Best Colleges and Universities for Women

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Best Online Colleges and Universities for Women

Gender equity on university and college campuses began to take root in the early 1970s across the United States as a product of the feminist movement, despite political and social backlash. What often started out as experimental classes on gender 40 years ago have evolved into full-fledged departments offering majors, minors, graduate, and PhD programs in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, or some combination, thereof. These programs are always interdisciplinary and link gender and sexuality to other social constructs, such as race, class, nationalism, and ability, in order to encourage critical thought as to how to reshape these institutions.

Just as important as the classes and departments, are the women’s and gender centers that are also mainstays on many campuses today. These centers promote gender equity through awareness and advocacy of women’s issues still prevalent today, by encouraging women in leadership roles, and celebrating women’s accomplishments. Most centers strive to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all genders, and some have programs specifically designed to engage men in the dialogue around their role in supporting women’s rights and equality.

Top 10 Best Colleges and Universities for Women

Rank School Location
1 Harvard University Cambridge, MA
2 Stanford University Stanford, CA
3 Yale University New Haven, CT
4 Princeton University Princeton, NJ
5 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA
6 Duke University Durham, NC
7 California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA
8 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
9 Wellesley College Wellesley, MA
10 Dartmouth College Hanover, NH
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Our Methodology for This Ranking

This ranking accentuates universities that provide exceptional academic programs and thorough support services for women and individuals passionate about gender equality. We began with a base list of hundreds of regionally accredited schools who are ranked highly by the Women’s Choice Award for being top colleges for women. From there we ranked the schools according to affordability, financial aid awarded, female student satisfaction, return on investment, and academic reputation. We are confident that the list will provide a great launching pad for all looking for a quality school with thoughtful programming and services that promote gender equity. The tuition listed was taken from the National Center for Educational Statistics figure for 2015-2016. When applicable, the out-of-state tuition is listed.

  1. Harvard University
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The oldest university in the country, Harvard University was founded in 1636 in Cambridge, Massachusetts by a vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It is a private research university made up of Harvard College and 11 other schools and institutes, including the former Radcliffe College, now the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Harvard served around 21 students in the 2015-2016 school year. It is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges’ Commission on Institutions of Higher Education. Notable alumni include eight U.S. presidents, Helen Keller, Yo-Yo Ma, and Tommy Lee Jones. Harvard’s library collection is the oldest in the country and the largest private collection in the world.

    The current iteration of the Harvard College Women’s Center (HCWC) was founded in 2006, though it was borne out of years of history of women’s centers at Harvard and Radcliffe beginning in 1971. Its mission “is to promote gender equity by raising awareness of women’s and gender issues, developing women’s leadership, and celebrating women who challenge, motivate, and inspire.” The HCWC offers a range of programming, many of which are student-initiated, including dinner discussions, film screenings, and panels and performances supported by the Ann Radcliffe Trust/Women’s Center Community Fund, as well as a mentorship program, the Gender 101 workshop, and the Women’s Leadership Awards. Harvard also offers Degrees in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality.

  2. Stanford University
    Location

    Stanford, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Opened in 1891 and known officially as Leland Stanford Junior University, Stanford University is a private research university in Stanford, in California’s Silicon Valley. In the fall of 2015, 6,884 undergraduate students and 9,128 graduate students matriculated across seven schools. The university has a 4:1 student to faculty ratio. It is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Stanford’s community includes 20 Nobel Laureates, four Pulitzer Prize winners, and 31 Nobel Prize winners from Stanford’s faculty since the university’s founding.

    The Women’s Community Center (WCC), through the Division of Student Affairs, was established in its current form in 1991, though it has a history dating back to the 1970s. It provides “space, support, and advising to Women’s Voluntary Student Organizations (WVSOs),” which include academic, service, performing arts, sororities, and pre-professional organizations. The WCC offers programming for women in STEM fields, is home to the annual Stanford Women’s Leadership Conference, and hosts Herstory Month in April each year. In an effort to create meaningful dialogue and action around gender at Stanford, the WCC is home to the Men’s Outreach Project. Academically, the Program in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies offers an undergraduate major, a secondary major, a minor, an interdisciplinary honors program open to students in all majors, and a PhD minor.

  3. Yale University
    Location

    New Haven, CT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The third-oldest institution of higher education in the country, Yale University was founded in 1701 in what was the Saybrook Colony as the Collegiate School. Today, Yale is a private Ivy League research university in New Haven, Connecticut. It is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher Education. In 2015, Yale was home to 5,453 undergraduate and 6,859 graduate and professional students. It has 288 registered undergraduate organizations and 35 varsity sports teams.

    The Yale University Women’s Organization (YUWO), founded in 1965, seeks “to provide an opportunity for women of the Yale community to meet and pursue common intellectual and social interests” through education, recreation, and service. The Working Women’s Network aims to provide a community and advocate for policy improvements for women who work in all areas of Yale. This includes offering professional development and enrichment for women at Yale, support for women seeking a greater work-life balance, and developing relationships with other organizations with shared goals. Established in 1979, the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Yale offers a variety of courses and a Bachelor of Arts degree.

  4. Princeton University
    Location

    Princeton, NJ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Chartered in 1746, Princeton University is the fourth-oldest college in the United States. It is a private Ivy League research university located in Princeton, New Jersey. For the 2014-15 academic year, the university enrolled 5,275 undergraduate and 2,671 graduate students, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 6:1. It is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and offers 36 undergraduate degrees, concentrated into 34 majors within 15 broad fields of study. Princeton teams have won more Ivy League championships than any school over the last two decades.

    In 1971, ten years after the first women graduate students enter the university, the Princeton University Women’s Center was established. The Center seeks to “recognize and redress historic and persistent gender inequality at Princeton and beyond.” It offers information and resources on everything from gender-free restrooms to a rape aggression defense course to religious life. Programming through the Center includes events like Take Back the Night, #BlackLivesMatter documentary screening, Women in STEM Seminar Series, and the Womanist Mystique Symposium. It offers a social justice training retreat, mentorship, and the Women’s Center Action Groups, which are semester-long student-led teams that develop two to three programs on gender-related themes. Princeton also offers a Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies.

  5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, commonly known as MIT, is a private research institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1861, MIT offers 46 undergraduate majors for the 4,527 undergraduate students enrolled in 2015. In addition to the Bachelor of Science degree, MIT also offers six Master’s degrees, a Doctorate of Philosophy, and a Doctorate of Science. It is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. In the 2015-16 academic year, women made up 46% of undergraduates and 33% of graduate students. The campus houses state-of-the-art facilities including wind tunnels, linear accelerators, and robot test labs.

    Through the Division of Student Life, Women@MIT is a central location of information and resources for women students at MIT. It strives to provide MIT students information on the offices, departments, and organizations that exist to support and empower women students at MIT. It also provides a number of events and programs and oversight to the Margaret Cheney Room, MIT’s Women’s Community Center. Established in the mid-1980s, Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) at MIT is an interdisciplinary academic program which seeks to “educate MIT undergraduates on the importance of gender equity, and to promote a broad understanding of gender and its complex intersectionality with sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, ability, religious affiliation, and other categories of identity.” The program offers a degree concentration, minor, and major.

  6. Duke University
    Location

    Durham, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Duke University is a private research institution located in Durham, North Carolina. Originally established in 1838 as Trinity College, it became Duke University in 1924 through a philanthropic endowment. In the fall of 2015, Duke had 6,485 undergraduate and 8,465 graduate/professional students enrolled across its 9 schools and college. It has a student-faculty ratio of 7:1. Duke is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and offers 50 undergraduate majors and 52 minors. In an advancement of the university’s mission of ” knowledge in service to society,” more than 75% of students at Duke are engaged in service-learning opportunities in Durham and throughout the world.

    The Women’s Center at Duke is “dedicated to helping every woman at Duke become self-assured with a streetwise savvy that comes from actively engaging with the world.” In line with this mission, the center has programs geared towards empowerment, such as Salary Smart; Education & Outreach, like Gender Violence Education; Building Community, with the Women’s Collective, Activism, through the Beautiful Project; and Civic Engagement with alternative school break options. It is also home to the Duke Men’s Project, which aims “to rework current narratives of masculinity for a healthier alternative; one that is inclusive, equitable and positive.” Duke also offers a Program in Women’s Studies, which includes programs for both undergraduate and graduate students, in addition to a certificate program, a variety of initiatives, and the Feminist Theory Workshop.

  7. California Institute of Technology
    Location

    Pasadena, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Pasadena, California, the California Institute of Technology, or Caltech, is a private university founded in 1891. It has a 3:1 student to faculty ratio and six academic divisions. In 2015, Caltech had 1,001 undergraduate students and 1,254 graduate students. The gender ratio was 33% female and 56% male across the university. The school’s global facilities include a jet propulsion laboratory, seismological laboratory, and an international observatory network across five states, Antarctica, and (in 2017) Chile. It is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

    Caltech provides a variety of resources for women, many with a focus on the advancement of women in science and engineering. These resources include career, academic, and personal mentorship, discussion groups, and various clubs and groups. The school has also established Parenting at Caltech as a resource for parents and caregivers, from information on parental leave to support groups for caregivers to lactation rooms on campus. The school’s WAVE Fellows program aims to foster diversity by increasing the participation of underrepresented students in science and engineering Ph.D. programs, including women.

  8. University of Pennsylvania
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Pennsylvania, commonly known as Penn, was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1740 and is one of the country’s Colonial Colleges, established before American Revolution. It is an Ivy League research university located in Philadelphia, regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. 89 undergraduate majors are offered, and the university holds a “One University” policy, which grants undergraduates access to courses in nearly all undergraduate and graduate schools, as well as allowing students to take courses at Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore—an agreement known as the Quaker Consortium. With a student to faculty ratio of 6 to 1, in the fall of 2015 Penn had 10,406 undergraduate and 11,157 graduate students.

    Founded over 40 years ago, Penn’s Women’s Center is one of the country’s oldest campus-based Women’s Centers. The center hosts programs on career development, stress management, parenting, violence prevention, health and wellness, in addition to events which highlight women and female-identified writers, activists, artists and political and professional leaders. It also works closely with Penn Violence Prevention to educate the campus community about dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault and provides crisis and options counseling. The center has a fully-equipped nursing room and a film and book library, meeting rooms, and lounge for meetings, workshops, and other projects. Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Penn is an interdisciplinary program offering over 50 courses, a major, a minor, and a graduate certificate.

  9. Wellesley College
    Location

    Wellesley, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    12 miles west of Boston, in Wellesley, Massachusetts, sits Wellesley College, a private, women’s, liberal-arts college founded in 1870. It is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. In 2015, Wellesley enrolled 2,344 students. The school offers 56 majors and has a student to faculty ratio of 7:1. Over 70 percent of students participate in an internship while at school and more than 150 student organizations are offered, along with cultural centers and multi-faith life on campus.

    Coming out of the college’s mission to “provide an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world,” Wellesley has offered Women’s and Gender Studies since 1982. The program which examines “how the lives of individual women and men are shaped by broader structural forces in both historical and contemporary contexts . . .” The program offers both a major and minor with five different concentration options, from Global/Transnational Feminisms to Gender and American Cultural Studies. All majors are required to choose a capstone research experience. Women’s and Gender Studies also puts on a variety of events, including the annual Domna Stanton Lecture Series.

  10. Dartmouth College
    Location

    Hanover, NH

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    One of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution, Dartmouth College is a private, Ivy League, research university in Hanover, New Hampshire. The college was established in 1769. It is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. In 2014, Dartmouth had around 4,200 undergraduate and 2,000 graduate students. The undergraduate college offers more than 40 departments and programs. There are four graduate schools. Admission to the college is need-blind. About 60% of undergraduates take part in any of the 45 faculty-led off-campus opportunities in over 20 countries during their time at Dartmouth.

    Founded in 1988, the Center for Gender and Student Engagement (CGSE) at Dartmouth seeks to “facilitate students’ development with a focus on gender exploration and social justice in a safe and inclusive space” and falls under the Office of Pluralism and Leadership. CGSE provides programming, events, advising, and individual engagement opportunities. The Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality program offers a major, minor, and honor’s program. It also provides global opportunities for students to study in Hyderabad, India or take part in other international internships.

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