Harvard continues to admit fewer women than men and lags behind most other Ivy League schools in equalizing the sex ratio of admitted classes, admissions officials said this week.
The admissions office sent out acceptance letters to 921 women and 1164 men last week, according to Director of Admissions Marla McGrath Lewis. Although this marks a record-high percentage of women admitted, at 44.2 percent, it falls short of the 50-50 ratio the admissions office would like, Lewis said.
Harvard ranked sixth of the seven Ivy League schools contacted by the Crimson. Only the University of Pennsylvania admitted a lower percentage of women, at 44 percent.
Brown University and Yale University ranked highest, with percentages of 51.8 percent and 48.2 percent, respectively. Columbia University has not yet released its admissions statistics.
Lewis said the women's ratio continues to lag because fewer women than men apply to Harvard.
"[The numbers] reflect the applicant pool," Lewis said.
She said the admissions rate for women was actually slightly higher than for men this year, although both were close to 16 percent.
The causes for the consistently smaller numbers of female applicants are difficult to isolate, Lewis said. One reason, she believes, is that women perceive Harvard as a science-oriented college.
"People who choose to go to Yale often do so because of the very strong reputation of its humanities programs," she said. "I think that has a disproportionate pull for women."
At Yale University and Brown University, admissions officials said low application rates among women are Gender Breakdown class of 1996 Men Women Brown 48.2% 51.8% Yale 51.8% 48.2% Cornell 53.0% 47.0% Princeton 53.0% 47.0% Dartmouth 54.0% 46.0% Harvard 55.8% 44.2% U. Penn 56.0% 44.0% Columbia n/a n/a Figures reflect the sex ratio of students accepted into the Class of 1996 at each Ivy League university. Numbers of Columbia University were not available.
not a problem.
"We generally see a pretty equal number of applicants," said Mike J. Goldberger, Brown's associate dean of admissions and financial aid. "Women are not a targeted group."
Brown offered 100 more acceptances to women than to men this year, Goldberger said.
Women may also be deterred from applying to Harvard because of cultural factors, said Juliet Schor, head tutor in Women's Studies at Harvard.
"Parents historically have been less inclined to send their daughter to expensive and faraway schools than they have their sons," Schor said.
Harvard's prestigious name may also be a discouraging factor, suggested Jessica Yellin '93, a concentrator in Women's Studies.
"It's a daunting place, and you have to be sort of arrogant just to apply," Yellin said.
Yellin said she believes this sort of confidence is not always encouraged in young women.
Harvard also has a reputation "as a place where you're on your own," Yellin said. "I think that could deter women who aren't comfortable being assertive."
Yellin said she believes the low number of women professors and the lack of courses specifically geared to gender issues can discourage prospective women applicants.
"When you look through the course catalogue, it has an impact," she said. "For people interested in women's issues or gender studies, this is an overtly hostile environment."
Admissions officials will continue to make a special effort to recruit a strong pool of women, Lewis said.
She attributes this year's rise in female applicants largely to increased attention by alumni recruiters.
"A big effort was made to develop the participation of women alumni," she said. "There was a lot of special recruiting, making sure women knew that Harvard-Radcliffe was an option for them.