, guys] were just the first to raise their hand, were the first to participate, had the loudest opinions, the most likely to combat you when you gave your own opinion or your own analysis or something,” Moody said. “As I grew personally more confident within my field, I started to speak up more and kind of like get combative, but I would say that I’ve definitely noticed that the male students are more likely to kind of jump on an answer.”
Like Hickey, Lippolis and Dziewit, Moody has found that despite classroom experiences, women are still eager to get involved on campus and be active members of the community.
“I do kind of feel like women are a little bit more inclined to get involved on campus, just from what I’ve noticed,” Moody said. “I just kind of noticed there is definitely a consistent pattern of female leaders on our campus and I think that while there definitely some fantastic male leaders, it’s just kind of like a natural thing.”
Moody notes that women have been encouraged to get involved on campus because other female leaders inspired them to do so. Moody herself had wanted to become executive vice president of the student body after watching a fellow female student hold the position, and was inspired to follow in her footsteps. She also finds that Pascoe and the work done by the LWGRC empowers women to use their voice on campus.
“ I think are the women in positions of power who have really made it possible for students to kind of like follow that lead and be able to like also find their own voice that way,” Moody said.
However, Moody also finds that there is always room for improvement with women’s inclusion and involvement on campus. She finds that this generation naturally thinks more inclusively but encourages different clubs, organizations, and the school as a whole could focus more on all types of women’s empowerment.
“I do think that we could definitely focus a little bit more on women’s issues and kind of just making sure that we’re adhering to that,” Moody said. “We can always have more female voices. We can always have more female black voices, more female Asian voices, more female Hispanic voices. It shouldn’t just be female. I think we have a great platform to start on but I think we can do so much more, and I expect a lot more.”
Although Moody finds campus can be doing a lot more for all women, she finds that the college is already headed a step in the right direction. Moody describes how seeing the accomplishments of her fellow female peers, whether they be club leaders or influencing change, makes her feel proud and inspired.
“Every single time that I hear or see a woman on campus, like a female student on campus doing something for our campus, doing something for themselves, I always feel really overwhelmingly proud,” Moody said. “I think it’s so amazing.”