Gender Gap on Safety

Female students are more likely to fear for their safety on campus than male students, and are less likely to think their colleges are doing enough to protect them, survey finds.


June 19, 2014

Female students are considerably more concerned about campus violence than their male peers and are less likely to think their colleges are doing enough to protect them, according to a new survey conducted by Chegg, the digital learning platform and textbook rental company.

Non-lethal assaults – including sexual assault – remain a serious safety concern for female students on college campuses, according to the survey. The top safety concern for male students, and by a large margin, was property crime.

While 41 percent of female students ranked assault as a primary worry, just a quarter of male students ranked it as a concern. Perceptions of how institutions handle crimes also differed along gender lines, with male students showing more confidence in their universities. Nearly 7 in 10 male students believe their university is doing enough to prevent sexual assaults. Forty three percent of female students said they don’t believe their college is doing enough.

Female students also had less faith in their universities’ efforts to prevent gun violence on campus. Almost half of female students said their college could do more, while 36 percent of male students felt that way. Gender differences were also found in student perceptions of the way violence is covered by the media. More than half of male students said they believed the media exaggerates school gun violence. Only 36 percent of female students agreed.

Dan Rosensweig, CEO of Chegg, said he expected women to feel less safe than men, but that he was still surprised by the numbers.

“The message to us is that we are not doing enough,” Rosensweig said. “We have to engage students in a dialogue about what could make them not only feel more safe but actually be more safe.”

The survey was conducted over three days last week, with 1,765 students taking the poll. The respondents were a mix of college and college-bound high school students who are members of Chegg's Chegghead panel, a group of more than 15,000 students who are invited to respond to Chegg surveys. The data were weighted to reflect national norms. Rosensweig said Chegg now plans to release surveys about campus safety four times per year.

The survey also examined safety concerns along ideological lines. Conservative students said they felt the safest, with 73 percent saying they weren’t that concerned about campus security. About 60 percent of students who identified as liberal said they felt safe.

More than half of all students said they worry at least a little about campus shootings, and one-third of students – regardless of gender or politics – said they don’t feel safe on or near college campuses.

“That is an unacceptable number,” Rosensweig said.

The Chegg survey may soon be joined by a slew of similar, but university-specific, studies. In April, the White House tasked colleges and universities with conducing campuswide climate surveys about sexual assault. Surveys are already being created or are under way at several universities, including the University of Minnesota and the University of California.


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