While discussing the Confidence Gap, the NJBIZ staff asked: Would female perspectives differ depending on the demographics of the universities and colleges they attended?
For example, would young women who chose to attend a predominantly female college be bolder?
Would young women who chose a predominantly male college feel more hesitant?
What about young women at one of the largest co-ed universities in the state — would they notice a gender gap?
So NJBIZ reached out to nine millennial women at three very different institutions to get their perspectives on the gender gap and whether or not it impacted their self-efficacy:
The overall consensus? Good thing these talented, young women are representative of the next business leaders in line — regardless of demographics in higher education, each of them is confident in her academic, leadership and social abilities.
NJBIZ: Do you believe that your generation still has a gender gap?
Sahitya Allam: I think the gender gap has been bridged to an extent in my generation, because a woman’s role in society is no longer perceived as just taking care of the home and children. Women are seen as valuable contributors to various job sectors, including those in which men were once dominant. However, there is still a persistent gender gap in certain fields, such as engineering, that can easily be seen by the number of women who major in engineering disciplines at universities across the country.
NJBIZ: So, then, did the gender gap influence your choice in your school or your major?
Gabriela Lugo: My original plan was to study mathematics and become an engineer, but the gender gap did not influence my choice to change majors. … Man or woman, no matter the pay or ratio, it is a great feeling for anyone to give your time to someone else and be a positive light for them.
Olufeoluwa “Lulu” Akeredolu: I grew up with two brothers, so I always had the mentality that what they could do, I could do also. When I decided on my career path, I was taking into consideration my own strengths and weaknesses, not societal issues like the gender gap.
Theresa Wagner: I knew that, as an electrical engineer, I would be with a very low number of females (at NJIT) — I was used to having project teams with myself as the only female.
Sarah Haycock: I was going to go where I wanted, to the school that was going to fit me best, so the gender ratio was not of any concern. I actually almost went to an all-girls school that promoted the idea of women being leaders, but I decided to study teaching at Montclair.
NJBIZ: What’s it like going to class — do you ever notice gender disparities?
Alexis Lerner: I attended a co-ed high school, so transitioning to an all-women’s college was a huge change. I can focus more on my academics. The atmosphere of an all-women’s college is far different because there is no fear of the ability to speak your mind.
Wagner: In the freshman class alone, I am one of approximately eight females in the electrical and computer engineering department out of approximately 150, and I am the only one studying electrical engineering.
NJBIZ: It seems like you’re all pretty confident in your abilities. Are any of you planning to be a leader or business owner in your career?
Hayley Holzhacker: I am pursuing higher education with the goal to gain experience and exposure in the business world. Currently, I am already the founder and owner of a business. I run my own pony party business with my miniature horses. I had to negotiate with the Town zoning board committee in order to be approved to have my small miniature horses on our property. The chairman said to me, ‘If all of the lawyers that come in here with a building proposal were half as prepared as you were, I would approve them instantly!’
Akeredolu: I want to go into public health and I plan to be the best at what I do — I want to be a force to be reckoned with in my field. I want to be a leader because I believe whatever is worth doing is worth doing well. It’s important to aspire to greatness.
Ashley Zahabian: I work daily to transform my passion for motivational and public speaking into a career. It’s true, many will agree that a female’s voice isn’t as convincing or as powerful as a man’s, but I ignore stigmas and don’t mind proving them wrong.
NJBIZ: With such promising and eventful futures, how do you intend — or do you — to balance work and family?
Lerner: It will definitely be difficult to balance both family and work. But as I start a family, the ‘job’ of having to take care of my family will not be put on me alone. I will need to create a supportive system with my family that will allow myself to live a successful and happy life.
Allam: Coming from an Indian family with very traditional values, I know that I am expected to get married and start a family of my own in the future. I am hoping that I’ll be able to have flexible work hours in order to spend more time taking care of my family if need be, but based on the types of careers I am interested in, I am not too sure this will be the case. I expect my future husband to take on some of the burden so that the entire load is not pushed on me.
Akeredolu: In Nigeria, where I am from, having a family is one of the greatest achievements for a female; but moving here, I’ve learned that each woman has a different path in life. I’ve learned that as you climb the ladder in your career, you are sometimes going to have to give up some things. I want to go as far as I can in the health industry, but I also want to have a family — and I am only going to make my family as large as I think I could handle.
NJBIZ: Speaking of family, how do you think the business world is different for you now than it was for your mom?
Lerner: My mom had me at a very young age and she decided that she would give up her career path to become a stay-at-home mom. Although she was very happy to have brought me into this life, she will always have the regret of not being able to go back to school. She did not have the capability of balancing both work and family because it was quite stressful.
Eunice Choe: Females were (and still are in some parts of the world) categorized into restrictive, and possibly demeaning, positions. These generalizations have restricted females in previous generations from practicing their leadership to benefit the community. However, the statistics prove that the effectiveness in promoting equal opportunities for both genders on the field has had a huge impact.”
Allam: I don’t believe my mom ever envisioned seeing this many women take on business and leadership roles. … (In India), if women pursued an education and had a job, they were still expected to take care of all the duties at home without any assistance from their husbands. For that reason, my mom still finds it highly improbable that a woman can maintain a business and her family at the same time.
A look at our participants and their schools
College of St. Elizabeth, Morristown
Student population: approx. 1,500; female student body: 88%; male student body: 12%
- Hayley Holzhacker, 19, business
- Alexis Lerner, 19, early childhood education and music therapy
- Gabriela Lugo, 18, psychology
New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark
Student population: approx. 10,000; female student body: 25%; male student body: 75%
- Olufeoluwa “Lulu” Akeredolu, 18, biochemistry
- Sahitya Allam, 18, biomedical engineering and accelerated medicine
- Theresa Wagner, 19, electrical engineering
Montclair State University, Montclair
Student population: approx. 19,500; female student body: 63%; male student body: 37%
- Eunice Choe, 21, business administration management
- Sarah Haycock, 20, undeclared (leaning toward family and child studies)
- Ashley Zahabian, 20, business with concentration in economics and entrepreneurship