Why do women still deserve special scholarships? - Macleans.ca

Why do women still deserve special scholarships?

To claim that women are at a disadvantage in school is absurd


My friend Sarah Berman bought me a beer recently. She had come into $1,200 unexpectedly. “Just for having a vagina,” she told me with a smirk. She’s a journalism student in my class at the University of British Columbia and a recipient of a Gwyn and Aileen Gunn Bursary. The awards are only available for female students.

The bequest was made five years ago in honour of the late Gwynyth Gunn, a CBC reporter who had succeeded in journalism at a time when it was still dominated by men. It’s easy to sympathize with Gunn’s estate for wanting to donate her money to young women who face the same disadvantages that Ms. Gunn had to overcome.

While awards like these may be sexist, they’re still allowed as long as women are “underepresented in the faculty,” says UBC’s associate director of enrolment services, Barbara Crocker. The problem is, women aren’t under-represented in the faculty of journalism–or almost any faculty anymore. So why are they still getting special awards?

In my journalism class there are four women for every man. A tally of genders among the smiling graduates in the class of 2000’s photo confirms that it’s been that way from the very beginning. In that very first graduating class  men were already the minority. I called up my friend Karon Liu who graduated from Ryerson’s journalism school last spring. The numbers from his graduating class were closer to five women per man, he says after a quick count.

These affirmative action scholarships may seem harmless, but they have a negative impact on men’s self-esteem. I’ve felt it. The other men in my class have felt it. Favouritism towards women may even be contributing to the shrinking population of males on university campuses.

Darren Fleet, a colleague of mine at the School of Journalism has worked for daily newspapers, produced mini-documentaries and trained journalists in Zambia. But despite his stellar resume, he says he felt discouraged from applying for a recent scholarship after reading the words “equal opportunity” on the form. “What would be the point in applying?” says Fleet. “Even if I had invented the cure for cancer and saved a busload of children from a burning building I wouldn’t get it. I am too white, too male and too straight.”

While some women still cling to the “glass ceiling” argument to justify these scholarships, other women have long since broken through. Just take my school for example. The founding director was a woman. The school’s current director is a woman.  There is certainly no dearth of female instructors, or female role models to meet during our internships. When we went on a class trip to the Vancouver Sun newsroom, both the executive editor and editor-in-chief who toured us around were women.

It’s true that many newsrooms are still slightly more male than female, but they certainly won’t be for much longer. In the past decade, broadcasters have hired more women and promoted women at a faster rate than men. In 2006, nearly two-thirds of all jobs at the CBC went to women. I’m certainly not complaining about the fact that many more women were hired. Considering how much women outnumber men in journalism schools, they almost certainly earned their higher share of recent hires. It is only to claim that women are at a disadvantage in schools that is absurd.

Perhaps the fair thing to do would be to encourage scholarships that only young men can apply to. But the idea of men-only scholarships for programs where they’re outnumbered would be ridiculous, considering men are outnumbered in just about every program but math and engineering. Are we going to give scholarships to women who want to be engineers and mathematicians, and men money so long as they want to study anything else?

Plus, according to Ms. Crocker, a scholarship program aimed at men-only would be “illegal” and “probably never accepted.” (I know I’d laugh.) Perhaps the real solution is for universities to stop accepting scholarship programs that are sexist toward men. No one should feel discouraged from getting an education just because of what they have between their legs.

Josh Dehaas is journalism student at the University of British Columbia, and a former On Campus blogger.


Why do women still deserve special scholarships?

  1. I don’t really think that equal opportunity measures and affirmative action (for women, at least) are needed any more, at least not in newsrooms. All my j-school friends across Canada have remarked on the heavy female skew in their programs, and I don’t know of any woman who feels like she’s lost out on a journalism job opportunity because of her gender. I do know men who feel that way.

    I hate, hate, hate to suggest that because I’m white and male I’ve been passed over for jobs… it sounds ludicrous and insensitive and smacks of Bill O’Reilly/Rish Limbaugh reactionary BS. I feel like a jerk just saying it.

    But I suspect it might have happened. I’ve heard the idea floated that women are seen as more professional than men. Judging from some of the men I go to school with, that may be true–but it doesn’t make me feel any better.

  2. I think it may be a bit premature to remove those equal opportunity measures. Although I sympathize to some degree with the feeling you’ve been overlooked for a job… women still aren’t treated equally in the workplace; they still aren’t paid as much as men for the same job. Really.

    And do any of those school friends of yours (who don’t feel they lost out on a job opportunity b.c of gender) have kids? Look around the office then and you will likely notice the ‘heavy male skew!’ Notice who tends to get the better journalism jobs, who gets promoted? ….Hmmm. Don’t be so certain its no longer an issue.

  3. Aren’t most scholarships privately sponsored? I saw loads of scholarships targetted to specific groups. Some were racist, some sexist, some to specific jobs. I don’t think it’s such a problem from private groups to discriminate who they donate money to.

    If the job market is still somehow unfairly treating women, read some stories about how the justice system treats men.

    Frankly, I prefer to not twist myself into indignance over what other people have or don’t have. There are some who have all their expenses paid. Good for them! but I’d be better off spending my brainpower studying what I came here for.

  4. I have a funny story too, about a person who won a scholarship for single mothers… His name was Dave and he has no kids.

  5. “I think it may be a bit premature to remove those equal opportunity measures. Although I sympathize to some degree with the feeling you’ve been overlooked for a job… women still aren’t treated equally in the workplace; they still aren’t paid as much as men for the same job. Really.”

    Except that they are paid as much as men for the same job. Or at least, pretty close. Statscan analysis done on data from the 2001 census estimated that correcting for work experience, education, age, unionization, etc. found that women earn on average 90 cents for every dollar that a man does. An unmarried woman with less than 5 years full time experience can expect to be making 96 cents on the dollar. And remember, this data is 9 years old. I strongly suspect that the wage will disppear entirely after the 2011 census figures are in.

    The tables at the end (particularly table 8) feature the relevant statistics, although the whole thing is a good read.

  6. Correction:
    Last line should read “wage gap” and not just “wage”
    Smiley at the end should be an eight.

  7. “Perhaps the real solution is for universities to stop accepting scholarship programs that are sexist toward men.”

    Perhaps the real solution is for Universities to stop accepting scholarship programs that exclude anyone! Just make them all merit based for heaven’s sake. Any other way and its the worst form of affirmative action.

  8. I think that it is time to stop trying to create equality by giving more to ‘minority’ groups. It isn’t working. It creates a wealth of entitlement issues. I women, or any other group for that matter, want to be treated as equals then it is time that we stopped asking for more handouts! The most deserving student should get the scholarship, whether it is based on financial need or academic success.

  9. When I begin to hear and see more women highlighted on radio and TV programs, especially as “experts” or “specialists” on financial, economic and political panels, I will start to think about special grants etc. as perhaps no needed any longer. So far, that is still not the case. Look still at the newspapers, magazines and TV and radion programs. Most columnists and hosts are male. Most people interviewed are male. The francophone sectors in Quebec are no longer that way. In many countries across the world, that is no longer the case. In Canada, it still is the case.

    So, I would say, quit whining, and get a female journalist to answer this question. It might be quite a different take on your topic.

  10. I am slightly cautious about this author’s equation of scholarships and other measures of equality. A scholarship dedicated towards women does not mean that men are being excluded from a particular program. It reflects the wishes of a donor.

    Journalism is not unique in having more women than men, but would you really object to a scholarship for deserving women in nursing or early childhood education? I want men and women from low income backgrounds to all have equal access to education, but I wont begrudge one donor their desire to have someone that reminds them of their personal struggle benefitting.

    Inequality is disappearing. We should be proud of this and not so reactionary. I do feel as a woman today I have innumerably greater access to careers that women 20 years ago. Nonetheless, I have heard employers say they won’t take women on the marriage track, for fear they will sap maternity benefits. I have heard men in my program get mad that a woman in their office on Mat. leave is “on vacation” and “expects special treatment when she gets back.” These opinions are still out there.

    I do still see predictable gender relations even play out on campus when student groups run events. It is the women who are expected to clean up, or do the grunt work while men tend to take on higher visibility positions.

    I think we are on the way to our goals here, but not quite finished. And to the male student who was worried about an “equal opportunity” clause on a scholarship application, I think that’s silly; that’s there to denote the group is not prejudiced.

  11. Title of article is absurd. A scholarship is created through the wishes of a donor, i.e. it’s a donation. It doesn’t have to be fair – you can help anyone you want! To suggest that a donor can’t choose scholarship criteria is tolitarian. It’s a free country, and I can give money to anyone I want.

    That being said, I think it’s a good cause, because sexism still exists. A man who fears “equal opportunity” is a man who fears his gender isn’t going to make up for a lack of required qualifications.

  12. So, A Barlow, is your argument really that if you control for systemic sexism, women only make 10% less than men and that that’s practically the same as making 0% less than men?

    Because that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. For one thing, I don’t know very many people, male or female, who would appreciate having their wages cut by 10%, especially when half the population wasn’t getting their wages cut. It’s hardly “pretty close” the same pay.

    Second, if you think controlling for “work experience, education, age, unionization, etc.” is somehow not also removing many of the critical factors in women’s economic oppression, I think you’re missing a whole lot.

    While I do think there are plenty of sexist bosses, HR departments, etc. that pay women less money than they pay men for doing exactly the same job in exactly the same company for exactly the same length of time, this is only a fraction of the argument about women’s economic oppression. Therefore, actually taking into account why it is that you have to control for “work experience, education, age, unionization, etc.” before you even get within 10% of pay equality is key to understand women’s economic oppression.

    If anyone actually wants to learn more about these issues, one good source is the Women in the Workforce report put out by the Canadian Labor Congress. http://www.canadianlabour.ca/sites/default/files/pdfs/womensequalityreportEn.pdf

    Also, you can take a look at Hans Rollman’s response published yesterday: http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2010/03/08/women-still-face-educational-barriers/

  13. Boo hoo. When I turn on the t.v. and see 50/50 representation in the House of Commons and among the business elite, then MAYBE we can stop handing out scholarships specifically for women. If the scholarships were handed out by schools, you might have an argument, but private donors can donate to whomever they choose. As a 34 year old female returning to university I am shut out of a number of scholarships. How about removing the restriction that gives money only to those graduating grade twelve? How about the race-based ones? I’m going into law but want the money set aside for engineers – can I have that?

    Although journalism classrooms might be changing, it is still very much a man’s world. If in doubt, turn on CPAC or attend the board meeting of any major corporation.

  14. This is of little surprise:
    Most of the women’s comments are in favour,and most of the men’s comments are opposed. I doubt that it is just a coincidence that this aligns with who is eligible for these scholarships.

  15. Because we are still being held back by men, we may be more equal but far from the real thing, men get way more money for school from all realms it is nice e still have this chance

  16. This article is laughable. Cis men don’t know the first thing about sexism.

  17. Pingback: Why Do Cis Men Still Deserve the Right to Opinions About Women? « Inoculated City

  18. Indeed, the plight of the white male is heartbreaking. It is a heavy cross you carry, sir. A heavy cross.

  19. These affirmative action scholarships may seem harmless, but they have a negative impact on men’s self-esteem. I’ve felt it. The other men in my class have felt it.


  20. I’m with you. They are a total joke. Having said that, I look forward to the reversal of the gender roles as wimmin can then work out the worlds issues and I could then go shoe shopping. There’s really only upside.

  21. The guy in this article didn’t even apply for the scholarship, so it’s hard for even me to have sympathy? This is the second article I’ve read like this in the last few months, and both times the men didn’t even bother to apply – self fulfilling prophecy, much? If we’re not going to bother to try, of course no-one is going to think there should be change.

  22. It seems as though both sides argue in favor of their personal belief system. I’m not here to argue for either case rather than to provide my own personal observation and input. Personally, I don’t believe in programs such as AA or gender specific opportunities to promote advancement. If the person, be it male or female, possesses the desired qualifications for an advancement then it should be allotted to them. If it comes down to a tie between a male and female with equal qualifications, in today’s society with current policies set, the woman is chosen over the man. Now, it is my belief that a company should have the ability to make decisions without the fear of prosecution, in other words the decision be left up to a judgement call by the reviewing superior. This process cam be applied to any type of review whether it be for scholarships, job applications, or advancement. However, instead there has been demands by organizations to provide legislatures that take care of this. Going this route may in the short run seem to start resolving things but in reality it is just swinging the pendulum creating even more of an imbalance which will ultimately result in a vicious circle. Some of you have pointed out how these gender specific scholarships are privately sponsored. That may be the case, however, it should then also be limited to being accepted by a private system. What I mean is this, if somebody wants to start a scholarship that is specific for females than it should be required that they contribute it to a female only school…say for under-privileged individuals. Or perhaps even contributed to a foundation within the public foundation (sororities) in which the applicants are competing simply based on skills and abilities.

  23. I like what she says in the beginning. I got this scholarship because I have a vagina. That about sums it up. As usual a women does nothing to earn her place.