By Jeff Hodges
Director of Media Relations, Hollins University
Research suggests only three percent of high school girls have
a serious interest in attending an all-women's college.
That's because many young women believe women's colleges are
simply elite finishing schools. Or, they are concerned that a
women's college artificially isolates women from men. After all,
they say, women have to compete with men in the "real" world.
In reality, contemporary women's colleges attract a diverse student
body, representing a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, ages,
ethnicities and racial identities. The vast majority of women's
college students receive financial aid. And, a larger percentage
of students at women's colleges choose disciplines and careers in
traditionally male areas, such as math, the sciences, law and
business. At the same time, most women's colleges offer women the
possibility of interacting with men if they choose; many foster a
coed social life and offer coed classes through neighboring colleges
There are many other advantages to attending a women's college.
Studies have repeatedly shown that the single-gender atmosphere
allows young women to participate more fully in and out of class.
It sends them into the world better able to compete. They have
more self-confidence and a greater sense of purpose than their
coed counterparts. And often, a women's college provides them
with a broader array of women role models; over 90 percent of
all women's college presidents are women, and on average, 45
percent of all faculty teaching math and science courses at
women's colleges are women, compared to just 11 percent at coed
The benefits are not solely academic. Mary Beth Hatten, professor
of neuroscience at Rockefeller University and a women's college grad,
believes that the unique environment allows more time to focus on
friendships. "A women's college certainly created an atmosphere where
we did things together we wouldn't have otherwise," she stated, adding
that a lack of hierarchy and competition—qualities that may have
been factors at larger or coed schools—were conducive to deeper bonds.
Women's college graduates make up only two percent of the college-educated
population, and yet:
- One-third of the women board members of the Fortune 1000 companies are women's
- Women's college graduates are twice as likely to earn Ph.D.s. A higher percentage
go on to study in the sciences and attend medical school.
- Of Business Week's 50 highest ranking women in corporate America, 30 percent are
women's college graduates.
- Of 61 women members of Congress, 20 percent attended women's colleges.
Some famous women's college graduates include:
- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton
- Diane Sawyer - Host of ABC's "Good Morning America"
- Madeleine Albright - First woman to be named U.S. Secretary of State
More than 90 percent of students who attend a women's college state
that they would make the same choice again. Mary K. Donavan, an
alumna of Russell Sage College and now a vice president at New Line
"At a women's college, you're taught much more than academics and
narrow fields — you learn to see yourself as someone who can make
things happen when unexpected opportunities come along. I left
feeling I could pretty much do anything I wanted because I believed
The Women's College Coalition summed it up this way: "Women's
colleges prepare women for the many roles they will assume in
life.... Academically, professionally and personally, the advantages
of a women's college are hard to match in the coed world."
About the School
independent liberal arts institution offering undergraduate education for
women, selected graduate programs for men and women, and community outreach
initiatives. Founded in 1842 as Virginia's oldest chartered women's college,
nationally-ranked creative writing program, one of the oldest study abroad
programs in the country, and extensive internship opportunities.