Female college students feel less comfortable voicing their opinions

“Allowing students to better understand their unique strengths is the first step in helping them articulate their opinions and needs.”

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A new Gallup survey of over 51,000 recent graduates that earned bachelor’s degrees between 2010 and 2018, found that women are less likely than men to feel comfortable sharing views in the classroom that may conflict with their peers’ opinions.

Stephanie Marken, who co-authored the report, titled, Inclusive Environments Produce Attached Alumni, explained further to InsiderHighED, “Many believe these differences are cultural and will take time to break, but if any organization or institution can do so, it’s an inclusive higher education institution that embraces what is unique and allows students to bring their whole selves to their educational experiences.”


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The irony of the  college gender gap

Marken went on to stress the importance of fostering a thriving campus where students feel engaged, as college seems to be paying the most, for our shared fear of having “bad opinions.” The study’s co-author, Tom Matson added, “Allowing students to better understand their unique strengths is the first step in helping them articulate their opinions and needs.”

Both authors noted the irony of the findings explored in their study against the previously observed gender gap that defines most college campuses in the US. Despite the fact that more women receive higher education than men, when asked on a scale of one to five, regarding whether or not they felt comfortable expressing ideas believed to be held by a minority, one meaning they strongly  disagreed that they felt comfortable enough sharing this viewpoint and five meaning they strongly agreed with the statement even if it meant they were in the minority, about 58% of female graduates suggested they were confidently sharing a minority opinion. They gave either a four or a five on the survey and 68% of men mirrored this figure.

Gallup conducted further research in order to determine if race played a role in these numbers. but found no discernible discrepancy. White and black respondents rated just about the same. A modest 14% of all graduates surveyed answered either a one or a two.  Eleven percent of female graduates answered two, compared to the 5% of male participants that responded in this way.

The freer a student felt to speak honestly, the greater the emotional attainment said student felt to their respective university. To this, the authors remark that it is in an intuition’s best interest to foster an environment conducive to comfortable discourse,  as an active alumnus is much more likely to donate later on in life.


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CW Headley|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at cheadley@theladders.com.