Statistics show more women opting for the major than men. Mai Ali reports.
While the fields of engineering, business and medical studies seem dominated by men, women seem to be finding their seats in the rapidly growing field of mass communications.
Dr Mohammad Ayesh, dean of the College of Communication at the University of Sharjah, said that there are 550 female and 275 male students at the College of Communication.
Why the difference? "Females are attracted to mass communications for a number of reasons. First, it is a growing and rewarding profession for women. Second, it has a lot of creativity that they find satisfying. Third, mass communications depends on both brains and looks, and I think they have both."
According to Ayesh, he has found that every year female students emerge as top scorers and more hardworking in mass communications compared to their male counterparts.
"It is both a promising and painful reality to see women doing better than men in communication studies."
When asked about the small number of males enrolled for this major, he said that although some Arab families don't like the idea of their sons studying mass communications, there are others who encourage them.
"This is due to several reasons. Firstly, there are more mass communication programmes than medical or engineering programmes. Secondly, market realities show that graduates with good records don't face a problem finding jobs in mass communication sectors. And thirdly, it is the creative and rewarding part of the work."
Professor Mahboub Hashem, chair of the Mass Communications Department at the American University of Sharjah (AUS), said 288 students are enrolled in their mass communications programme with a female-male ratio of about 75:25.
He was non-committal as to the reasons for the difference. "You have to ask the students about this. They are likely to give more accurate answers than me."
However, he didn't feel there was any difference in aptitude between male and female students towards the subject. Both genders, he said, have high communication skills and are capable of expressing themselves well.
He added that although many families encourage their sons to explore the field, others prefer medical and engineering schools. "This has been the tradition and some don't seem to let go," he said.
Anan Ebrahim, a junior studying mass communications at AUS, said that she chose the major because it's one of the fastest growing industries these days. "I have always enjoyed writing and found it a way to express myself. And I couldn't ignore all the advertisements around us. That's why I concentrated on both journalism and advertising."
She wasn't sure about why the major didn't appeal as much to boys. "I think guys in this region find it more acceptable to be a doctor or an engineer, although in other places it is normal."
Aya Yassein, another mass communications student at AUS, said: "Communication is central to our lives. It allows us to interact with each other." She said that it's known that women are better at arts and men are better at technical stuff.
The mass-com major is stereotyped in the region, said Lina Al Desouky, a junior mass communication student at AUS. "In other parts of the world, it's normal for a guy to become a reporter. But in most of the Arab world, it is expected for a guy to become a doctor or an engineer." At university, said Lina, mass communications is considered a "girly" major.
Abdullah Eisa Saif, a senior environmental science student at AUS, said: "I think a big part of it owes to the stereotype that only hardcore scientific majors such as engineering are worth taking." In his case, although he was interested in pursuing movie filmmaking, he opted for environmental studies because of his parents.
In the workplace
What is the male, female ratio in the workplace? It depends on the area of work, said Anupa Kurian, editor of Notes.
"For example, fashion, food, lifestyle and features tend to see more women, while the news environment tends to see more men," she said.
She said she believes there are more female news reporters around. "When it comes to the sub-editors on the night desk, it tends to be predominantly men. An exact ratio is hard to obtain, as there are no specific statistics available. But my observations are based on what I have seen over the last decade working as a journalist in the UAE."
- The writer is a student of the American University of Sharjah.