A Comparative Analysis of Female Representation in the Faculties of Engineering and Law in a Nigerian University

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Introduction

Knowledge is the defining mark of modern societies. Universities are the key institutions for preserving knowledge from the past as well as producing knowledge for the future. Governments rely on higher education and research institutions to provide both advice and manpower to manage key organizations of society, and industries turn to them to provide cutting-edge knowledge to develop new products and the personnel capable of managing production units. (Varghese, 2002).

Eliminating gender disparities in schools is one of the main goals of the Dakar "Framework for Action". The Goal 5 of the Dakar Framework for Action emphasized that the attainment of Education for All (EFA) by 2015 would require the world's commitment in "eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005 and achieving gender equality in education by 2015, with a focus on ensuring girls' full and equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality" (UNESCO, 2000). The education of women has become a global issue ever since it was realized that women as mothers have the very first contact with their children even before the teachers and so possess potentials to be role models to their children.

The University of Benin was founded in 1970 as Institute of Technology and converted to a full-fledged university in 1972. Today, there are eleven (11) faculties, fifty seven (57) departments and five (5) Institutes (Omoifo, 1998). UNESCO (2003) revealed that in Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, Uganda and Zambia, there were no gender differences in the achievement for reading and mathematics in primary schools. In addition, in Botswana, Mauritius, Seychelles and South Africa, girls significantly outperformed boys at least in reading if not both. In these countries, as far as the upper primary level is concerned, girls were equally talented if not more. However, girls participation in secondary and tertiary level was lower than the male participation. Saito (2004) hypothesized that there might be a vast amount of female talent left capitalized if their participation in the higher level is not comparable to that of boys.

Despite women increasing participation in the labour market, they are still disadvantaged in the mainstream of economic life. Nozawa (2004) reported that with limited access to stable and well paid employment, female participation is often confined to 'feminine' work, to low-paid less visible jobs in the informal sector and to subsistence agriculture. Globally, women earn 20 to 30 per cent less than men while women make up 70 per cent of the world's more than 1 billion absolute poor. Nozawa (2004) further reported that in most regions of the world, female enrolment in secondary level Technical and Vocational Education represents less than half of the total. This implies therefore that in most regions of the world fewer girls have the opportunities to participate in technical activities. It is at this level that interest and love for technical activities are built. This may eventually translate into fewer enrolments in technically based courses like engineering. Even among the few girls that opt for vocational courses they tend to choose fields that are considered more 'feminine' and less technical such as secretarial studies, catering, etc.

Gender equity in terms of enrolment has been identified as a serious problem in Nigerian higher education system. Okebukola (2002) revealed that of the total population of 526,780 from Universities that provided enrolment data only 178,995 are females. This is a mere 34% of the gross enrolment data. Makhubu (1998) pointed out that there are mainstream academic areas in which women excel. These include the humanities, social sciences and the life sciences. She also complained that the under representation of women in science and technology is a serious bottleneck in endeavors for building scientific capacities in Africa. These assertions need to be verified hence the need for this study. …