Where Are All the Men in Study Abroad?

Did you know that 65% of students studying abroad are women? Where are all the men? At the Forum for Education Abroad last month Gettysburg College and CET Programs Abroad got together to present their findings on why study abroad is so female dominated.

After doing a case study of Gettysburg students, they found that women’s ability to plan and go through the application process was one of the main reasons students thought there were more females, and the “Bro-Mentality” accounts for the males staying on campus.

A “bro-mentality” is described as the attitude many college men have, a feeling that they are meant to achieve, but must seem laid back, a coolness factor, and a group mentality.

Some factors they measured were, whether the students were athletes, members of Greek life, both or neither. They found that the highest number of men abroad were neither Greek nor Athletes.

Most schools and program providers have a minimum GPA requirement to be accepted for study abroad, usually around 2.5. For the purposes of the case study, they measured the percentage of Gettysburg students with this GPA, and they found that 97% of female students have at least a 2.5 GPA, but only 86% of male students meet that standard.

In a seminar, students were asked their opinion on why they think there is a large gap between females and males going abroad. The general consensus was that males are: career driven, financially oriented, make friends through activities, are hesitant to leave friends, and have a “bro-mentality”. Women were described as: experience driven, proactive, exploratory, driven, family oriented and having a more fluid movement in social circles.

CET did find an exception to the general trend: in China, the ratio is 50/50, and in other destinations in the Middle East and Asia, the ratio may even be more males. But the overall number of students in these destinations is not enough to curb the overwhelming female dominance. The biggest gap was found in Italy: 85% female.

Another exception was found in students who do multi-semester study abroad, for a longer experience, but again, the overall number of students participating in multi-semester programs is low.

The idea that women feel a pressure to have adventures and accomplish individual goals before they are 30 came up as a possible factor. The idea is that women who want to have a family, feel like if they don’t take advantage of opportunities now, they might miss out later in life. Men don’t seem to feel this pressure, believing that they will have time for such adventures later on.

Another factor that came up, was family support / pressure. Families of female students urged their daughters to take advantage of study abroad, as it was a way for them to travel with the support of an organized group. Families of male students may not worry about their sons travelling on their own after college.

Women, as they sighted gaining career skills as an advantage of study abroad, may gain a competitive advantage over men when applying for the same jobs.

So what can we do to make studying abroad more appealing to men?

If men are more interested in career relevant skills, why not push programs with internship components? Or emphasize relevant career skills gained while studying abroad?

If men are hesitant to leave their friends behind, why not encourage men to look for programs together? Once they are abroad, maybe they will venture outside of their comfort zone.

One suggestion that came up in the session is that men may respond more if they were hearing of the benefits of study abroad from other men.

Why do you think this trend exists? What do you think we can do to lessen the gap? We would love to hear your thoughts!

*Forum of Education Abroad session “Where are All the Men in Study Abroad” presented by: Samantha Brandauer and Katherine Freyhof from Gettysburg College along with Daniel Riley from CET Academic Programs.