Women study abroad in much higher numbers than men — and a new study may help explain why.
According to researchers at the University of Iowa, the study abroad gender gap is a result of the different ways men and women are influenced by their environments and backgrounds. And while this reported gender gap seems to be true at Penn, International Programs officials say the reasons for it may be different than on other college campuses.
The study found that women are primarily influenced in their intentions to study abroad by their academic environment and authoritative figures such as parents and professors.
Men, on the other hand, are influenced by their experiences and social environments.
Researchers came to this conclusion after finding that men who interacted more with their peers were not as likely to study abroad, while these social influences did not have the same effect on women.
The study also found that women who took classes on human diversity were more likely to express interest in study abroad, while these classes did not make men more interested in studying abroad.
These findings could help explain the reason that women are more likely to participate in study abroad programs across colleges and universities.
According to the most recent report published by the Institute of International Education, 65.1 percent of study abroad participants in the 2008-2009 academic year were women, while only 34.9 percent were men.
At Penn, this trend seems to hold true as well. According to Office of International Programs Executive Director Anne Waters, 61 percent of study abroad participants in the last four years have been women, while only 39 percent of participants have been men.
But Waters said this gap in gender participation for Penn students is likely linked “far more closely to the academic choices and career aspirations that affect men and women differently.”
Some Penn majors that are more male-concentrated, such as engineering, mathematics and some of the sciences, have a strict sequence of courses that make students think it is harder to study abroad, Waters said.
According to statistics on the Penn Engineering web site, just 37 percent of students in the engineering school Class of 2012 are women.
Waters said she also disagrees that Penn women are more influenced by authoritative figures than men in their intent to study abroad.
“Women at Penn are far more independent, academic and entrepreneurially focused,” Waters said. “There is a stronger bias in terms of academic major and departments encouragement of study abroad.”
According to Waters, established Penn abroad programs that also include Wharton participation, such as University of New South Wales and Leuven, show the highest enrollment of men and are generally balanced by gender.Comments powered by Disqus
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