Jackie Steele/Mustang News

Not only are women affected by numbers in the workforce and in universities, but they also feel the effects of larger issues within the United States labor system, said Kat Beglin, a graduate student assistant at the Cal Poly Gender Equity Center.

The Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship recently selected three Cal Poly professors as Coleman Fellows, each who will lead projects in the male-dominated field of entrepreneurship.

All three of the professors are women.

In recent years, the United States has seen an increase in the number of women in the workforce. According to the United States’ Department of Labor and the Census Bureau, women account for 47 percent of the workforce, compared to just 30 percent in 1950.

Women make up just 14 percent of architects and engineers, which is also reflected at Cal Poly, with a noticeably smaller population of female students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“There are definite gender expectations that pressure men to go into fields where they are likely to be the breadwinner, and women where they will play more of a supporting role,” said Charlotte Rinaldi, a career counselor for the College of Architecture.

In contrast to the small number of more technically focused women in the workforce, women make up 82 percent of elementary and middle school teachers.

“Based on how we are raised in society, women are more relationship focused, while men are more achievement oriented,” Rinaldi said.

In 2012, women made up just 18.5 percent of the 5411 students in the College of Engineering.

“I definitely feel that I am the minority in my math and physics classes,” civil engineering freshman Jennifer Laybourn said. “It’s intimidating, and makes me feel like I have to work harder to keep up with male students because there are so many compared to the number of females.”

Not only are women affected by numbers in the workforce and in universities, but they also feel the effects of larger issues within the United States labor system, said Kat Beglin, a graduate student assistant at the Cal Poly Gender Equity Center.

“Because of the lack of the option for paternity leave in many cases, it usually falls on the woman to sacrifice work in order to take care of the family,” Beglin said. “Many women may feel like they have to choose what’s important to them, rather than having the ability to have both a family and career.”

Often discussed nationwide is the discrepancy in pay between male and female workers. According to a 2012 U.S. Census Bureau report, women earn on average 77 cents for every dollar a man in the same position earns.

“Women are also less likely to negotiate their salaries, which puts them behind from the start,” Rinaldi said.

In addition to these obvious challenges, the issue of appearance and body language in the workplace can also impact professional situations for women.

“If you’re wearing a suit or pants and a shirt, you have more freedom in your body movement, and you can have a more assertive stance,” Beglin said. “If you’re a woman in a business skirt, you don’t have that freedom to move around, and can feel restricted, which can translate into your behavior and actions.”

As far as solutions to gender discrepancies in the workforce go, it’s clear that progress that has already been made can still be improved upon, Beglin said.

“Things are definitely changing, people are talking about it and society is making progress, but it will have to be gradual,” Beglin said. “It’s up to society and the everyman to make the movement go forward. Because it’s not the norm yet, it takes extra effort to make that change.”

The role of education also plays a factor in enhancing perspective when it comes to gender in the workplace, giving students the opportunity to see things differently.

“It is the responsibility of universities (to) help men and women be open-minded, see possibilities for all people without consideration of gender or ethnicity,” Rinaldi said. “Ideally, more people will do what they aspire to, and not what’s expected of them.”

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