AVON PARK — In the late 1960s, when Leana Revell attended college in Texas, there were just three traditional female roles. “You could be a mother, a teacher or a nurse.”
She chose nursing, but college demographics are changing. Now, the vice president for educational and student services at South Florida State College, counts six females for four male students, and they’re enrolled in every possible major.
In 1994, 63 percent of female high school graduates and 61 percent of males enrolled in college, according to the Pew Research Center.
However, by 2012, females outpaced males in college enrollment, especially among Hispanics and blacks. The share of young women enrollees increased to 71 percent, but the number of men stayed at 61 percent.
“So many opportunities have opened up to women since the 1970s,” Revell said. “When I started nursing school, it wasn’t possible at that time to be thinking about going to medical school. Physician, lawyer, dentist, those were male roles; we didn’t have those options. Now, the sky is the limit.”
Latinas are also outpacing Latinos. In 1994, about half of Hispanic male and female grads enrolled in college. Nearly two decades later, college enrollment for both genders improved, but American women outpaced men by 13 percent. At SFSC, female Hispanics outnumber males 55 to 42 percent, according to statistics provided by Chief Information Officer Dr. Christopher van der Kaay.
Black men tell a different story. In 1994, young black men were more likely than young black women to enroll in college immediately after high school. By 2012, the pattern had reversed: The share of black men enrolled in college remained at 48 percent, while the share of black women enrolled in college increased to 69 percent. At SFSC, 19 percent of 2014’s 3,781 students are black women; 15 percent are black men.
The backdrop to these shifts, said the March 6 Pew report, is the changing demographic of public school populations.
In 1994, 65 percent were white; Hispanic, 14 percent; black, 17 percent; Asian American and Native American, 4 percent.
In 2012, 51 percent were white; Hispanic, 25 percent; black, 16 percent; Asian American or Native American, 8 percent.
Scholars offer reasons for the widening gender gap: the American economy, lowered labor-market barriers, the higher incidence of behavioral and school disciplinary problems among boys.
Citing some of these findings, President Obama announced “My Brother’s Keeper,” a new initiative to empower young black and Hispanic men while reducing crime.
Asian American men and women outpace all other groups: more than 80 percent of male and female graduates enroll in college. That’s where SFSC goes against the trend: of the 3,781 students enrolled in 2014, only 34 identified themselves as Asian, American Indian or Alaskan natives.
Community colleges contributed to the rise in women and minorities, Revell said. “They provided access to students who didn’t have access. So did Pell Grants; it became possible for them to go to college.”
Trends continue to change, Revell said. “It’s now become a global world. We’re all out there in the market competing for the same kinds of jobs.”
Males still dominate some disciplines, Revell said: criminal justice, auto mechanics, truck driving.
Women are dominating some formerly male professions though. Most residential real estate agents are women, said Chip Boring, broker at RE/MAX Realty Plus in Sebring. “Women are making the buying decisions.” He’s also seeing more female doctors.
Bloomberg News reported in April that in Asia, three female private bankers manage the money of wealthy clients to every male banker. In the U.S., men outnumber women in the money management field four to one, but more women are seen in community banks.