Fairer Sex?

Keble's Women's Officers take a look at the College's feminine side

Keble's big undergraduate community is nearly perfect, but it has one failing: the ratio of female undergraduates has remained static at 30-35% of the total since the College went co-ed in 1979.

Keble has a reputation within the university for being friendly, tolerant and open minded, so why should this imbalance persist?

The official line reads that
"The ratio reflects the number of applicants". In that case, Keble's problem is a matter of image - how we are seen in schools around the country and most importantly, by women.

Most likely, it would appear, to turn prospective female applicants away is Keble's hale and hearty sports persona. Buttressed by spectacular success in Men's Cuppers events, Keble does boast its fair share of rugby lads (and, yes, occasionally they do fill up the bar). But this image ignores the fact that some of Keble's most recent sporting successes have been in women's events, in pursuits ranging from football to belly-dancing.

The College's high reputation in the sciences and engineering has also been blamed for the lack of female applicants. Statistics show that women at single sex schools take more science A Levels than their co-ed contemporaries, but in the mixed world of undergraduate study, the imbalance in favour of men remains pronounced.

Redressing this can, however, provoke an unwelcome male backlash. Some colleges have appointed "Men's Officers" in retaliation for what they see as the blatant feminism of Women's Officers. Keble, mercifully, has not yet succumbed. Our Women's Officers, in fact, have without let or hindrance initiated numerous events to give some social focus for the female population.

But perhaps the college's best advertisement is the Warden herself. Faced with a ratio of 33:2 in the SCR, she nevertheless leads opinion on women's issues. Her resignation from the Oxford and Cambridge Club after its decision not to allow women full membership proved influential in prompting many male Heads of House to follow suit.

JCR initiatives continue, and it is hoped that the increased emphasis on the success, and happiness, of women at Keble in literature sent out to schools will start to dispel these tired images of a college in thrall to an exclusively male past.

S.W., E.F., H.J. *


the brick issue 3 - Hilary Term 1995
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