Since 1981, there has been a decline in men in undergraduate programs and a minority of men in the field of social sciences. To offset this gender imbalance, the University of Saskatchewan offers an award to male students.
There are more women entering university than ever before, making men the minority in most disciplines outside of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science. Compared to all other Canadian provinces, Saskatchewan has the worst gender equality when it comes to post-secondary education: for every 10 women between the ages of 25 and 64 who secure a degree, only six men do the same.
The Benjamin J. Sanderson Fellowship is a $5,000 award for male students under 30 who will convoke, or have already convoked, with a social science degree. The fellowship is donated on bequest of George Benjamin Sanderson and only awarded approximately every five years to a student who intends to further their studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Looking further into the list of scholarships and bursaries offered at the U of S, there are categories exclusively for students who are female, Indigenous, disabled or visible minorities. While I understand the need for extra financial support for these groups, I find it odd that there are still awards that have eligibility based on gender at all.
Awards from donors sometimes have niche requirements for students that limit eligibility to those from specific areas in the province or those in specific areas of study. These specifications are often established by the donor based on their personal background, which is likely why the Benjamin J. Sanderson Fellowship is specifically for male applicants.
The fellowship is unique, because it targets a specific gender that is underrepresented in undergraduate studies. The requirements for this award are based on the student’s academic achievement, commitment to humanitarianism and ambition to use their post-secondary education for the benefit of Western Canada.
Clearly, men are not precluded from applying to other scholarships with an unspecified target gender. But, I find it strange that most of the scholarships offered exclusively to men are for students who are also Huskie athletes — this reinforces the idea that sports involvement is a redeeming masculine activity that needs to be rewarded.
While, at first glance, it might seem like an award specifically dedicated to men is sexist, I hope that those who take offence look into the statistics that show men are now less likely to attend university, let alone enter a social science program, before having the knee-jerk reaction.
I can understand why some people might be wary of an award specifically for men, especially considering the fact that men in female-dominated fields tend to receive more recognition for their service and get promotions and raises more quickly. However, I have taken enough social science classes to see the imbalance of genders in my classrooms, and I hope that, maybe, this can start a conversation about why there is a growing gender gap in education.
We live in a patriarchal society, and yes, men are the majority when we look at demographics in PhD programs and faculty across almost every discipline on campus, but beyond that, we need to look at why men are being dissuaded from applying to university.
Maybe this goes back to the toxic masculinity that socializes men and boys to think that they should not participate in certain activities, which are deemed feminine. In high school, young men might be shamed for wanting to attend university for social sciences and told that they should pursue trades instead.
So, if a man feels any stress or anxiety for pursuing a degree in social sciences, I hope that the extra financial compensation will make his studies easier on him. This fellowship does not mean that women are less likely to face barriers in academics. Rather, it addresses the widening gender gap within the discipline.
Nykole King / News Editor
Photo: Gabbie Torres