The Gender Gap in Higher Education in Alaska


  • Judith Kleinfeld
  • Justin J. Andrews



educational achievement, school success, gender roles, gender gap, gender differences, gender role expectations, Alaska Natives


A gender gap strongly favoring women is occurring in higher education throughout the Arctic and is especially severe among indigenous groups. This study documents the size, nature, and recent increase in the gender gap at the University of Alaska, especially for Alaska Native students. To our knowledge, this is the first study to provide statistical documentation of this phenomenon. We find that among Alaska Natives, women are earning bachelor’s degrees at almost three times the rate of men and associate degrees at almost five times the rate of men. Furthermore, the gender gap in favor of females widened between 1998 and 2004, the most recent year for which we have information. The experience at the University of Alaska shows that increasing access and providing college preparation and support services alone are not enough to engage indigenous young men in postsecondary education. What may also be needed are ways of making education more compatible with traditional male cultural roles and community values. The Community Trades Technology Program at the University of Alaska has succeeded in enrolling large numbers of young Native men in a postsecondary program through such an educational model. The program 1) is located in the students’ home community; 2) offers cohort-based instruction that enrolls most of the students’ friends; 3) emphasizes practical, hands-on knowledge and the lore of the trade; 4) embeds academic instruction in practical tasks, such as writing letters about construction supplies; 5) connects the educational program to immediate employment in construction projects scheduled for the community; and 6) provides practical help to people, such as doing home repairs, without charge.