By Lilyen McCarthy
Enrollment in different majors at Adelphi tends to follow gender stereotypes seen in higher education for decades. Majors leading to careers of nurture like nursing, psychology, social work and communication disorders have a much higher female enrollment. Fields that have been seen as conventionally more masculine such as business and related majors, sports management and computer science, also have a higher male enrollment at Adelphi. The discrepancy seems striking, but the statistics for the top 20 majors for the 2021-2022 support these stereotypes. Males are more than 50 percent of enrollment for 8 out of the 20 majors, according to a report provided to The Delphian by the Office of Admissions.
The top 10 majors (in order) at Adelphi as of this academic year are nursing, psychology, biology, computer science, exercise science, management, social work, finance, accounting and physical education. Out of these, only exercise science and physical education have a relatively even ratio of students with a split of 49 percent male to 51 percent female for the former, and 58 to 42 percent male-to-female in the latter. But the computer science program has 173 male students versus 43 female students. Nursing has 1,461 women compared to 238 men. Psychology is also a female-dominated field, with a 16 percent male to 84 percent female ratio. In contrast, men dominate both finance and accounting. Finance has 68 percent male students versus 32 percent female and accounting has 69 percent to 31 percent. For an even greater discrepancy, the number 14 major, communication disorders, is a class that is 99 percent female.
So what is the university doing to balance these numbers?
Christopher Storm, provost and executive vice president, described recruiting students to Adelphi. “Recruitment as a whole is pretty consistent across the board,” he said. “The university focuses on our location close to New York City and strong staff mentorship. Staff also comes up with videos like ‘Why computer science at Adelphi?’ or ‘Why business at Adelphi?’ and so on.”
When it comes to recruiting specific demographics like major or gender, the strategies become more specific. Storm said the administration is proactive about the imbalances.
“Adelphi is aware of numbers nationally and regionally. We’re looking for opportunities to represent the underrepresented groups and help them. Statistics don’t necessarily reflect the whole picture,” Storm said.
Some of the changes reflect smaller details, such as staff going on diversity walks, noticing a “Men of Modern Mathematics” poster in a classroom and quickly changing it. Bigger picture moves include the STEP program for teaching, adding it as an option to the math major, and looking to recruit women to the field. The university partners with Women Who Code and its younger age group, Girls Who Code, to reach girls and women interested in computer science earlier and earlier. Kristen Capezza, vice president for enrollment and university communications, described this partnership further.
“Women Who Code helps us engage with high school computer science programs and gives us a chance to advertise nationally,” she said. “On occasion, we can speak to students directly.”
She added that the Women’s Leadership Conference held in March featured successful businesswomen as a strategy to recruit women and/or women in business.
Even so, there are still some classes where those who identify as female are outnumbered, which junior computer science major Kaitlyn Torres noted. “I don’t meet a lot of girls in my department when there’s maybe three or four in a class, at most, including me. I have actually been the only girl in a class before.”
Torres initially came to Adelphi and committed to the women’s soccer team, planning to major in exercise science and go on the road to being a physical therapist. After a career-ending injury, she couldn’t play soccer anymore, and thinking about physical therapy was too hard. She said she recognized that technology and everything to do with computers was “the next big thing,” and decided to enter Adelphi’s computer science program.
Junior finance major Orel Sims also commented on her program’s opportunities, especially as a woman. She said the Student Investment Fund offers real-life experience for students, something future job prospects will like about a business candidate from Adelphi. The finance department has 72 males versus 34 females, but she’s not concerned about the uneven dynamic.
“Maybe the numbers are uneven now that I think about it, but I guess I never noticed before,” she said. “The other female students in my classes are usually really smart and strong in class, especially in group work.”
Both Sims and Torres mentioned a very close “family-like” environment describing their respective majors. Adelphi’s small campus has given both women the ability to build better relationships with their professors and also classmates in small-group work. While Sims has never taken note of the finance department’s uneven demographic, Torres says it’s hard not to notice being in the minority.
“When I walked through the door, I saw some guys looking at me like, ‘Is she in the right place?’ but they knew I was in the right place when class started,” she said.
Both women expressed an initial discomfort entering a major they didn’t know as much about. Every student in their classes came in with the same entry-level knowledge as Torres and Sims had, so they report the classes being much easier than they originally thought. Torres said she enjoys reflecting on how far she has come, first with no knowledge of coding to now having a significant internship opportunity.
Sims gave a similar reflection to Torres.
“To anyone unsure on whether they want to enter the finance field or any male-dominated field, I would recommend it. I know it can be intimidating, but everyone is learning new concepts, not just you,” said Sims. “Our finance program is great, and I’m sure the other programs are too. Just do it. It’s been amazing.”