I follow not only news of Stephens online daily, but I also like to track news and posts about women’s colleges in general, and I definitely am interested in reading what young women think about the idea. While our students are amazingly vocal about their love of all things Stephens, there are some who take to social media to air their misgivings about the concept.
“I am NOT going to an all girls college,” is a tweet I’ve read from more than one.
At first nod, I suspect the idea of a women’s college must seem foreign to those who attend traditional high schools. I know it would have seemed strange to me. And I know I would have asked the obvious question: “Doesn’t the world include men? Shouldn’t I know how to work with them?”
But here’s a not-so-secret secret. Women don’t need to learn how to work with men. In many industries, men need to learn how to work with women. Powerful, strong, opinionated women.
I’ve realized during my short time here that women’s colleges are not about separating the “fairer” sex. They’re about providing the types of opportunities women need to become leaders so when they do enter into their professions, they have the strength and confidence to climb, leap and, if they have to, force themselves through the glass ceiling.
And this isn’t a recent phenomenon: Women who attend all-female colleges have been shattering professional blockades for decades.
The Women’s College Coalition has a wonderful list of notable firsts: Women who graduated from all-female colleges who went on to be the first women in their positions.
Some notables among the noted (although I encourage you to read the entire list):
Jeane Kirkpatrick, first female U.S Ambassador to the United Nations (who got her associate’s degree from Stephens, a two-year institute at the time, before getting her bachelor’s from Barnard College)
Jane Amsterdam, the first woman to become editor of The New York Post
Emily Green Balch, the first woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize
Sarah Porter Boehmler, the first woman to be executive vice president of the American Stock Exchange
Pearl S. Buck, the first to win the Noble Prize in Literature
Barbara Cassani, the first female CEO of a commercial airline
Sherry Davis, the first woman announcer for a major league baseball team
The list goes on and on…the first woman president of the American Academy of T.V. Arts & Sciences, the first female commanding officer of the New York Port Authority Police Department, the first woman elected to the Tennessee legislature, the first civilian woman scientist on a space shuttle mission.
On Stephens’ list of notable firsts are Helen Holt, first woman to serve as West Virginia’s Secretary of State (she just celebrated her 100th birthday) and Virginia Shehee, the first woman elected to the Louisiana State Senate.
Notice a trend? Not only did these women graduate from all-female colleges, they dove head first into male-dominated fields, and they made history.
While not all “Millennials” will recognize the benefits, I’m so happy there are young women who still realize the edge they’re going to have in the workforce by attending women’s colleges.
Diane Propsner, who writes a blog called Advantages of a Woman’s College, last week in a story for the Huffington Post shared some of the reasons today’s students want an education from a women’s college. I’m so proud that she led with a Stephens College student.
Jenni Miller, one of our incoming freshman, told Diane:
“I learned about my college, Stephens, before I really looked into women’s colleges. I knew they existed but never thought about going to one. When I began considering them, I was more worried what my classmates would say about me choosing an “all girls school” than I was actually attending one. It was when I started looking into what Stephens offered that I realized I wouldn’t be attending an all girls school but a women’s college. Where I’m going, women are strong and opinionated, and that’s okay.”
While I had nothing to do with her comments, I’m so proud that she recognizes that advantage.
Other young women heading to women’s colleges shared similar sentiments, with one saying her campus was a place “where women were allowed to build each other up instead of being torn down by social standards.”
Our students get the chance to build one another up and to build upon the work those before them have already accomplished. What used to be a glass ceiling will be more like a first-floor window they’ll simply pass on the way up.