Adam Torkildson | Guest Contributor
According to a recent UVU research study by Stevie Munz and Jessica Pauly, female students expressed uncertainty about their ability to obtain a higher education.
Pauly and Munz presented their research this fall at the Roots of Knowledge lecture series. The study involved asking female UVU students about their education. An anonymous female student said that a man is “supposed to have more higher education than a woman.”
“Getting a bachelor’s degree is probably not the best idea,” she added.
Munz stated that many women felt like they couldn’t continue their education because they would not be a good mother if they did.
Munz, a doctoral candidate in communication studies, said that women are not often asked about their experiences, so the story they tell about themselves is one they have been told about their identity. “We empower one gender to pursue education and talk about the other as pursuing motherhood,” said Munz.
Lindsay Bishop, a communication major, said that she was disappointed but not surprised after the presentation. “Outside this culture, women don’t marry until they are 30 years old, so they are more likely to go to school. After having children, I am in the category of returning to school. I know how much it has helped me, and I want other women to feel the empowerment that comes with being at school.”
Pauly and Munz described how stereotypes can be the only story a young woman hears and how this narrative is so tightly sealedin layers of cultural experiences that the stereotype will continue even if something changes in their environment.
Pauly, who holds a Doctor of Organizational Communication, said that the words we use significantly impact our lives. “Changing the narrative means asking women to explain why they are studying the subjects they are studying. It’s not just about getting a degree. As a person, you’re constantly changing.”
Both researchers began to notice a strong theme emerge in vivid and powerful detail. When discussing their education, ten out of sixty interviewees mentioned “backup plan” or “fallback.” Munz stated that the saturation data was so strong they couldn’t help but talk about it.
One of the questions in the interview required students to name influential women. It was hard for participants to identify anyone. Munz stated that this should be shocking, especially because the president of this school was a woman.
Pauly stated that women need to talk about their successes since they are taught not to talk about themselves from a young age. “We can listen to the dreams of female UVU students and help them achieve them,” she said.
The Women’s Success Center at UVU provides support and advocacy for women who are pursuing higher education. Munz said, “We believe that we need to be more deliberate in how we talk about women.”