College life is a range of new experiences for students. They learn new skills, are exposed to new ideas and get to see cultures and backgrounds that they may not have been able to see before. An important factor in these opportunities is a diverse student body. So the question is, does New Mexico Tech provide this very important diversity to its students? Perhaps not.
It is no secret that the majority of Tech’s student population is male students. In fact, in 2017, there were 943 undergraduate men and only 351 undergraduate women. That means that for every female student there were 2.6 male students last fall. The numbers are only slightly better for graduate students, with 2.3 male students for every female student.
The demographics also do not show a very racially diverse campus. Out of 1358 degree-seeking undergraduate students, 1.8% are black, 3.5% are Asian and 4.2% are Native American. The largest racial groups on campus are Hispanics (30.2%) and whites (52.1%).
So why does NMT have such low diversity? Part of it stems from the school’s location. 87.8% of the New Mexico Tech student body is made up of New Mexico residents, so the population of Tech reflects the population of the state as a whole. According to the US Census Bureau, New Mexico’s population is 40% white and 46.3% Hispanic. 2.0% of the population is black and 1.4% is Asian. The student population of Tech aligns reasonably well with these numbers.
But why the lack of female students? Clearly, this has nothing to do with the demographics of New Mexico. Rather, it stems from the kind of school that Tech is.
In this country, relatively few women are part of STEM fields. According to the New York Times, “women now earn close to 60 percent of bachelor's degrees overall, but only 20 percent of the degrees in computer sciences, 20 percent of those in physics and 18 percent of those in engineering.”
And the explanation behind this is far from a simple one.
Researchers do not believe that women simply lack the desire to study science or engineering. However, some studies have revealed underlying biases in society. A group at Yale University found that substituting the name Jennifer for John in an identical resume lowered both men and women’s estimation of an aspiring scientist.
According to Jennifer Welsh, a writer for Business Insider, there are a few clear-cut reasons why girls avoid science. Most come down to the old stereotype that girls cannot do it. This stereotype can lead to teasing in school, a lack of encouragement, and an overall bias against women in both education and the workplace. And so STEM fields lack women.
This indicates that the lack of gender diversity at Tech is more due to our society as whole rather than the actions of the school. However, everyone benefits from greater diversity on campus. Tech already hosts exchange students from around the world. Perhaps the school needs to reach out and better express that we value people’s ideas regardless of where they come from or what they look like.