Truett Cates from Austin College, Texas noticed the brochures provided by different institutions for studying abroad had almost all women pictured in them. When he questioned the universities on why that was the case, they answered it was a marketing decision; that’s who their customers are.
Regardless of the university, the field of study or even the nationality of women, in higher education, they outnumber men. Women are also less likely to drop out and, in recent years, they outnumber men when studying abroad as well.
For instance, at the University of Florida in 2007-8, 1,408 women went abroad, and 814 men, out of a total of 2,222. In Europe, when looking at the Erasmus exchange program figures for 2009-2010, around 60% of students in the program were women.
A possible reason is that degrees such as engineering, science or mathematics, structured fields that make the study off-campus more complicated, tend to be dominated by men. While women opt for liberal arts, teaching or languages.
The truth is that, even in the domains of engineering or science where women tend to be underrepresented, more women than men go abroad to complete their studies.
“To some degree, it can’t just be the curriculum,” William Hoffa, an independent practitioner in study abroad, told Inside Higher Ed.
And according to what Jill McKinney, associate director of the Center for Global Education at Butler University says, Hoffa might be right, “The three main factors (why more women study abroad) I found during my research, were motherhood, age and safety”.
When women choose to study abroad, many of them state that someday, if they have a family it will complicate their opportunities to travel or develop their careers internationally.
Also, men are more likely to travel alone in adventurous ways while women, often, feel safer if they go to another country as part of a group or organised program.
Universities should start considering ways of encouraging male students to take study abroad opportunities. As well as being a great chance to experience another culture and language, companies hiring graduates are increasingly looking for “global minded” candidates. Those which have lived, worked or studied abroad will help satisfy this criteria.