Women’s Leadership Initiative
As Women’s History Month draws to a close there is much to acknowledge and celebrate.
The first women’s college in the United States, Wesleyan College was founded in Macon, Georgia in 1836. The oldest of the Seven Sisters, Mount Holyoke was founded in 1837 by Mary Lyon. She started Wheaton Female Seminary in Norton, Massachusetts in 1834. It is now Wheaton College. In the 1960s, there were over 280 women’s colleges. That number is now 26.
Most of the former women’s colleges moved to coeducation. It’s important to note that in the 1960s, there were hundreds of men’s colleges that have also coeducated. There are now 3 secular men’s colleges.
Oberlin College was founded in 1833. It became the first college to admit African-American students in 1835, and in 1837 (the same year Mount Holyoke opened), Oberlin admitted female students, becoming the first coeducational college in the nation.
Last year, 55% of undergraduate students in America were female. In the 1980s women began to outnumber men on U.S. college campuses, and by 2014, women surpassed men in this country in overall academic achievement, and yet women are paid less than men across nearly all employment sectors. Although that gap has continued to shrink, according to the Pew Center, in 2022, the differential was still 18%.
This discrepancy is one of the principal reasons Signe S. Gates ’71 and Dawn G. Mueller ’68 (the chair and vice-chair of our board of trustees) support the creation of the Women’s Leadership Initiative at Susquehanna University. This program provides leadership training, mentorship, and networking in support of all of the women enrolled at the University.
We will be hosting our annual Women’s Leadership Symposium in Washington, DC later this week. At this event, our current students will interact with alumnae in leadership roles at Healthcare Ready, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and more.
Great progress has been made toward gender equity, but we still have a long way to go. The examples and efforts of Signe and Dawn, and the support of the many alumni and friends of Susquehanna to promote these efforts provide opportunities for the next generation of SU alumnae to make gender equity in their professional lives a reality.