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Wharton junior Jennifer Knesbach in front of Huntsman Hall, where many of her classes include mostly male peers.

Photo: Sophia Lee

Despite significant gender disparities across majors, many Penn students are unintimidated to study certain fields.

Many majors and concentrations at Penn in STEM and business, such as finance, accounting, physics, computer science and mathematics are particularly male-dominated.

Female students are aware of the gap, which is visible not just in the data, but in classrooms.

“There will definitely be more guys than girls in a physics class,” Engineering sophomore Shritama Ray said.

“In class, it’s a fourth girls and three quarters male," College and Wharton junior Jennifer Kneshbach said. “I notice it a lot in upper level finance classes.”

The reasons for these gender disparities are unclear. “I think what's different is that a lot of girls don’t think about going into engineering,” Engineering sophomore Allison Schwartz said.

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Photo By Sophia Lee

Engineering sophomore Shritama Ray notes that despite being in a male-dominated major, overall the department has "a very healthy atmosphere." 

However, the gender gap doesn’t necessarily affect students’ experiences.

“I don’t care; [the gender disparity] doesn’t bother me. The only thing that bothers me is if you treat me different, and I haven’t experienced that before at Penn," Wharton sophomore Samantha Shea said. “I know some girls that are bothered by it, but I know girls that have my viewpoint as well.”

Sometimes students even feel that there is more scrutiny from outside their major or school and that the gender gap is really no big deal and doesn't affect their Penn experience.

“I’ve never felt inferior because I’m a woman. I think it's very exciting to be a woman in the engineering school, and I think it's exciting to be an engineer," Ray said. “Overall it's a very healthy atmosphere.”

Students also feel that the effects of the gender gap are more implicit, from discouraging girls from studying a particular subject to simple observation of demographics.

“When I work with people, most of my friends in engineering tend to be guys. Most of my professors tend to be guys,” Schwartz said.

"If [women] are not risk takers or very independent and willing to do whatever it takes to be successful, it might be a little discouraging — you have to be a certain type of person,” Ray continued. 

Students are aware that even if the effects of gender gaps aren't tangible on campus, the consequences of more prominent gender gaps in the workforce are on students' minds. The collaborative, intermingled nature of a college campus masks many of the effects of the ratio difference.

“I think it's more tangible when you get into the workplace,” Schwartz said. “I think there's a very conscious effort to change that.”

“I think the jobs are going to go to who deserves it," Knesbach said, "and who's the most qualified for it."

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