Noelle Ullery is a first-year economics and English double major. She is a staff writer for the Newswire from St. Louis
As a second installation of the gender breakdown series in the business school, I conducted some interviews that offered professor and student opinions regarding gender inequality. They also revealed what Xavier is doing to improve it.
First, I interviewed junior Abby Connaughton, who is a marketing major and part of Delta Sigma Pi, the business fraternity on campus.
When asked if she has been treated differently because she was a woman, she said, “I believe that Xavier does a really good job in being inclusive towards women. But, in regards to the business school, sometimes I feel that I have the shorter end of the stick.”
The presence of men is evident, and while it affects participation in the classroom, it does not always correlate positively with academic performance.
Accounting professor Cam Cockrell explained, “When a student completely vanishes from one of my classes, it is almost always a male student. I do not have a good sense of why that is.”
There is a concept that vocal participation connects to academic success, as it is often a sign of a good student. Because of the male presence, men tend to participate more than women and therefore be better students. Yet, this does not seem to be the case in Cockrell’s experience.
Cockrell stated, “Women students tend to do better in my courses than men do – on average.”
It is uncertain why that is, but it raises the question on why women are still considered less, even though they may do better in business classes like accounting.
Connaughton said, “Men can have the mentality that they are capable of anything, so I do not always feel comfortable inserting myself, despite being relatively confident in myself.”
The male presence is associated with power and dominance, but, it also plays into the stereotype that women are non-confrontational and gentle.
There is a notion that women must present a certain physique or perfect look that makes them qualified for their job. Even if women are included in higher business positions, they are not necessarily treated respectfully.
For instance, Amy Van Horn was in the corporate and privatized world before coming to Xavier as a marketing professor. She once led a financial meeting as the district manager of a flourishing healthcare company. One of the doctors made a comment in front of her staff that implied she was incapable of conducting a meeting without her “full face” on.
Van Horn also shared that all of the classes she has and currently teaches have more men than women.
“The deck is stacked against women to emerge as business leaders, so that dynamic still has lots of room for improvement,” she said.
Women are being treated as less because there is a stigma associated with women in business. There is still a generalized belief that they are not strong enough to handle tough decisions or the workload.
“I do think there are people that assume women and minority students are somehow less capable of being or less likely to be successful,” Cockrell said.
So, what is Xavier doing to narrow the gender inequality? With enough funding, it will open its first Center for Women in Business. It is meant to encourage women to go into business through sponsorship and mentorship opportunities, speaker events, networking and training.
Ellen Hurst, the future head of the center, explained that it is created with the intention to educate young girls about the business field and give them a vision.
“You should not limit yourself to a box because it is important to follow your passion to make the right decision,” she said.
The Williams College of Business wants to reach out with the hopes that it will improve the imbalance of genders in the school. Research shows that women tend to select into majors that utilize skills to help others.
The program allows women to share their voice, which is important. Not everyone will agree, especially once one is in the real world.
But to Hurst, that’s not the end goal.
Diversity and inclusivity is necessary for any successful organization. So while this is focused for women, it will still involve all genders. There should always be a variety of people to improve issues because it avoids polarization and instead forms a united community.