Too often, I hear female friends of my teenage son say, “I’m not interested in attending a women’s college because I might miss out on big football weekends or sorority life.” Indeed, to those who don’t know the facts, single-gender education may seem like an experiment from yesteryear, an antiquated idea that has run its course. But if you were to take even a cursory look inside today’s women’s colleges, you’d find that single-gender education to this day graduates a disproportionate number of bright and promising leaders for tomorrow. Despite the impressive impact of women’s colleges, they are often overshadowed by coeducational institutions.
In the early 1970s, a dramatic shift in women’s higher education occurred when many all-male colleges began to accept female students. Currently, only 73 all female and three all-male colleges and universities remain.
Today, nearly 4000 accredited colleges and universities in the United States give women and men access to one of the most diverse higher education systems in the world. Any student, male or female, can apply for admittance to the school of their choice. However, while we are blessed to live in our country during an era with so many education options, the unique contributions of single-gender colleges persist to this day and cannot be underestimated.
While providing an important option for today’s student, women’s colleges have done an exceptional job in preparing students to be leaders in their professions and in their communities. While only 2 percent of all female college students graduate from women’s colleges, consider their collective impact:
– 20 percent of Fortune magazine’s 50 Most Powerful Women in American Business are graduates of women’s colleges
– Of 60 women members in the U.S. Congress, 20 percent are graduates of women’s colleges
– One-third of female board members for Fortune 1000 companies are graduates of women’s colleges
– Half of all women’s college graduates earn advanced degrees and 81 percent pursue advanced study beyond college
– On a BusinessWeek list of the 50 women who are rising stars in corporate America, 15 (30 percent) earned their baccalaureate degree from a women’s college.
Why this success? Single-gender institutions are more able to nurture the various learning and leadership styles of their students, while also encouraging stronger development of their self-confidence. During this influential time in students’ lives, it is important they learn to identify their own gifts and abilities, and then develop the confidence to pursue their dream.
The cold hard facts of research continue to confirm that male and female students often have different learning styles. Even at the grade school level, female students are characterized as being more collaborative in the classroom while males are said to be more competitive.
According to a recent report in Education World, Presque Isle High school in Maine has been offering a section of all-girls Algebra I since 1989. After noticing a vast difference in 11th grade boys’ and girls’ math scores on statewide tests, with girls scoring a significant 72 points lower, administrators investigated the problem by first paying more attention to the way their students participated in the classrooms. The boys were talkative, more aggressive and competitive in class, while the girls tended to be better listeners, were more cooperative and preferred small-group situations. The results of then establishing a single-gender algebra section are no less than remarkable: the earlier test-score gap of 72 points decreased to a 16-point difference.
That same difference is evident at the collegiate level. A study completed by the Colleg