Date of Defense

Spring 4-8-1999



First Advisor

Paula Brush, Sociology

Second Advisor

Susan Carlson, Sociology

Third Advisor

Gwen Raaberg, English and Women's Studies


This paper presents a statistical analysis of gender differences in organizational participation and leadership among college students. The focus is on gender differences in the frequency of participation, the type and purpose of organization, and leadership roles. Organizations at Western Michigan University are used as a case study. Data were collected at ten-year intervals (1918-1998) from the Brown and Gold Yearbook, the Office of Student Life (OSL) Database and OSL files. The first half of the paper concentrates on conclusions that can be drawn from the data as a whole. It is concluded that no statistically significant difference was found in the amount of participation, but significant differences were found in leadership. Women held fewer leadership positions, and sex made a significant difference in the types of organizations in which women assumed leadership, It is also concluded that a significant proportion of participation and leadership is gender clustered. The second half of the paper examines over-time historical comparisons. It is found that statistically significant differences exist in the amount of female leadership and the extent of gender clustering between the pre-second wave (1918-1968) and the post-second wave (1988-1998) of feminism. While equity is not reached post-second wave, the period is marked by more female leadership and less gender clustering in student organizations.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Campus Only