This blog post has been written many times before, by proud alumnae of women’s colleges–I know, because I read them whenever they pop into my news feed. So I thought long and hard before adding my voice to the mix: would I have anything new to say? But as I look at the reality of gender inequality in the United States (Where are the Women in STEM?, the wage gap, women leading in business, and of course our Woman Card that keeps us presiding in the Oval Offi…oh wait, the truth), I am compelled to contribute my experience and perspective.
I never planned to attend a women’s college. My family had a mini-tradition of taking a spring break “college tour trip” in our junior year of high school; for my sister we visited large state schools along the eastern seaboard, for me it was smaller liberal arts colleges in the northeast. The one exception to that was UMass, and while there we learned about the Five College Consortium. We decided to drive around the Pioneer Valley and check out the other colleges in the Consortium. Once I stepped onto campus at Mount Holyoke, my search was over–it felt like home. My parents knew it too, immediately, and never stopped rooting for me to trust my gut and dive in, to pursuing a Mount Holyoke education and everything that came after.
College is a transformational time for most students, I believe; learning about the great big world out there, as well as figuring out who you are and what purpose you’ll serve in it. But in a women’s college? Whoa. Take (the MHC example) 2,000 intelligent, strong-minded women from across the US and around the world, and put them in an environment committed to advancing scholarship, empowering self-expression, and building a diverse community of women leaders across disciplines–dynamite. Amazing. Awe-inspiring.
Did you know that 20% of women in Congress are graduates of women’s colleges (despite women’s colleges making up 2% of US colleges/universities)? Women’s colleges also boast more degrees awarded to women in STEM fields, and graduates of women’s colleges are more likely to earn a Ph.D in STEM fields than their counterparts at co-ed colleges (MHC-specific stats). Alumnae of women’s colleges report that they are better prepared to succeed in male-dominated sectors, and employers are noticing the strong skill set women’s college graduates bring to the table.
I believe, wholeheartedly, that women’s colleges are not only relevant in the arena of higher education, but vital to the forward motion of gender equality and opportunity here in the United States and around the world. I look at my female students, and see that already, at 9 years old, gendered stereotypes about math, science, speaking up and taking the lead are in play. I know that women’s colleges aren’t for everyone, but when you contrast today’s reality with what you wish for your daughter, doesn’t it make sense to at least consider a women’s college?
Did you attend a women’s college? Would you consider one? Share your experiences here!