David Wippman.

Worries about a gender gap on campuses oversimplify the situation,” an essay co-authored by President David Wippman in The Washington Post, provided an overview of women’s participation in higher education beginning in the colonial period.

“’In what may turn out to be one of the most transformative trends of our time,’ women now constitute over 59 percent of undergraduate students,” wrote Wippman and his co-author, Cornell Professor Glenn Altschuler. The writers noted that “it should not be surprising that some commentators view their increasing enrollment as a problem.”

The degree of women’s engagement in education, as chronicled by the authors, has been affected by the perceived need for an educated citizenry, the concern that educated women would “neglect their families and domestic duties,” the effects of war, the demand for school teachers, and the economic strain of the Great Depression, among other issues.

In concluding their July 26 op-ed, the authors wrote, “The gender gap in college and university enrollments, then, is a multifaceted issue. It should not be addressed, as it has been in the past, simply by reducing the percentage of female undergraduates.

“A more just approach would reduce the barriers to entry facing women and men who would benefit from a college education — and seek to confront the inequities women continue to face after college.”

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