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While Penn lacks the overall gender disparity that other schools have in their admissions rates, the individual schools at Penn reveal gender gaps. 

Credit: Pat Goodridge

The Washington Post published an article exposing unequal admissions rates between male and female applicants among private universities. Based on 2014 data from the United States Department of Education, however, it seems that Penn does not have such disparity.

According to the 2014 data, 10 percent of 18,286 male applicants were accepted to Penn, and 11 percent of 17,580 female applicants were admitted to Penn, totaling 1,828 male and 1,933 female accepted students.

While overall admissions statistics may not show a gender gap at Penn, students say individual schools have more distinct imbalances in their student bodies and extracurricular activities.

The School of Nursing, for example, has more female students than male students.

Nursing sophomore Sarah Shin expressed her views on the male to female ratio. “I feel like a lot of the applicants are female. That influences the aspect of women versus men. Although, a lot of people in Nursing share that common perception that males have a better chance of getting in. You don’t want to have only girls. You want to have a variety of people. It’s pretty different in Nursing because Nursing is so specialized.”

The School of Engineering and Applied Science, at the other end of the gender spectrum, is predominantly male, with 68 percent male students. This is relevant in the classroom as well as in clubs.

Wharton sophomore Laura Gao elaborated about her experience at the Student Activities Council fair while advertising for the Penn Aerospace Club.

“During the SAC fair, [the president of Penn Aerospace Club] noted that no girls approached the table during the first two hours, but once I joined him at the booth during the final hour, 30 percent of the people who approached us were girls,” Gao said. “By having a more equal representation in the club, we not only address the gender gap but also make sure other girls, especially new freshmen, feel comfortable approaching us and being a part of the teams.”

Gao also finds that this gender disparity is relevant in the Wharton School and its extracurriculars as well.

“It’s not just in Engineering, but also in Wharton Investment Trading Group. That is also very male-dominated and has turned away quite many female friends I have,” Gao said. “They have opted out of Wharton Investment Trading Group and gone to Smart Woman Securities, which is only for girls.”

President of Smart Woman Securities, Wharton senior Samina Hydery explained that SWS connects women with speakers, building an influential community and encouraging them to enter fields that tend to be male-dominated.

“Given my interactions with upperclassmen through Penn SWS, it’s clear we have exceptional and intelligent young women here at Penn. We have made positive strides in closing the gender disparity in the classroom at Wharton,” Hydery said. “I would love to keep this momentum moving forward by seeing more women rise to leadership positions in Wharton organizations and subsequently executive roles in finance and business.”

In the College of Arts and Sciences, on the other hand, students don’t notice any such gender gap.

“I don’t feel any gender discrimination at Penn,” College sophomore Michelle Yom said. “Like the diversity of race at Penn, there seems to be an established balance of genders in the student population.”

While students may perceive gender imbalances in particular schools at Penn, they gave words of wisdom, with hopes to inspire young female applicants to push the limits.

“There is always that stigma that can perpetuate who applies to the school, but it comes down to the basic skills you learn [in Nursing] and how you apply those in the field,” Shin said.

Regardless of the demographic breakdown of groups such as Penn Aerospace Club, Gao encourages women to set the benchmark. “Don’t look too much into who is in the club, but once you put your foot in there, and make sure that you’re determined to keep your foot in there, that sets a precedent for all other girls who will be coming in the next few years,” Gao said. “They will look up to you, and they will feel much more comfortable.”

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