Educating our young girls to be successful in their lives, realize their dreams, and add to the human capital that will help America push through some of the difficult transitions on the horizon is an easy goal to get behind for many people. Whether you think of yourself as a ’feminist’ or not, there is good evidence indicating that gender equality in the workplace is good for business and GDP.
But how do we get there, and what are the tools available? I recently sat down with the President of First Republic Bank, Katherine August-deWilde, and my co-honoree at the Public Prep Namesake Luncheon on April 10th celebrating classroom ‘namesakes’ at its Girls Prep schools. When the subject turned to success among women, it didn’t take long for the conversation to turn to her own single-sex educational experience at Goucher College.
After spending time with her, I was confident she would have done well whatever the circumstances, but she specifically cited the benefits of a supportive learning environment where gender bias among faculty and students in the classroom setting was dramatically reduced, as an important part of her development.
Times have changed since Katherine went to college: Goucher is now co-ed, and single-sex education is considered archaic by some and even detrimental by others. But many of the indicators which the Shriver Report illuminates for us show that women’s status in American society is still not equal. Maybe some of the advances that have been made (and believe me, ‘we’ve come along way…’ for sure) would be greater if young women and girls were afforded this low-cost intervention from centuries past.
It’s not “The Answer” to all our challenges, but if we agree that there is a gender-gap crossing racial and economic demographics, then it becomes cost effective to couple single-sex education with all of the following pillars that support a Girls Prep education:
- Cognitive ability and knowledge across academic disciplines, including science, US and world history, the arts, music, math, foreign language and other courses of study that help them become well-rounded, educated and culturally literate citizens
- Character strengths that support performance such as resilience, determination, initiative, perseverance, gratitude, empathy and optimism to help them overcome the inevitable hurdles encountered in life; and
- College awareness which includes financial planning, on-campus experiences and other college preparatory skills so they ultimately navigate the maze to and through college.
I am proud to be a part of this vibrant educational community, and I want to see others emulate the results, no matter how they get there. As you engage the various facets of the Shriver Report, I would ask you to imagine how the development of our women could benefit from more of the low-cost support with high returns like Katherine August-deWilde, the high-achieving elementary school students at Girls Prep Bronx, and the young women in your life who you want to see grow and meet up with women in their lives who can support them through every level of success that they can achieve.