Women still need/sp/colleges of their own

SATURDAY MAILBOX

August 24, 2002

As president of a women's college, I was dismayed by Mike Bowler's column "Only male at Hood may get company" (July 31).

Mr. Bowler's message is hardly earth-shattering news. The sad fact is, as Mr. Bowler points out, these times have been hard on women's colleges. In fact, they've been hard on nearly all colleges.

But I am shocked and surprised by my colleague Ronald Volpe's assertion that an all-women's education "might have been more important for breaking through the glass ceiling 20 years ago, but it's not so important today."

According to a January 2002 U.S. General Accounting Office report, the majority of women managers in 10 industries that employ more than 70 percent of women workers were worse off in 2000 than in 1995. In fact, in seven of those 10 industries, the earnings gap between women and men managers actually widened between 1995 and 2000.

And the GAO is not alone. Other organizations including the Annenberg Public Policy Center, Catalyst, and the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession have published reports outlining similar trends.

I won't deny that women workers have made some very real gains over the last few decades, but for the nation's women managers there can be little doubt, despite Mr. Volpe's suggestion, that the glass ceiling remains firmly in place.

But, just for the sake of argument, suppose for a moment that Mr. Volpe's assertion is correct. Does that mean that the reason for women's colleges is no more?

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Study after study has determined that women who graduate from women's colleges show higher levels of self-esteem, greater satisfaction in both their personal and professional lives and a deeper engagement with their communities.

Despite the media attention to women's colleges in trouble, many are flourishing - and I'm proud to say that Randolph-Macon Women's College is among them. In fact, this year, we are on track to admit a record number of students from across the United States and more than 40 other countries.

Perhaps these young women have read the GAO report, although I doubt it.

What seems more likely is that they are certain about something Mr. Volpe seems to be overlooking: That by all measures, there is no better place for the education of young women than a women's college.

Kathleen Gill Bowman

Lynchburg, Va.

The writer is president of Randolph-Macon Women's College.

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