I’m biased against people who went to women’s colleges

A reader writes:

I have a strong opinion about something that is making me biased as a manager. I am a woman and I dislike the idea of women’s colleges. I feel things people cannot help like age, race, disability, or sexual orientation are not the same as college choice. People pick where they go to college.

There are a few things that lead me to this opinion:

(1) When women’s colleges were created, it was because women were not admitted to men’s colleges. This made a lot of sense. Now women have many more options for education and I think they no longer serve a purpose.

(2) I think women self selecting to only have an education with each other is a bit precious. There is no avoiding men, they make up half the population. Deliberately selecting to learn only with other women illustrates, to me, intolerance and inflexibility.

(3) Men’s only colleges would be banned but women’s only are still acceptable. I think, as women, the best way to combat sexism and misogyny is to insist that things are equal. It’s really not fair to say, “I want the same things as a man, except when I go to school, I don’t want them around.”

(4) The endowments at woman’s colleges are huge. I mean, it’s a ton of money. And this has the potential to be allocated towards initiatives that would uplift so many more women.

I know it sounds backwards, but because I want to be taken seriously as a woman, I do not support institutions that exclude men.

In addition to this, when I meet a woman who attended a women’s college, I assume she will expect a more than average amount of coddling. I expect entitlement and privilege. I expect her to have difficulty working with the men on our team.

It hasn’t been an issue at work until we went through a restructuring and my team needed two new people. I sat in on the hiring process. One of the applicants was from a women’s college and ultimately the hiring committee selected her. My boss pulled me aside and said that he knows I had an “immediate dislike” to this new hire but she was a sound applicant and I need to respect their decision. I did not realize I was so obvious with my dislike until he said this. I need to manage her fairly. If I could flip a switch in my brain to not have this bias, I would. I anticipate a lot of comments like “just stop thinking that about women’s colleges” but it’s not that easy. How do I override a bias and learn to disregard a choice I genuinely think shows poor judgment?

I also want to be very clear: I am aware this is a bias and I want to overcome it to manage my employee fairly.

Not only is this a bias, it’s an irrational bias.

It’s not like having a bias against people who, I don’t know, spit on their clients or cheated to get through college. Those are biases that would be rooted in a true-to-life fact about the person. But this one is an irrational bias because the assumptions behind it are wrong.

Students at women’s colleges aren’t generally there because they’re too precious to learn otherwise or need to be coddled or are intolerant of men (!). They’re generally there because they like the academic programs the college offers, or they want more equitable access to STEM education (there’s tons of data showing that students at women’s colleges are more likely to major in STEM fields than women elsewhere; they’re also more than twice as likely to attend medical school, earn doctoral degrees, and be involved in philanthropic activity), or they’ve read the data showing (or personally experienced) that male voices are more likely to drown out women’s in many classrooms (even to the point of men getting called on more).

You’re right that it’s no longer the case that women are shut out of other institutions of higher education — but women are still at a disadvantage in a bunch of other ways: on average, we still don’t earn equal pay for equal work, we account for a far smaller portion of leadership positions than men do (despite making up more of the workforce than they do), and we’re drastically under-represented in government and on corporate boards. Sexism is still here and still a problem. In that context, why shouldn’t some women choose to seek out institutions that prioritize women’s leadership and accomplishments and where no one is going to second-guess their abilities simply on the basis of their gender?

When a group is marginalized, it’s not promoting inequality to recognize that reality and choose to build affiliation and networks with each other as a way to redress some of that. You wrote that it’s not fair to ask for equality “except when I go to school.” But it’s not inequality for a systematically marginalized group to create space to support and amplify their priorities. That’s an attempt to level the playing field — to balance it, not imbalance it.

(Relatedly, I hope/assume you don’t have the same objections to candidates from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Assuming you agree there’s still a place for HBCUs, I’m curious why you think women’s colleges aren’t okay.)

If you really want to move past your bias, I’d encourage you to look at the data on women’s colleges and the success of their graduates (which by many measures is significantly higher than women from co-educational institutions). If these women were emerging from college inflexible and needing to be coddled, you’d presumably see that reflected in their achievement levels. Take a look — you won’t find it.

More than that, though, you need to do the same work you’d hopefully do to counter any other type of unfair bias you want to combat in yourself: be mindful of it, spend more time with people who are different from you, be specific in your intent to change the way you’re doing things, and seek out advice on specific practices you can put in place to guard against internal biases (like evaluating work “blind,” for example, but there’s a ton of reading you can do for more ideas on this).

For what it’s worth, though, there’s a strong undercurrent of “I’m justified in feeling this way” throughout your letter, and you’ll never successfully counter your biases if you don’t first drop that.

{ 1,439 comments… read them below }

  1. The Original K.*

    Relatedly, I hope/assume you don’t have the same objections to candidates from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Assuming you agree there’s still a place for HBCUs, I’m curious why you think women’s colleges aren’t okay.
    My first question was going to be if OP feels this way about HBCUs. Everything she says about women’s colleges could be said about HBCUs.

    1. Witch*

      I guess because of media people assume women’s colleges are only for wealthy white women but lol no I just googled it and Wellesley has a pretty even mix of different international and ethnic identities out of its student population.

      OP: think of women’s college (really how many people are you interacting with that graduated from them in the first place?) as a place for all women of any background. Mount Holyoke accepts all trans identities, and is likely going to be a more welcoming place for transwomen than a typical state university.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Historically, lots of women’s colleges were the only places Saudi women were allowed to go by their families. Now I have hear they’re also going to BYU, but still women’s colleges are the first choice

        1. BubbleTea*

          I’m in the UK so our system is a little different but I went to a women’s college within my university (some teaching was mixed, some was college-only, accommodation was within college throughout) and a lot of Muslim girls now attend that college because their families feel more comfortable about it.

          It’s also astonishing to me that the LW says the endowments are huge, because that’s not the case here. Women don’t have the levels of historical wealth that men had in the past, so there’s less to give.

          1. Observer*

            It’s also astonishing to me that the LW says the endowments are huge, because that’s not the case here.

            It’s astonishing to me too. Because I have no idea how large the endowments on some women’s colleges are, but that idea that THAT’S a significant problem keeping women back is so absurd that it’s hard to take this as made in good faith, to be honest.

            Did the OP even bother to look at the endowments of the Ivies? Not a single woman’s college is in the top largest endowment list. Very few of them even have endowments that hit $1B, much less the $10+ and more endowments of the top 10.

            1. ExpectingProf*

              Yeah, there are some women’s colleges with relatively large endowments, but there are tons of coed colleges with just as large of ones. The coed school I work at now has the same (relatively large but not huge) endowment as the women’s college I went to.

              Besides, this perception that something else could be done with that money isn’t true. There are conditions in college endowments, they can’t just give away all the money or something.

              1. MM*

                I was flabbergasted at the endowments bit. If you’re worried about that, go after Harvard or UChicago?

                1. Elle*

                  Yeah, the underlying assumption here is that women having money to use for themselves is not ok. How DARE these women *checks notes* do the same thing everyone else does!!

            2. LadyofLasers*

              I got curious too so I looked it up! There’s a wikipedia page listing endowments in the US, and for private schools you have to go 29 down before you get to the first woman’s college (Wellesley). That doesn’t even include public universities.

            3. DataSci*

              Also, schools with very large endowments can afford to offer more financial aid – it’s frequently cheaper for a low-income student to attend someplace like Stanford (my alma mater) or Harvard because they can offer better aid packages than a smaller private school with fewer resources.

              1. LongTime Reader*

                Yep- my now-spouse went to a well regarded small liberal arts school instead of the in-state public university I was at because even with in-state tuition he got better financial aid and had significantly smaller loans there.

            4. Curmudgeon in California*

              Yeah, Stanford’s endowments are huge. It’s like several regular universities rolled into one. Yes, Stanford grads can be arrogant and coddled, or worse. Does Brock Turner ring a bell? IMO he is not that much of an outlier.

              1. Lydia*

                Eh, I know a couple of Stanford grads who are no more coddled or entitled as any other people I’ve met who went to other schools. It tends to be the place they came from, not necessarily the place they went. Basically, if she doesn’t feel the same way about other schools with large endowments, it’s pretty easy to see this is some deeply internalized misogyny.

                1. ccnumber4*

                  Yes, this whole letter is deeply problematic. The fact that her leader was able to tell she had an “immediate dislike” for the selected candidates is a very big issue, especially since the OP didn’t think it was noticeable. OP has some serious internal work to do in this space regarding DEI/equality and I would argue that she should not be leading people until this is resolved.

            5. sb51*

              Yeah, that jumped out at me too. Also, I think a lot of the less well endowed womens’ schools have gone under or gone coed to survive, so you’re left with the successful ones.

              I went to an all girls school from 4-12th grade and was absolutely uninterested in a womens’ college (as an adhd girl I fit in poorly and got in trouble for being loud a lot and was done with certain types of gender role policing by fellow women that might or might not have been an issue in college but definitely was in high school and I was SO DONE) but I still think they’re a valuable option to have out there.

              1. Nell*

                My undergraduate women’s only college (US) just got bought out by another university to have a campus on that coast. You’re right that a lot of the less well-known ones are struggling these days. Nobody recognizes my undergrad choice where I live now, but the college focused on making sure first-generation college students and others who typically struggled to get through college graduated in four years. Now I’m at grad school at a nationally-recognized college and I couldn’t have done it without my undergraduate college’s set-up.

              2. MM*

                I went to all-girls school grades 7-12 and I loved it, honestly. I didn’t want to go to a women’s college (and I didn’t), but I’ve found that all the stats about girls getting more confidence and better education in these environments really bore out for me. I can’t tell you how many situations I’ve been in where I’ve realized after the fact that I was the only woman to speak, or who dared ask a question. That can’t ALL be chalked up to all-girls education, but I do think it helped.

                To the degree that I have any sympathy for OP, it’s because that experience also meant I saw some of what all-boys education was like, and I think it was bad for them much as it was good for us. But none of that should add up to being biased against women who choose a women’s college!

          2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Another graduate of a UK collegiate university here. The women I met from the women’s colleges were without exception, erm, exceptional. I absolutely do not recognise LW’s biases in my experience.

            OTOH my college was approaching 70:30 male:female for ~~reasons~~ and honestly that was difficult – it meant an environment where harassment flourished and was waved away.

            I note from my university that undergrad is only 50:50 M:F *because* there remain women-only colleges. There are no university-wide or national quotas, so we do still need to lean on the scale somewhat to achieve equal opportunities.

          3. Tau*

            Fellow graduate of a UK collegiate university! I didn’t go to one of the women’s colleges but have nothing bad to say about the people who did. The colleges were also generally smaller and poorer – the super big famous rich college was not only mixed but one where the whisper campaign and just statistics spoke of a sexism problem (my course was around 25% female, but for that college it was more like <5%).

            Another thing I was told was that as a female STEM student I'd be immediately sorted into one of the women's colleges if I didn't put down a preference. Since international students were pretty likely to not know anything about the colleges and just go "put me wherever", a lot of my female international coursemates ended up there.

          4. tamarack and fireweed*

            I think this is only true for a particular set of elite colleges in the US. And while some do have huge endowments, so have mixed Ivy League colleges, so why the animus specifically against the women’s ones?

            I educated at German public (=state) educational institutions, some of which were selective, all of which were mixed-gender. I self-sorted into a lot of male dominated classes. Once I was at university (physics, 10% women, no sign of improvement then) I was hit with the information that a *whole lot* of women who were successful in male-dominated scientific fields in Germany had gone to women’s schools. Now this doesn’t mean I became a fan of women’s schools, however, it did make me rethink my position on them.

            For me, this topic is a *great* illustration of why, despite such an increasingly politically polarized culture, there are things where it’s appropriate to accept that there is a range of attitudes. Having a pluralistic range of high-quality educational pathways is a good thing because it makes it more likely that anyone can find a school or course of study that works for them. We all have opinions and ideas. Some from our personal experience. Some from observation, personal philosophy and value system. I am for example increasingly taken against what is considered the “elite” layer of educational institutions in the countries I’m familiar with – because they instill a false sense of complacent intellectual superiority and an entirely unnecessary and harmful normalization of competitiveness. I also don’t see a good reason why the institutions that are considered particularly good at teaching a subject should be selecting for the easiest-to-teach students. I also have a basic leeriness of many religious-based institutions, even though I acknowledge that there are many highly worthy educational traditions grounded in religious practice (various religions).

            HOWEVER – I think it is entirely wrong to let these opinions influence one’s attitudes towards co-workers and reports. People attend and choose the institutions they and up for a variety of reasons. I take them as they come and don’t prejudge. So maybe, just maybe, I may look out for particular attitudes that I might link to particular educational pathways – the mansplainer, the person-who-doesn’t-even-know-what-they-don’t-know, the hyper-competitive co-worker whose interactions quickly feel like put-down, excessively high or low self-esteem etc. But in the end there is no 1:1 correspondence between any of these with a particular kind of schooling.

            1. Anon Y Mouse*

              Yes. That, and so much of what people decide is influenced by their parents or teachers or other circumstances. They’re not choices made in a vacuum.

              (My husband went to an elite, collegiate university to do a particular humanities subject because as a bright but underconfident teenager he’d been railroaded into it by his school, who saw a chance for him to excel there. He did do well but was very stressed and unhappy and later did a master’s in something completely unrelated (and more vocational) at a less high-pressure institution. He thinks he should have done that to start with, but it was not presented as an option.)

            2. My Cabbages!*

              I will say… as a non-Christian-turned-atheist, I shared your opinions about religious schools. Until I got hired by a Catholic university.

              My school has a stronger commitment to equality and social justice than either the elite private school of my undergrad OR the public university in an extremely liberal state where I did grad school. The education is fully secular other than having a few classes taught by the resident priests and having a chapel on campus.
              I won’t say that all religious schools are great (coughcoughBYUcough) but conversely they aren’t all that bad either.

          5. MDubz*

            I went to a Seven Sisters institution, and a ton of my classmates were Orthodox Jews, for I imagine similar reasons.

        2. Long Time Lurker*

          Thanks for making this point. I know two women from religiously conservative backgrounds who were only permitted to go to college by their parents if they went to either an all women school or a strictly Christian university.

      2. OyHiOh*

        I wrote about my own experience below but yes. At the (Catholic) women’s institution I attended, there were a number of young women from Muslim majority countries. All-women’s schools were considered safe and socially acceptable for them to attend.

      3. MM*

        Relevant to who goes to these colleges: it’s not all about whether coed institutions are open to women enrolling. It’s also about whether these young women’s families are willing to send them to a coed institution.

        My cousin taught for years at a small women’s college in the South. It was a mix of, yes, the gentry’s daughters, but also international students whose families were more comfortable with sending them to school in licentious America if it was a women’s institution, and women from not-wealthy, rural, conservative/religious families who were finally getting some freedom (since their families assumed they were “safe” or unlikely to get up to anything “inappropriate” at a women’s college; meanwhile lots of them were coming into their queer identities). For a lot of women coming from a lot of backgrounds, women’s colleges and similar institutions can be a really important source of freedom and the beginning of options they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

      4. fhqwhgads*

        Yeah my experience is definitely that women’s colleges are wayyyyyyyyy more hospitable to trans folks than other schools. LW’s “reasons” make a bunch of assumptions that are easily proven false if you, you know, talk to someone who went to a women’s college instead of just assuming their reasoning, and also completely ignores a lot of the reasons people choose those schools.
        ALSO! Something LW doesn’t seem to have considered is a student who applied to, say, 1 women’s college and 6 other not-women’s colleges, because those were the schools with programs that interested them, and oh hey look, only got accepted to the one. Plus I can think of at least 3 women’s colleges that are part of consortia. So going there opens up classes to like, 4 other schools besides the one you officially attend. You wanna be judgey about what school someone went to, maybe know about what that school offers?

        1. dmowl*

          Indeed. I applied to maybe 10 schools, out of the ones I got into, the best one was the only women’s college I applied to. It was the sister school of the coed college that was my top choice and I was waitlisted at, and rather than fight to be accepted off the waitlist, I decided to go to the school where I could 1) take all the same classes, 2) do my major at the other school if I wanted 3) participate in practically all the same activities but 4) live on a much nicer campus. Having gotten to know the other school a lot better in my time during college, I am actually really happy by how it turned out. The school I did go to was a much better fit, and I still got a lot of the benefits. On top of that, I am convinced that college admissions, especially of schools that were once all women and went coed, unfairly benefits male students as they attempt retain or create an equal gender ratio as more women go to college. I was many of my male high school classmates who had the same grades as I did, but not as rigorous of a course load, or as many extracurriculars, get into schools where I was waitlisted.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      That was definitely my second thought. My first thought was less outward (because I went to a women’s college, so I had my hackles raised) As I read the justification, it was clear to me that HBCU colleges could be swapped in.
      “Men’s only colleges would be banned.”
      Yes, and caucasian only colleges would be banned, too.
      BTW, OP, there are three men’s only colleges in the US.

      1. LegalEagle*

        Also! Men’s colleges are not banned! Morehouse, I believe, is still all-male and from a quick google it looks like there are three other all-male colleges in the US. Court cases that have forced schools to go co-ed happened when there was no similar educational institution for women, like in the case of the Virginia Military Institute. But all-male colleges on their own are not banned.

        1. nelliebelle1197*

          Morehouse is all men and Spellman is all women. Both are great schools that produce amazing graduates who have changed the world in fabulous ways.

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          Yeah, the claim that men’s colleges would be banned jumped out at me. It took about thirty seconds to disprove the factual assertion.

        3. Luvtheshoes*

          Very true. My son recently graduated from an all male college in Indiana, Wabash College. It was an incredible experience for him and remains a very well regarded institution in academic circles. And he met plenty of girls who loved parties on campus as they knew the fellas were glad to have them there. #WAF

        4. Charis*

          The Virginia Military Institute is a state school, so they legally had to become co-ed. If Virginia men really want a single sex school they can go to Hampden-Sydney College: “Where men are men and women are guests.” (According to their bumper stickers at least.)

          1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

            (I live in Virginia.) Ugh, I side-eye the f*** out of those bumper stickers whenever I see them. There’s nothing wrong with an all-men’s school if there’s an actual need for it, but given how rampant gender discrimination still is (I mean, look at the internalized misogyny dripping from OP’s letter!), proudly advertising “no girls allowed” makes me think you’re the kind of institution that teaches your students, “‘No’ means ‘debate her.'”

            As a sidenote: the first Hampden-Sydney bumper sticker I ever saw said, “Where men are men and women stay home” so…I frankly question this place’s stance on gender equality in general. Maybe that one was an unofficial bumper sticker, but I’ve seen it on multiple cars of H-S people.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        I was thinking that Gallaudet could also be swapped in.

        I went to co-ed schools for all my education, but I completely understand why some women choose a women’s college.

      3. Meganly*

        I looked it up out of curiosity and was delighted to learn that the mens-only college that I desperately wanted to attend (Deep Springs) just started accepting female students in 2018. (After a fierce legal battle where the trustees were sued by alumni for wanting to open it up to women after years of requests from students.)

    3. Database Developer Dude*

      True, but white students aren’t actually prohibited from going to HBCUs. They just by and large…don’t.

      1. High Score!*

        This is an excellent point. An historically black college here welcomes students of all races. It’s a small college, still mostly black, but my neighbors son, who is white, went there. He was treated warmly by the other students and made lifetime friends.
        I can see both sides of the women’s college issue. The pros are already listed. The cons are that they are discriminatory. In STEM careers, women are no longer underpaid. Actually in areas with a lot of tech companies, “diverse” hires (women, POC) are paid more bc there’s less of them and companies want to be seen as having a diverse work force otherwise new grads don’t want to work for them.

          1. The Real Fran Fine*

            Exactly. I’ve heard the exact opposite, and I work for a global software company that’s always talking about how tech needs to do better at recruiting and retaining a more diverse workforce.

            1. The Original K.*

              Agreed. I’ve read a lot of firsthand accounts by women of color in tech that say the opposite.

            2. Anonymous*

              I work in STEM (mostly pharma) and the shift towards every job being a disposable contract job has probably muddied the waters… but also came at a similar time as the push for more women in STEM, which was probably not intentional but historically careers get the legs cut out from under them when they become opened up towards women.

            3. Wendy Darling*

              Yeah I also work in tech and like… that’s bullshit. Everyone knows it’s bullshit. The only people who don’t think it’s bullshit are insecure white men who somewhere deep down know that they can’t compete if women and POC are treated equally.

          2. AsPerElaine*

            And even if we weren’t underpaid (which I, a woman in tech, have seen no evidence to support) we are still massively under-represented. “Not enough women are graduating with STEM degrees” is far from the only issue with women being under-represented in STEM, but it’s certainly one angle on the problem.

          3. lindsayinmpls*

            I literally was just running salary and income stats last week for professional/tech occupations compared to all other occupations for white non-Hispanic men, white non-Hispanic women, and Black non-Hispanic women (grad school assignment).

            Using American Community Survey data from 2016-2020, the mean income for professional/tech occupations is:
            white non-Hispanic males: $97,341/year
            white non-Hispanic females: $62,631/year
            Black non-Hispanic females: $54,958/year

        1. Observer*

          You’re making a number of HIGHLY dubious claims. The only statement that I totally believe is that the HBCU treated your neighbor’s son well.

          The rest? The numbers I’ve seen simply don’t bear any of this out.

          1. Anon For This*

            Not to mention the bias in hiring. Amazon trained a machine-learning algorithm on the resumes of people who were and weren’t offered jobs at Amazon. Then they had to throw it out, because it learned to exclude anyone with the word “women” on the resume, such as “Women’s [sport]”, “Women’s [leadership position]” or, you guessed it, women’s colleges.

            The FAANG company I worked for had specific practices where all interview assessments needed to be written in gender-neutral language to reduce the bias against hiring women.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            You also have to account for selection bias. In the US*, women who are mediocre in STEM generally don’t pursue it while men who are mediocre in STEM are encouraged to pursue it. So the average cis-woman in engineering/computer science/physics/etc is much better at their field than the average cis-man.

            *This is not true of all countries; a lot of Asian countries have gender parity in computer science graduation rates for men and women.
            *Unfortunately, trans people are underrepresented in a lot of STEM fields.

            *In computer science, a

            1. My Cabbages!*

              Anecdata: I teach Biology at a university and I have at least one trans or enby student every quarter. So maybe it’s getting better? Still not great, but better.

        2. HoHumDrum*

          The idea that women have reached economic parity within STEM is so wrong it’s laughable. In fact what happens is when women enter a field en masse the pay scale goes down to reflect that because we do not value someone’s work. Biology, for example, is a field where the relevant prestige and pay has gone down because women have started to fill up the ranks.

        3. Keymaster of Gozer*

          In STEM careers, women are no longer underpaid

          Oh that is so not true. And even if it were there is still the immense amount of other discrimination – subtle and overt – that goes on.

          1. Anon For This*

            [Content warning: sexual assault]

            Every tech company I’ve worked for has gone through a public sexual assault scandal while I was working there. I got to read in the news about the multi-million dollar severance payment given to a man accused of sexual assault, and then about one of my coworkers drugging and assaulting female coworkers.

            Maybe companies want better diversity numbers, but they don’t seem to give a crap about their female employees after they hire them.

          1. Chestnut Mare*

            High Score! also posted yesterday that teachers get “Summer Pay” so they seem to enjoy making stuff up.

            1. TeacherAnon*

              Oh boy. Teachers *should* arguably get summer pay but the only way I and my colleagues get paid through the summer is if we have our 9 month salary spread out over more paychecks. It’s still just 9 months salary though.

              1. dmowl*

                It’s “summer pay” in the way I get “weekend pay,” by having my the same salary spread of 7 days instead of 5.

        4. Swellesley*

          Want to push back on this a little. First, a number of historically women’s colleges do now accept cis-men but are still 80%+ women. Second, I attended Wellesley and we had male exchange students living on campus as well as male students from Brandeis and MIT regularly in our classes. Not to mention many of us regularly took classes at MIT. Finally, I’m going out on a limb that commenter who thinks women are overpaid in tech won’t totally understand this point, but these days numerous women’s colleges have notable populations of transmen. So in fact it is inaccurate to say broadly that women’s colleges don’t accept men.

          1. Anon for this one*

            A good friend of mine is a trans man who went to a women’s college. He hadn’t realized his identity when applying to colleges, but now he gets a lot of confused looks or double-takes when he mentions where he went to college. (Fortunately he’s very open about being trans, so he doesn’t have to out himself when he wouldn’t be comfortable doing so.)

          2. MDubz*

            Yep! I went to a Seven Sisters, I had men in my classes (both cis students taking advantage of our consortium and trans classmates) and had the opportunity to live in mixed gender housing every year after our first year. That being said, I appreciated the scholastic separation from the waves of sexist bullshit coming across the street from our brother campus about how we were all slutty and dumb.

          3. dmowl*

            I went to Bryn Mawr. Not only did we accept transmen (as long as they identified as women *at the time of application*), but we had a housing exchange with our coed sibling school (Haverford) which men could take advantage of. We shared a direct course registration system with Haverford, and through a bit of extra effort we could take classes at Swarthmore, Villanova, and UPenn. Other than a handful of very specific classes, a majority of my classes had men in them. Women’s colleges don’t “avoid” men, they just don’t center the experience on men. It’s amazing the cultural changes that happen when cismen don’t see themselves as a majority, or even as a viable minority. I actually landed at a women’s college quite by chance, I wasn’t seeking it out and applied on a whim because I was looking for a small liberal arts school on the east coast. I fell in love with the campus during admitted students weekend and I loved the intimacy, traditions, and how the classes were structured. I didn’t get the same sense from similarly sized coed schools, I’m not totally sure why. What I can say is the idea that somehow women’s college grads are poorly adjusted, especially well into their careers and adulthood, is just absurd. There are plenty of poorly adjusted men and women that come out of all kinds of educational backgrounds.

        5. Starbuck*

          “n STEM careers, women are no longer underpaid. Actually in areas with a lot of tech companies, “diverse” hires (women, POC) are paid more bc there’s less of them and companies want to be seen as having a diverse work force otherwise new grads don’t want to work for them.”

          Citation, please.

        6. DataSci*

          “In STEM careers, women are no longer underpaid. Actually in areas with a lot of tech companies, “diverse” hires (women, POC) are paid more bc there’s less of them”

          Thanks for the great laugh. Signed, a woman in tech.

          1. MurpMaureep*

            Yeah I started to get mad and then just decided to shake my head and (mostly) move along. I’m a director of a technical group at a large, academic medical institution, and I can absolutely guarantee you that women and POC are not “paid more because there are less [sic] of them”. (I’m also a proud grad of a Seven Sisters school…who still makes less than men at my level).

        7. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

          Actually in areas with a lot of tech companies, “diverse” hires (women, POC) are paid more bc there’s less of them and companies want to be seen as having a diverse work force otherwise new grads don’t want to work for them.

          on what planet?

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Yeah, this smacks of ‘positive discrimination! Women, BIPOC folks get higher priority for jobs! It’s hard to get a job as a cis white guy!’

            (As a WOC with disabilities it really makes me laugh that people think I didn’t have to fight twice as hard to get half the respect)

        8. Curmudgeon in California*

          In STEM careers, women are no longer underpaid. Actually in areas with a lot of tech companies, “diverse” hires (women, POC) are paid more bc there’s less of them and companies want to be seen as having a diverse work force otherwise new grads don’t want to work for them.


          As an AFAB person in tech, this is horse pucky. Women and POC are still paid less, and H1bs are also paid less. I am in a peer community (dev ops people) that talks regularly about salary, and the men still make more. White AFAB tend to get 80%, Black and hispanic men get about 75%, while Asian men are at 95% to parity (depending on how much of the upper management is Asian.)

          I’ve been in tech for over 20 years, and while the pay disparity has lessened, it is still very much there.

        9. Red5*

          “Actually in areas with a lot of tech companies, “diverse” hires (women, POC) are paid more bc there’s less of them and companies want to be seen as having a diverse work force otherwise new grads don’t want to work for them.”

          Honestly, describing women and POCs as “diverse” (diversity) hires makes everything else you’re saying suspect.

        10. TechWorker*

          I could believe there is parity at the graduate recruitment level. But senior roles, especially senior technical roles are overwhelmingly male, so no way are women and minorities paid ‘more’ overall.

        11. Nina*

          > companies want to be seen as having a diverse work force otherwise new grads don’t want to work for them

          I’m in aerospace, publicly traded. I’m the only woman in my department (not team. Department. Not a typo). Every time the company tries to do something towards more equitable hiring, the comms team gets overwhelmed with angry emails from fanboys/shareholders complaining about discrimination against men. The company does not care about being seen to have a diverse workforce. The company does not WANT a diverse workforce. The specific type of new grads the company is trying to attract also do not care about or want a diverse workforce.

        12. Woman in STEM*

          I’m a woman who’s worked in technology for over 30 years, I currently work as a manager for a software company where I can see salaries for some of the people in my department, and I can 100% guarantee you that your statement about women and POC in STEM no longer being underpaid as compared to their white male peers is absolutely and categorically false.

        13. Claire W*

          > In STEM careers, women are no longer underpaid. Actually in areas with a lot of tech companies, “diverse” hires (women, POC) are paid more bc there’s less of them and companies want to be seen as having a diverse work force otherwise new grads don’t want to work for them.

          As a woman working in tech with an engineering degree, please, where did youget this info? Because it’s not accurate to literally any of the women I have ever worked with or met through women-in-tech groups… it sounds like another rumour started by the majority that isn’t the reality for the minority they’re talking about.

          (as an aside this is a great example of why, as the only woman in my eng degree class, I would have loved a womens-only college option to avoid all the “you’re only top of the class because you’re the only girl and the teacher is female” and “sure do you really need good grades, you’ll marry one of the guys in your class and stay at home anyway” crap for 4 years)

      2. Tinkerbell*

        Yep, this is what I was coming here to say. If the OP is consistent in her biases, she’d also have issues with religious institutions that require students to adhere to a particular faith (but presumably be fine with those that accept students of other religious backgrounds too). HBCUs are *historically* Black but theoretically open to anyone now – they just tend to still provide an environment where Black students can enjoy the benefits of being in the majority for once.

        1. ThisIshRightHere*

          for what it’s worth, HBCUs were *always* open to anyone. It’s just that only certain folks had a need for them in the first place. Until fairly recently, I imagine an infinitesimal percentage of students who had every right to attend, say Ole Miss would even have considered, say Rust College. And any prohibition about whites attending was not by the institution, but due to segregation laws.

        2. dmowl*

          Part of her bias seems to be that women who go to women’s college self-select to be around women. By this logic, POC who go to HBCU are self selecting to be around POC, so her bias should apply there too.

      3. HBCU*

        White students do go! My Dad (white) worked at two HBCUs while I was growing up, Langston University in Oklahoma and Wiley College in Texas, and white students DO go to those schools. And both institutions are damn good.

    4. RunShaker*

      That came to mind as well before I finished reading the letter. I know we shouldn’t assume but I would think the OP would have bias against HBCUs as well based on tone of the letter. I can definitely see as well applying the same thought process. I hope the OP reflects on Alison’s points & is able to make the needed changes.

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        Yup. A historically black women’s college that was founded by white women. It checks all the boxes, lol.

    5. Proud FAMU Grad*

      HBCUs do admit students of other races. However, we get a similar beneficial environment of not having to fight a steady drip of hostility while we focus on learning.

    6. yala*

      If OP hasn’t, I hope she sincerely asks herself this. Because seriously, the bias against women’s college graduates is such an…utterly bizarre thing that it wouldn’t surprise me if, whether she realizes it or not, OP has a similar bias towards HBCU, even *if* she acknowledges that there are good reasons people choose them.

      1. Summer*

        My first thought was, this is such an odd thing to be biased about! It is clearly coming from a place of deeply internalized misogyny because otherwise it just makes no sense. Also, LW, the fact that your boss pulled you aside and had to explain the reasoning behind the hire and say that he hoped you can come around?? That is a problem and your weird hatred of women’s colleges needs to be unpacked and worked on asap. Otherwise this is going to continue to be a problem for you.

        My second thought was about HBCUs – if you have no bias against them then your bias against women’s colleges is all the more baffling. I kinda hope this is a fake letter. I just don’t understand what would drive you to care so much about this.

        1. Elle*

          Personal insecurity is what drives these fixations. My guess would be that she was rejected from a women’s college, or constantly compared to a sibling who attended one, or something like that. The letter has that familiar “you’re not better than me!!” tone lurking in the background.

    1. a tester, not a developer*

      And even in situations where they are not explicitly male only, there’s still a lot of tacit “Sure, you can be here, but you’ll be the only woman in the class/in a co-ed dorm” in some colleges. I wouldn’t have been comfortable doing that when I was 17; I’m guessing OP would think I was ‘precious’…

      1. Cat Tree*

        *Raises hand* This was my experience as a woman majoring in engineering (and working in engineering).

        1. No Tribble At All*

          (Sobs in women in engineering) Love being the only woman on my half of the lecture hall :)

          1. Keyboard Cowboy*

            Ah yes, fondly remembering the first session of my embedded systems class, when after getting introductions from around the room, the grad student teaching turned to me and said, “So you’re really the only woman, huh?” Is that so? I hadn’t noticed, buddy.

            1. Another Woman in Tech*

              One of my professors decided to stop in the middle of a computer science class to ask me–the only female-presenting person in the room–why there weren’t more women in CS.

              I said something about not being the person to ask, since I was in STEM, but in the back of my head I was thinking, “Because it’s uncomfortable to be singled out and asked to represent your entire gender?”

              1. Koalafied*

                In the fantasy version where I’m in a scenario like that, I’d love to deadpan, “I don’t know, I’ll ask them and get back to you.”

              2. Anonymous*

                Physics field trip during research that I stowed away on had a professor asking why I was there. “I’d know if you were in the major, you’re a girl!”

                (Cue facepalming from the whole bus.)

                I was there because I wanted to see fermilab.

          2. Another Woman in Tech*

            When I went to CS office ours, there was a guy who wouldn’t stop complaining that he was the only man in his sign-language class and he thought the teacher was biased against him.

            I turned to him and said completely deadpan, “Wow, you’re the only one of your gender in the class? I can’t imagine what that would be like.”

            1. whingedrinking*

              One of my majors was philosophy, which at that time was the only branch of the humanities that was majority male at the undergrad level. (This may have changed but I doubt it. I love philosophy; unfortunately, “well, actually…” dudes do too.) One of my second-year classes had lectures scheduled in the Engineering and Computer Sciences building, which I’d never had a class in before. On the first day, as I was double-checking the room number, the prof rolled up and said, “Here for Empiricists? You’re in the right place.”
              Trying to be lighthearted, I said, “Yeah, but I’m the first woman here, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t stumbling into a coding lecture.”
              He looked in the door at the twenty or so young men already gathered, said, “Oh. You’re right. Odd, I wouldn’t have noticed,” and walked in, leaving me thinking, “So I’m guessing we will not be reading anything by Catharine Trotter Cockburn in this class.”

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yep. It got really awkward when I was the only woman in the drafting class and was the top of the class.

        3. sometimeswhy*

          Ditto. I attended a state school and actually had a professor snort and tell me that no woman had every passed his class on the first day. It was engineering physics and I broke the curve. But it was pure spite that carried me through that miserable term.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I think spite is a really underrated motivation. I’ve always found that it outstrips encouragement.

          2. Just Another Techie*

            My entire career path can be chalked up to one asshole physics teacher more than twenty years ago who told me girls can’t be engineers. Scrapped my plans to go to Emory (intending to double in literature and pre-law) and applied to a half dozen engineering schools out of pure cussedness.

          3. Mother of all Raccoons*

            One of my moms best stories is about how she basically got a beloved physics professor put under review because he told her in front of the class she would never pass his class because she was a) a woman and b) a chem major and then would deliberately do things to make her fail. It was the 70s but she still brings that story up as like “why have things not improved” vs “this is how horrible the world was”

            1. SpaceySteph*

              My mother got a chemical engineering degree in the early 80s and also was really disappointed at how things had NOT changed when both of her daughters got their engineering degrees many years later (me in aerospace, my sister in electrical).

      2. Irish Teacher*

        One of my lecturers who attended my college when it first started accepting men said he learnt then why women object to “he” being used for men and women because when he was at college, all the notes used “she” and his lectures would say, “now, boys, you know the ‘she’ includes you too” and he said it DID make him feel sort of like he was there on sufferance and didn’t really belong. And of course, training to be a primary school teacher in the ’60s, there would likely have been a sense of it being a “woman’s job.”

          1. hamsterpants*

            I thought that Alison (just) followed the guideline to default to one’s own pronouns when not otherwise specified.

            1. Nina*

              Alison has been pretty open that when pronouns for a person writing in or described in a letter are not known, she defaults to using ‘she/her/hers’ pronouns, and it seems the commenters are following her lead, which I’m kind of loving.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                I think what Alison does is to default to she/her pronouns for managers/bosses/CEOs where the gender is unknown. It’s a deliberate choice to normalize having women in management roles.

                The comment section often takes this further, but tries to use the correct pronouns when the LW includes their gender either in the letter or when responding in the comments section.

                1. fhqwhgads*

                  Yes, every so often someone says “this site does X” and Alison jumps in the comments to clarify the actual practice is to default to she/her pronouns for managers/bosses when the gender is unknown as a deliberate choice to normalize having women in those roles.
                  It’s definitely not “default to she unless otherwise specified” about anyone.

            2. Lenora Rose*

              Default to known pronouns where possible, use she for unknowns. Some commentors use they for unknowns, many follow her example.

      3. MS*

        I found my voice during my time at Scripps. I will never forget the moment when our frosh seminar professor asked a question to a lecture hall full of women – you could have heard a pin drop as we waited to be called on! No men to shout out answers and dominate the conversation!!

        By the time I graduated I had the confidence to speak up in any group, which has served me very well in the last 20+ years.

        OP, I did my research when I was 16 and college hunting, and it was very clear that women who attend an all-female high school or college are statistically overrepresented in the highest achievers in just about every field.

    2. The one who wears too much black*

      +1, came here to say this. Hampden-Sydney, Wabash, and Morehouse all come to mind as men’s only higher learning institutions.

      1. Barbamama Wellesley '88*

        “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

        Madeline K. Albright ’59

    3. BlueWolf*

      Yes, my sister went to a women’s only college that was the sister school to an all men’s college. They had separate campuses and dorms, but the classes were generally coed. Technically speaking it was a women’s school, but its not like she was hiding herself away from men.

        1. AnonBennie*

          I went to St. Ben’s and was just coming to say this! Not to mention our endowment was quite a bit smaller than St. John’s (the men’s school), which was also a significant reason that our rankings were often lower, even though we all had the same exact education as all classes are combined. (They did just appoint a combined president earlier this year so I am curious if that will affect endowments/rankings going forward.)

    4. Anon for this*

      I do wonder if the LW will have similar feelings about men’s only colleges once she finds out about them.

      Also, fun fact! Stephen Colbert went to a men’s only college (for two years….before transferring)

    5. Profe*

      And the reason they have declined drastically in popularity is that men don’t exactly struggle to find male-dominated spaces where they can feel valued and respected.

                1. Flower*

                  Another Scrippsie baffled and annoyed by this post.

                  Heck, most women’s colleges are like Scripps–in some sort of consortium/mutual benefit relationship with coed (or men-only, eg Spelman/Morehouse) colleges.

              1. Kirianne*

                I had to look carefully at the date to make sure this reply wasn’t from me. There aren’t too many Kiris around – Hi from another!
                Kirianne Weaver, BMC ’95.

            1. CaptainMouse*

              Hey, I went there. Swarthmore was always coed. But people forget that Haverford began as a male only school.

              1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

                Me too! And at super-liberal Swarthmore I was one of only two women in my evening freshman honors physics seminar. I’m glad for other reasons I picked a coed institution but let’s not pretend that gender just doesn’t have any impact on academics anymore.

              2. DanceMom*

                Heya from a fellow Swattie with a daughter at Bryn Mawr (who needs no coddling)!
                OP missed another reason some students choose a womens college- my queer daughter wants not just LGBTQ acceptance, but a lively lesbian social scene, which is easy to find at womens schools. I imagine Alison didn’t want to feed a silly stereotype by bringing that up, but it’s perfectly normal and reasonable for an 18 year old to think about the social scene.

                1. Some Bunny Once Told Me*

                  I ultimately wound up going to a community college and then a local state school for my degree because of financial issues, but as a queer girl who got accepted to Smith and Bryn Mawr in the late 90s, yeah, that was a serious consideration for applying to women’s colleges.

        1. Honey Badger*

          Yet another Bryn Mawr grad here, pretty incensed at this letter.

          When I think back on my college academic experience, “coddled” is not exactly the word I’d choose to desribe it (to put it mildly). Nor do “intolerant”, “inflexible” and “unable to work with men” describe the many brillant and high achieving women I knew there.

          Seriously OP, the level of scorn in your letter is palpable. Do you actually know many (any?) grads of women’s colleges? If you really want to get over your bias, maybe you could think about making a serious attempt to get to know some women who have chosen this path — as individuals — rather than relying on what seem to be some really unfounded stereotypes.

            1. Mawrtyr*

              The “unable to work with men” thing really got me! Bryn Mawr grad here too, and I’ve spent 10+ years working in as a cook/chef in kitchens where sometimes I was the only woman in the room. The confidence/knowledge I got from college actually made it easier to work in male dominated spaces!
              Where did all these ideas come from I wonder? It seems like a really odd fixation

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                The concepts of “safe spaces” and “snowflakes” have been derided for decades. Single-gender or single-race colleges (and gyms, and bars, and clubs) have all been part of the targets. I dug a little, and the guy who sued a woman’s gym because he couldn’t join was 1997, and that is totally part of this. The huge round of debate specifically about women’s colleges in the 00s had a lot of these ideas tossed in.

                Then you get that one friend or family member, making that “men’s only would be banned!” argument, and someone hears it often enough to develop a bias.

                As Alison points out, data does not support these ideas, but they are definitely part of the US zeitgeist.

            2. Profe*

              I love how many Mawrtyrs read AAM!
              I’ve never encountered anything near this level of disdain toward HWCs! Usually it’s more obliviousness, but OP has spent a bizarre amount of time thinking about this. I want to know this weird villain origin story.

          1. JustaTech*

            Alumnae of the other Bryn Mawr (the girl’s school, not the college) here, and I’m pissed on y’all’s behalf, and I went to an undergrad that was 3:1 men to women. (And yes, my Bryn Mawr gumption/assertiveness training was very helpful.)

            Women’s colleges are not “finishing schools” or (even more derisively) “where you go to get an Mrs. degree” (gag). They’re serious academic centers founded by people who fought hard to be allowed to learn. “Coddled” my eye. (My mother went to a women’s college and had a complex professional career, as did her best friend the lawyer.)

            As for how the LW could overcome her bias that everyone from women’s colleges are wimps, maybe she could read some course catalogs? Or the US and World News college rankings?

            1. Vicky Austin*

              Women who go to college for their MRS degree are generally straight, so a woman’s only college is the last place they would go!

              1. Sir Nose d'Voidoffunk*

                I’m a Virginian, and we have one of the last all-male colleges (Hampden-Sydney) – one of my best friends went there, along with several other less-close friends. Perhaps the ultimate MRS factory is just a mile up the road at Longwood, which started out as an all-female teacher’s college and is still about 70% women. I’ve met a good many HSC/Longwood couples in my life.

                Come to think of it, though, my HSC buddy married a graduate of a different all-women school (Hollins). Maybe Virginia is a unique place for this phenomenon because of a relative abundance of men’s colleges – well, I guess just HSC, but VMI was all-male until about 25 years ago, and that’s still more than just about anywhere else in the U.S.!

                1. Underemployed Erin*

                  I went on a tour of Sweet Briar College, and the women there who were interested in men were dating people from Hampden-Sydney. Exactly how many girlfriends did these dudes have?

            2. Mawrtian No. 2*

              Another Mawrtian! Can you imagine calling BMS a finishing school? You’d be laughed right out of the room.

              I sincerely thought I was DONE with single-sex education, but I ended up at Barnard. Transferring to Barnard was one of the best decisions I ever made.

              I’m incredibly grateful for my years at Bryn Mawr and Barnard, especially now, as I’m the only woman (and assistant manager) of an entirely male department. Confidence in my opinions and reasoning are key when dealing with these guys!

          2. Bread Crimes*

            Heck, when I think of Bryn Mawr, the first thing that springs to mind is their excellent Greek & Latin texts with commentary for undergrad-level students. It also highlights that part of why it never would have occurred to me that Bryn Mawr was a women’s college is that… classics is a male-skewed field. So I just automatically assumed a place producing that material would be at least coed. Goes to show some of my biases, right there!

          3. Kris*

            Yeah, “coddled” certainly isn’t the word I’d choose to describe my experience at Bryn Mawr!

        2. GS*

          BMC here and honestly I mostly feel bad for this person. Imagine cutting yourself off from the glory of us.

          Especially the coddling – cackling at that comment. A director at my multinational bank once asked me how I felt so comfortable standing up for my opinions at meetings when older and more powerful men are in the room and I was like oh don’t worry, I went to Bryn Mawr.

          “A choice that shows poor judgement” Oh what a good laugh – tell me you know literally nothing about women’s colleges. This entire letter is written by someone who has no idea why we’d choose to go to these schools.

      1. PinaColada*

        I went to a co-ed university and I love to be coddled! So that disproves her point right here.

        I’m kidding—honestly that’s such an antiquated/weaponized term in itself. Like “Ohhhhh you want equal rights, a non-hostile working environment and fair representation?…Does da widdle baby love to be coddled, yes she does! yes she does!”

          1. Star*

            And so 1970s. There are so few women’s colleges left—how often does this come up? Stephens grad here.

            1. Proud William Woods Grad*

              William Woods grad here! Hi Stephens grad! Did you go for their equestrian program? WWU went coed in 1997, but I was there in the 80’s.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I wish I *had* been able to go to a womens only university (I don’t know if there are any in the uk) because the amount of sexism I had to swim though doing a STEM degree, masters etc was incredible. Professors who believed women can’t do serious viral research because our bodies aren’t built to be at an isolation hood all day was only one.

          (And then I changed careers into yet another male dominated industry and had to fight the same battles. Lemme tell you, it gets real old real fast)

          1. Physics Girl No More*

            Yes. I went into college as a Physics major, having gotten a 5 on my AP Physics exam and received my high school’s top science award. I was one of only 3 women in the freshman year Physics-for-Majors classes. And of course all the professors were men, too. It’s not so much that I couldn’t hack it academically, it’s just that I felt out of place. And nearly every guy in the class had a crush on me, which was annoying. I wound up switching to Biology.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              I wanted to study computer science! But I’d been denied that from school days (1980s – there was still a ‘women can’t do maths’ ethos), to college, so I went into virology.

              Which had a roughly equal split in the genders of the students at undergrad level – but postgrad, professors were almost all men.

              I did end up switching careers into IT where I like to give a middle finger to my old school teachers because I am REALLY good at it. Still wish I’d done it as a degree.

            2. Twix*

              I feel you so much on this. I’m male and went to RIT – one of the best tech schools in the country – in the early 2000s and it was just a total boys’ club. I was studying Computational Mathematics and the math department was actually about 50/50 for students and professors and had a female Dean, but almost every other STEM program was like a 10:1 ratio. It was very clear in the culture that the female students were invading male turf. I don’t remember seeing or hearing about anyone blatantly discriminating against female students, but the institutional bias was right out in the open. I’m never sure whether to laugh or be furious when people claim that there are no institutional barriers to women in STEM.

          2. Been There*

            I was thinking the same thing. I went to a STEM college, where the men outnumbered the women about 10 to 1. Most of my fellow female grads did not go into STEM careers, some of that influenced by our experience in college.

          3. The Prettiest Curse*

            There are still a few women’s colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, but I don’t think there are any free-standing women’s only colleges or universities. There were a few colleges of the University of London that were originally women’s colleges, but no longer are. (I went to one of them and studied a female-dominated subject.)

            I went to a private all girl’s high school (in the UK), and it was pretty useful from a role model perspective. The loudest person, the quietest person, the person best at science subjects, the person best at maths were all female. Nobody had to apologise for just taking up space. There were some negatives, but overall it was a positive experience.

              1. The Prettiest Curse*

                Oh, you’re right! I think the last all-female college at Oxford converted pretty recently, so I thought there might still be others left.

              2. Tau*

                I was all set to say “wait, isn’t it three” and then I looked it up and apparently Lucy Cavendish admits men as of last year! Things I didn’t know.

            1. Profe*

              Yeah, and it’s not true that men-only schools are ‘banned’ or purely hypothetical. They used to exist in droves, they still exist in lesser number (more high schools than colleges) and they declined in popularity because, um, men don’t struggle to find male-dominated spaces in which to comfortably exist!

          4. Zephy*

            I’m no expert in virology but I took some science labs in high school and I’m pretty sure you aren’t supposed to manipulate scientific equipment with your penis, so, what exactly makes women’s bodies “not built” for this kind of work?

            (having a penis doesn’t make someone a man, of course, but I guarantee those professors’ personal definitions of “woman” didn’t include that bit.)

        1. TransmascJourno*

          I’m not a Barnard grad, but I was lucky enough to do a pre-college program there, in tandem with JTS. (And I had to find the money to afford it all my own, so I was definitely far from coddled.) The fiction workshop I took there was the freest I’d ever been in a classroom—if not for that, I wouldn’t be a writer today. In a lot of ways, it saved my life.

        1. treesclaphands2*

          Some 40 years ago before my college – Mills – became part of Northeastern University due to finances- Mills gave a college path to many, many women who could not otherwise afford going to college by providing them with scholarships. Mills likely did the same for decades thereafter. Thus Mills literally uplifted women.

          Having gone on an exchange program during college, and having taken college classes during summers at co-ed in institutions, I experienced first-hand how the male voice was encouraged and the female voice was silenced. . In Mills classes there was no silencing of women. We were centered. And thus, again Mills literally uplifted women…and this experience is one of the reasons why women’s colleges remain relevant today.

          We women attending Mills were very able to have men part of our lives during our college years– professors, counselors, student peers in exchange programs, student peers at UC Berkeley classes, students living in dorms rented to UCB, activities at UCB, going to programs/events put on by students of one of Mills’ graduate schools (Mills graduate programs were always co-ed), plus we had the entire SF Bay Area for events.

          Many of my Mills friends first chose Mills despite it being a women’s college. They chose it due to the academics, and they stayed, going on to get medical degrees, veterinary degrees, masters in computer science degrees, law degrees, MBAs, and many other advanced degrees.

          1. treesclaphands2*

            Also, I want to uplift what Alison wrote here:

            When a group is marginalized, it’s not promoting inequality to recognize that reality and choose to build affiliation and networks with each other as a way to redress some of that. You wrote that it’s not fair to ask for equality “except when I go to school.” But it’s not inequality for a systematically marginalized group to create space to support and amplify their priorities. That’s an attempt to level the playing field — to balance it, not imbalance it.

    1. Maude Lebowski*

      Same, as a Douglass College grad. I’d love to see OP come see how ~precious~ my fellow Jersey girls are.

      1. None the Wiser*

        Cook College grad here, coed, but adjacent to Douglass.

        This letter had some smoke pouring out of my ears

        1. Crazy Cat Lady*

          Douglass College Class of 1980. I’m lucky I read this at my work computer because I likely would have thrown something and broken it.

      2. Dr snax*

        Yes! DC class of 06 here. I don’t think “precious” is often a term thought of to describe Rutgers grads of any school.

      3. Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom*

        Rutgers – Douglass Jersey gal waves back!! This letter is just so out of touch. And I wonder why the OP feels this way? What is going on in that person’s head? And also if their boss could see the contempt, then it must be off the charts. Would love to hear an update.

      1. Bree*

        Scripps grad here, also.

        The idea that women’s college students won’t encounter men when they’re at school is one of the many ludicrous statements in this post. Cross-registration is a thing!

        1. Marketing Queen*

          Fellow Scripps grad here! That was one of the things that drew me to Scripps – the consortium allowed me to get the benefits of a women’s college while also getting the benefits of a larger school through the 5-college consortium.

          1. Sam Yao*

            Smith here. I had male professors, had male students in a good handful of my classes, performed in 5-college music groups with men, and dated plenty of men during school. I did not expect or want to be separated from all men during my college career as though I’d be locked up behind the convent walls! Good gravy.

          2. JustaTech*

            Mudder here, and as much as the inter-school rivalries were funny, no one thought that the Scripps students were dumb, or that classes at Scripps were “easy”.
            Heck, I specifically never took a class at Scripps because I knew I didn’t have the time!

            1. MW*

              Just popping in to say hi from a CMC grad! Always nice to see 5C folks out and about on the interwebs. :)

          3. alumna*

            Yep! I went to Barnard and took many of my classes at Columbia. This woman’s letter is so weird… if I wanted some sort of cloistered, man-less, coddling experience, I wouldn’t have chosen a highly competitive college in New York City!

          4. Flower*

            Yeah, the 5Cs are especially integrated across campuses (also Scrippsie!) but I was under the impression that most women’s colleges had that sort of relationship with at least one other school.

        2. Ros*

          Fellow Scripps grad here! (Calss of 12, any chance I know y’all?)

          OP’s feelings are silly on their face, and any genuine investigation into why people create and attend women’s institutions would show her that.

          Amazing how strongly-held this belief seems to be for her when she’s had, apparently, no actualy curiousity about it!

          1. Stephanie*

            Oh I found the Scripps grads – Class of ’11! What a bewildering letter this was and very curious if the writer has similar feelings about HBCUs

            1. Teapot Unionist*

              People have a different belief about HBCUs, but it is just a racist as the writer’s internalized sexism is sexist.

        3. Bread Crimes*

          I very nearly went to Scripps, and probably would have done better in my chosen field(s) if I had. I gave up on one of the two majors I was going to dual-major in because with every successive class in the program, there were fewer women in the class, and it started to feel oppressive and uncomfortable, even without any of the male students doing anything particularly hostile.

        4. Relentlessly Socratic*

          I attended William Smith (as in Hobart William Smith) for a year. Heck, my dorm was coed. Great school, but I did myself the disservice of getting only a T/Th class schedule for the second two trimesters of my first year and, well, that much weekend wasn’t good for my studies and I was invited to leave. I experienced no coddling or privilege as a result of my poor choices…

        5. Warrior Princess Xena*

          I’m assuming that you’re allowed to go off campus on these colleges, correct? If so, then you’ll also encounter men (and other people in general for that matter) in stores, workplaces, restaurants, churches, parks, etc.

        6. JB*

          Scripps grad ’16!

          This letter reminded me so much of an article a CMCer wrote against women’s colleges when I was a sophomore. We were all riled up talking about it before Core II one day and our professor overheard our conversation and just dryly said, “Oh, another one?” in a way that indicated someone would publish something absurd against women’s colleges once every few years like clockwork.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Carlow University. Pittsburgh, PA. Transferred from a state school to a private school that cost twice at much (in the 90s, didn’t have loans, so not egregious, just saying…) because they had a better degree program.

    3. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

      Mother of an Alverno grad here. YIKES on a bike this letter made me so angry. I almost with I could run into someone like this IRL so I could give them a piece of my mind.

      1. OyHiOh*

        Attended Alverno for a couple semesters (didn’t qualify for better need scholarships, sadly), was a transformative experience that I do not regret.

        1. Eater of Hotdish*

          Same here! Sometimes I wonder how my experience would have been different if I’d gone to a women’s college. Maybe I would have learned academic bravery a little sooner. But the past is past.

        1. Barnard Grad '12!*

          Co-signing! I also went to an all-girls performing arts camp growing up which was so instrumental for me in forming friendships and fostering creative/intellectual partnerships with other women that when I had the chance to go to a women’s college with access to the larger Columbia community, it was a no-brainer!

          Is it possible this woman hasn’t felt supported by women in her own career, and therefore feels…envious of the experience? I have compassion for her, if this is the case. If you see people having gotten an opportunity that you haven’t, it can foster bitterness. Maybe she is conflating ‘coddling’ with ‘community.’

          1. EPLawyer*

            Oooh I wonder if that’s it. I didn’t get support so why should anyone else learn in a place with those supports? Look how tough it made it me, no one handed me anything, so why should they have it easy.

            Yes, OP please examine why you have this feeling towards Women’s Colleges that is just so hostile towards them.

            1. Underemployed Erin*

              Some people who don’t have supportive relationships with other women are not jealous of those relationships. They just don’t realize that they are missing them.

              For example, all the people in this thread talking about being one of a handful of women in a STEM field may not have the opportunity to build those kinds of relationships.

              I am a woman who took a lot of STEM classes and went into STEM fields, and the first time, after high school, where I had positive relationships with other women was basically a mom’s group after I had a child. Before then, I would be one of a very small number of women in any given room.

              I now have better relationships with women in my field, and they supported me in navigating switching into a different STEM field.

            2. Zephy*

              I would bet money this OP thought, maybe even said, some regrettable things about the general concept of women as a very young teenager, and then spent the next quarter-century somehow stuck in that headspace. It’s very “Not Like Other Girls.” I don’t know how you hold on to those ideas while interacting with those so-called “other girls,” so maybe she somehow didn’t? Who can say. Hopefully she’s able to work on this bias and overcome it.

      1. Strong beautiful Barnard women represent!*


        I chose it because I loved the vibe, the campus, the structure of their core requirements (especially in contrast to the CU core classes), and still got the benefit of taking whatever I wanted across the street. The fact that it’s a women’s college was not actually a major factor for me, but there’s nothing wrong with preferring that.

        Letter writer, you don’t hate women from women’s colleges. You hate *women*, and make exceptions for ones you think work hard enough to qualify as not “just” women.

        You shouldn’t be in charge of everyone, especially since you think getting over bias just means learning to hold your nose and tolerate the women you hate so much.

        This is frankly one of the most disgustingly hateful and misogynist letters I’ve ever read here. I hope it’s fake.

        1. Minerva*

          Yeah, the misogyny is definitely coming from inside the house here.

          There is so much “justification” in this letter that methinks the LW was genuinely hoping that somehow her feelings on Women’s Colleges would be at least partially validated here. Ugh.

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            I got strong Margaret Thatcher vibes from this letter. She almost never wanted to work with or promote other women, for a variety of reasons. Ironically enough, Thatcher went to a (now co-educational women’s college at Oxford.

        2. Cam*

          The thing that gets ME the most? LW is so smug in her irrational beliefs, she doesn’t even seem to realize just how badly her hateful views are impacting her own career. Management ignored her input on the new candidate, hired this woman anyway, then pulled LW aside and essentially told her to grow up. Even if management doesn’t know the sordid details, they already view her as a bit of a loose cannon.

          1. Barnard '13*

            Yes, this. OP should be worried about the way her colleagues and management see her. It’s one thing for us to pile on and excoriate OP for her crummy and completely unfounded (disproven!) bias, but GIRL! Your boss sees it too. And SAID something to you about it. Check yourself.

            1. Me ... Just Me*

              That’s what I was thinking. OP was acting so unprofessional during the interview that she was pulled aside by her boss afterwards and basically told to “knock it off”. OP, your boss has their eye on you.

    4. Smith grad who feels great about her decision*

      Smith, same. Especially since where I went to college has actually opened doors for me. The idea it would shut some for others makes me want to scream.

      1. smithie too*

        Fellow Smithie. Smith was by far the CHEAPEST option for me– far cheaper than any of the state universities, and I wanted to go to a co-ed school but was told I was going to the place that gave me the most money, full stop.

        1. Yorick*

          This is such a huge reason for college decisions, it’s almost never a good idea to judge someone based on what school they went to.

      2. Proud women college grad*

        Incredibly incensed over here too. Went to a small women’s college and then went on to get a PhD in biomedical sciences at Johns Hopkins. My experience at that college had me prepared on many different levels as well if not better than my classmates from coed colleges. Curious how the LW would grapple with those two facts on a resume.

      3. Vathena*

        Smithie here too, and my blood pressure is up to dangerously high levels after reading this letter. In equal measure, I feel sorry for this LW that she can’t understand the power of the educational atmosphere of a women’s college. LW, seriously, reread your letter and replace “women’s college” with “HBCU” – perhaps you will see why there is such umbrage taken to your attitude! It’s laughable that you think there is no reason for people to seek out a school environment where they feel empowered and valued as students and people. You think that being surrounded by obnoxious frat boys provides a better educational experience for women? I shudder. Also, I’m guessing you’re not sniffing with disdain over grads of the very well-endowed Ivy League schools.
        (Oh and here I am married to a man, having dated many men, worked with many men, my boss of 14 years is a man, and two of my best friends in the world are men. So there.)

      4. Smithie 4*

        Smith STEM major here. Smaller class sizes meant I got more time with professors. Large endowments meant that undergrads had access to materials, processes, and training that we’d never have had at a larger school. I learned scanning electron microscope preparation and usage when normally that’s only available to graduate students.

        Smith and Mt Holyoke also have programs in place to allow students to take classes at any of the 5 colleges in Pioneer Valley. That means that of course there were men in some of our classes. And we could take classes at UMass or at Amherst or Hampshire. It’s not like men stopped existing on our campus.

        When I graduated, my mom said I was a different person. I wasn’t as shy. I was comfortable speaking my mind and challenging the status quo. I was able to deal with diversity of thought and build a well-reasoned case for why I thought something was true. It gave me confidence in the person I became.

        1. speegee the smithie*

          Another Smithie! I chose Smith for a lot of reasons, but one of the big ones is that my HS academics weren’t quite strong enough for the co-ed Ivy League schools, and Smith provided a similar quality education and alum network, plus I actually had a chance of getting in. At 18, I wasn’t sure how I felt about going to a school only with women/non-cismen, but I was willing to give it a try. Now I can say it was a truly transformative experience. I learned so much about myself, so much academically, made so many critical friendships, and still rely on my Smithie network to this day, for everything from cat community (love ya, SWLC!) to job advice, to deep emotional support. Like many have said, if anything, going to a women’s college made me more independent, more confident, and more competent. It wasn’t about avoiding men (although for real, sometimes avoiding men is a perfectly logical choice), nor did it make me unprepared to work with half the population. I hope OP can move past her bias.

          1. Vathena*

            SWLC gives me life! Yes, I remember meeting current Smith students as a prospective, noticing how confidently they carried themselves, and thinking, “I want that!” And the network has never let me down.

            Forgot to mention above- my male boss (with whom I work very well) is all puffed up with pride these days- his daughter just started her first year at Smith. She’s a badass science whiz, not a Princess!

            1. Vathena*

              Oh and- to add to the list of elected officials who have attended women’s colleges, you may have heard of US Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc, Smith ‘84). And she has to appeal to and work with some of the most obnoxious men.

          2. Cat loving Smithie*

            Another Smithie here (and SWLC memeber, hi!!!!) – concur on all this. Just had to pipe in my anger and also frustration at this writer (and also Alison’s) exclusion of our trans and non-binary sibs who attended our schools.

      5. Stitch*

        I didn’t go to Smith but my best friend from high school did. She picked Smith because of the programs they offered. She is not sheltered or coddled.

        1. nelliebelle1197*

          People are probably wondering why we are so excited but there are so few of us it is exciting to find each other in the wild!

      1. AGD*

        I’m an Ivy Leaguer and am also furious. My friends and colleagues from women’s colleges were better-prepared than I was for adult life because the academic quality was comparable (as far as I can tell) and they’d learned far more about how systemic inequality works in the real world.

    5. CaptainHook*

      I chose a women’s college because it had the top ranked program nationally for my degree, was in my state (no out of state tuition to deal with) and was close to my parents (one hour) in case I needed to commute for some reason (I didn’t – I lucked out with great roommates all four years).

      The LW needs to see things from a different perspective.

      1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

        Yeah, the writer’s letter drips with both internalized misogyny and class privilege–even if she didn’t come from the upper crust herself.

    6. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      My mom pushed me to go to a woman’s college and I objected for the reasons the LW wrote (e.g. I needed to learn to compete with men, I needed to be “tougher”) and went to a public university. In grad school we had a lot of Vassar, Bryn Mawr, and Wellesley alums and I realized my biases were unfounded. Many of the international students I met went because it was the only way their parents would let them go to college in the US. My only issues with women’s college grads ended up being the same one I had with expensive private school grads: many were from such a privileged background they legit couldn’t imagine people who actually had to work to pay tuition and could do unpaid internships. If the LW doesn’t have issues with Ivy or Stanford grads around being coddled and precious, they shouldn’t have them around women’s college grads.

      1. Observer*

        If the LW doesn’t have issues with Ivy or Stanford grads around being coddled and precious, they shouldn’t have them around women’s college grads.

        That’s an excellent point. But that assumes that the OP has any factual basis whatsoever for her biases. And she doesn’t.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Oh yeah. The LW sounds like young me and I am cringing so hard. You are just wrong, LW, about all the things on this one. You have already let your bias show to your boss. This is bad.

      2. The Real Fran Fine*

        My only issues with women’s college grads ended up being the same one I had with expensive private school grads: many were from such a privileged background they legit couldn’t imagine people who actually had to work to pay tuition and could do unpaid internships.

        I went to a private university on the East Coast, didn’t come from a privileged background at all, but did experience roommates who just didn’t get how I could be on scholarships and had to work a work study job and do a co-op at the same time because my co-op was unpaid and I needed the money. It just didn’t seem to compute. None of them had to work, so they didn’t, and I don’t know if I’d say they were “coddled” per se, but they certainly didn’t have the same struggles I did coming from a single parent household.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I went to an Ivy for grad school and walked in assuming that everyone working at the university in service jobs was work/study like it was at my undergrad. I confused the crap out of a lot of security guards and food service staff because I asked what they were studying and I didn’t “get” how they could work for these jobs and not be work/study. I was the only person in my class who had ever worked to pay for more than funsies. It was a weird experience

        2. Anonymous*

          I went to a co-ed, not particularly ivy league school and I still met people who didn’t understand that the rest of us might not have a full wallet without working.

          (Along with people who didn’t understand that you have to remove lint from the dryer lint trap, but that’s I guess just something that people fail to teach teenagers across the board.)

          1. louvella*

            Also went to a co-ed, not particularly prestigious private university and things that were said to me include:
            “My family goes to Europe every summer! We don’t have a lot of money, travel is just a priority to us. Like, my parents drive older cars.”
            (My parents…also drove older cars. And sometimes we could afford to go camping.)
            “You have to pay for your own text books? Oh my parents pay for my text books, they’re really great.”
            (My parents weren’t not great…they just weren’t able to help in that way.)
            “You’re so lucky that you get work study!”
            (It was my only spending money for things like toiletries and text books and occasional actual fun stuff. Would have been way cooler to have a parent-provided credit card like a lot of my classmates!)

        3. Honk*

          I went to a public but prestigious university in Australia. One thing I will never forget is riding a bus to uni behind someone insisting that we didn’t have a class system.

      3. Elle by the sea*

        I went to an Ivy and another institution which is not technically an Ivy but in the same league (both in Boston, not hard to guess). Had quite a few employers and prospective employers who had massive biases against me. I worked with someone who just casually told me: “Look, this place is different from what you are used to. Here we have meritocracy- it’s about talent and hard work instead of just money and connections”. If she had been put in one of the aforementioned two institutions, I can guarantee that she wouldn’t have survived there for a single day.

        It’s okay to have biases, but you should work hard not to manifest them, especially in professional situations. It’s great that the LW at least took the first steps towards eradicating their biases by recognising that they, in fact, had biases

      4. Jaydee*

        I had similar beliefs about women’s colleges when I was in high school and looking at colleges (so late ‘90s). As an adult, I’ve realized those beliefs were 100% the product of misogyny – e.g. the idea that things specifically for women are ‘less than’ things specifically for men; the idea that women need to compete with men to prove ourselves;

          1. Butterfly Counter*

            Ha! Same.

            Also, I wanted to date (dudes). I didn’t date much in high school and figured college would be my time to shine. Joke was on me, though. Admissions miscalculated acceptance rate for my class, trying for equal admissions for men and women. Instead, the woman/man ratio was 4 to 1. Most of my classes had no men and the rest had maybe a couple. I got a woman’s college experience without going to one. And it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I grew confident in my voice, respected by my professors, and was able to figure out some of the rest of my life as a result.

            And I didn’t date, like, at all. *sigh*

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              The wanting to have sex with dudes was a big motivator for me to go co-ed. I like sex with men a whole bunch and did back then too, so all women’s school was missing a key extra-curricular

              1. nelliebelle1197*

                Yeah, it does not really work that way. There were plenty of opportunities at women’s colleges for dating no matter the gender.

                1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                  I know that now, but at 16-17 it never would have occurred to me. I don’t think I was able to fully imagine that college wasn’t like HS and you mostly only knew folks from your school and didn’t have anyone to ask because no adults I knew went to college

    7. SC Grad*

      Stephens College grad here, agree with all this. My scholarships allowed me to graduate without student loans which was such a gift.

      1. Books and Cooks*

        Hey hey Stephens! I was accepted but didn’t get to go, for a number of reasons, but I loved my weekend there and everyone I met–a gorgeous, welcoming campus!

        Personally, I support single-sex education for BOTH sexes.

    8. Br16*

      Barnard! I’m pretty frustrated by these assumptions. I do NOT need to be coddled and I work perfectly well with my male coworkers.

    9. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I went co-ed for college, but I was in a girl’s school grades 5 through 12. I actually switched to my all girl’s school in elementary school because I developed early and was being bullied and harassed by the adolescent boys. Should I have been obligated to live with that because I will need to deal with boys/men in the real world? No one would say that! At least I certainly hope not. Boys and men still have a lot to learn about their behavior towards women. Women have a lot to learn about it too, apparently. So, until that happens, I do not blame any woman who chooses to protect herself during her educational, social, and professional development!

    10. Beth*

      I went to a co-ed college and I’m ALSO pissed off — not just at the stated bias against women’s colleges, but all the layers of bad reasoning wrapped around it. If I caught that vibe from a manager or prospective manager, it might be enough on its own for me to decline the job.

    11. michelenyc*

      Reading this pissed me off as well and I didn’t even go to a women’s college but I have a few friends that went to Mount Holyoke.

    12. Up and Away*

      I (also a woman) went to a co-ed public state school, and even I feel like biting down on my glass straw and chewing it after reading this letter.

    13. Elle by the sea*

      Same here. Not a Wellesley grad myself, but taught many amazing and talented Wellesley grads and collaborated with many people from there during my tenure in Massachusetts.

      Also, you don’t always get to choose where you go to college just like that – it’s always multifactorial.

    14. Irish Teacher*

      My college wasn’t all women when I went there, but it used to be prior to the ’60s and was still over 80% women when I attended so I feel some affinity.

    15. gov anon*

      St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame alum. Please excuse me while I retrieve my eyebrows from the ceiling and my jaw from the floor. OP’s letter reeks of misogyny. And that is why there is still a place for Women’s Colleges.

      And I work great with my male co-workers.

        1. AY*

          St. Mary’s College is in the town of Notre Dame, Indiana (yes, Notre Dame is a separate city from South Bend)

    16. Ally McBeal*

      I worked at one of the Seven Sisters – one that is academically integrated with a nearby coed university – for several years and genuinely could not get past the first couple paragraphs. Female students from the coed U would regularly express that their classes on our HWCU campus were a much better experience because the dudebros who attended the coed U were insufferable and too frequently enabled by the dudebro professors there.

      This letter just screams ‘internalized misogyny’ to me, and I’m speaking as someone who very deeply internalized the misogyny of my politically and religiously conservative upbringing and outright refused to even consider an HWCU when I was doing my own college searches back in the day. It took working in a deeply misogynistic industry to realize exactly how bad sexism is and switch over to working at an HWCU.

      1. Unaccountably*

        There is so much internalized misogyny in this letter. SO much. 100% of it is “How dare women have educational and life experiences that aren’t centered around men! Don’t they know they’ll have to live in the far superior world that is justly run by men?”

        I went to co-ed schools and I can’t with the amount of misogynistic contempt in this letter.

    17. Chauncy Gardener*

      Wheaton College alum (back when it was all women) here feeling quite peeved
      I’m just….speechless. What the actual heck? How do you even GET this opinion/bias in the first place?

    18. New anon*

      Women’s prep school grad here. Alison’s response is spot on. There’s more than an “undercurrent” of justification in this letter; justifying LW’s dislike is the main content of the letter.

      And in any context, whenever I see someone arguing “that money could be used to help so many more people,” it’s an immediate non-starter for me. The donors donated it TO THAT PURPOSE, not to be used for a different purpose as LW sees fit. Infuriating and illogical. If the college weren’t available to be the recipient, the money would go to the donors’ second, third, fourth choices of use (whether a different nonprofit, personal use, etc.), not just be freely available to benefit women everywhere. Hope LW takes Alison’s advice to heart.

      I don’t hold this next bias personally, but I know plenty of people assume a woman at a large state school is there to find a husband and has no intention of pursuing a professional career. It’s nonsensical to me that someone would assume a women’s college grad was somehow LESS serious a professional than a women going to college just to find a spouse (although clearly LW is selectively biased against only certain women).

      1. MsM*

        Here on behalf of my Sweet Briar grad friend, and also steamed. If OP wants proof an all-female educational environment doesn’t coddle women or fail to prepare them for challenges, she can just look at all the work y’all put into saving your school when I honestly did not think it was possible.

        1. M*

          Seriously, Hollins alum here and we were all happily shocked at how motivated and quickly coordinated Sweet Briar alumni became to save their school. It was amazing to see.

      2. Dana Whittaker*

        Did not attend Sweet Briar but as a fellow women’s college alum (Mount Mary in Milwaukee ‘93), contributed significantly to the capital campaign to keep it open. And had I known there was a college whose color was pink, I definitely would have applied!

    19. Katefish*

      Hi from an Agnes Scott Scottie, and same! My college’s huge endowment allowed for a very diverse undergrad (good scholarships) I treasure.

      1. Aitch Arr*

        Some info:

        Women’s colleges, on average, enroll 13 percent more students of color and 11 percent more low-income students than similar co-ed schools. Also, women’s colleges have on average much smaller endowments.

        1. Aitch Arr*

          Sorry, I keep thinking of more things to say, because I’m fired up.

          We have switched to referring to MHC as a ‘historically women’s college,’ since the college admits (and have for several years officially and even longer unofficially) trans men and non-binary students. We also admit trans women.

      2. FridayFriyay*

        MoHo here too. What an absurd letter. I hope the LW can get some much needed perspective from Alison’s response and the comments.

    20. AlpacaMyBags*

      Meredith College grad here – haven’t regretted attending it for even a MOMENT. Incredible opportunities came out of there, connections that are strong to this day, and I ENJOYED learning. I felt challenged in everything I did, not coddled. I was pushed to travel, pushed to excel, pushed to expand my worldview because my faculty KNEW me in a way they wouldn’t have at a massive state institution, which is exactly why I chose Meredith in the first place. What a strange thing to have such a strong, negative opinion about, honestly. I wonder what caused it?

      Also, your #3 point about men’s colleges being banned – Hampden Sydney, a MEN’S COLLEGE, would like to disagree with you.

    21. Burnt Out*

      Sweet Briar STEM grad here.

      This letter writer has trapped themselves in a box with their own thoughts and opinions, on a subject that apparently affects their hiring decisions, without doing any research into the topic at all. Your tone really does yell “I’m right to believe this!” with a generous side dish of “I don’t even need to check my facts, I’m so right.”

      I think that self-righteousness is far more problematic than any individual opinion that you hold, simply because it means you will likely never feel a need to check your facts, your opinions, or accept that a person who disagrees with you has a valid point you never considered. All of which make you dangerous for an applicant pool.

    22. Notorious*

      Annoyed Sweet Briar grad commenting…. and reminding OP that yes, there are all male colleges out there. Hampden-Sydney, Morehouse, Wabash & Saint John’s….

    23. I&I*

      Okay, OP, you’re getting a lot of people pretty ticked off with you here, but I’m going to try a slightly different approach. I assume that you don’t WANT to hold this bias because you wrote in, so let’s talk about that.

      Heads up, I’m going to talk about abuse. Promise I’m going somewhere with it, and I’ll avoid details, but feel free to skip.

      Someone I love grew up in … let’s say Blankland, a nation where certain kinds of abuses by certain kinds of people in authority were a serious but secret problem. Since their young day, the issue has been brought to light more and at least some things have been done to hold those responsible to account.

      The person I love finds this angering. They tend to assume that a lot of it is blown out of proportion, that people need to understand things were different back then, that the authority figures were struggling with various issues, that people are getting too self-righteous and judgmental, etc etc. This from a person who usually goes out of their way to help vulnerable people.

      But here’s the thing. They grew up in those Blankland times. Back then, getting properly outraged about it would get you nothing but trouble. Understanding things from the authorities’ point of view was a form of self-protection. If you can see their humanity then you don’t have to feel surrounded by monsters, and if you understand how they think then you have some chance of anticipating them.

      And that angry note I hear in what you write is the same angry note I hear when they talk about Blankland trying to fix some of its mess. To protect themselves, they had to learn a certain way of thinking, and that way of thinking … has its drawbacks.

      As well as looking into the facts on why women’s colleges aren’t a soft option, maybe ask yourself: who does this bias of yours protect you against? Who might be a threat to you if you had the opposite view?

      I don’t know you or your past, so maybe I’m way off base here. But is it possible that the anger is powered by the part of you that’s trying to stay safe shouting, ‘Hey, danger, DANGER! This is the kind of attitude that gets you into trouble!’? Because if so, the first woman you have to give some kindness is yourself.

    24. Mimmy*

      1995 graduate of an all-women’s Catholic college in New Jersey here! Although I did pick this particular school because of its learning disability services, I do not believe I was coddled in any way. It was an excellent school and is now co-ed and achieved university status maybe 15 years ago.

      I get a sense that OP realizes her bias is irrational but can’t change her mindset. I encourage her to really think about this. Perhaps ask questions of those of us who attended all-women’s colleges. That’s what I would suggest to anyone wanting to learn more about people they may have a bias against.

    25. AeroEngineer*

      Smithie here, and I agree!

      I am now in a field where Women are a tiny fraction, and without Smith I would never had made it this far. Honestly, academically, Smith was way harder and more rigerous than my masters ever was, and my masters University was one of the highest rated in it’s field. Coddled, definitely not.

      Smith made me better at working with men as I know my worth and know that I am just as good as the men on my team, if not better in some fields. It helped me ignore the undermining of male classmates and colleagues after graduation.

      Honestly she will probably be more prepared to deal with you and your bias than you will be dealing with her.

    26. Barnard Bear 2010*

      Changed my name for this one for privacy reasons – proud Barnard grad here. LW is the reason I list my education as Columbia on my resume :( That and the one time I overheard an applicant for a role in my department (at a previous job), who was a Columbia grad, shit-talking Barnard to my boss.

      He did not get hired. I don’t know what he thought he was accomplishing. I was already established and had a great reputation. My boss was on my side, by default, and that extended to supporting or even defending my choices re:education.

      1. Barnard 99*

        Hi Barnard 2010! Please forgive me for being a nosy older Barnard grad–but I hope you correct your resume!

        1. Barnard Bear 2010*

          I should have said “listED”! I’m not currently job hunting, I’ve been in this role close to a decade now, but my updated resume proudly showcases Barnard. When I was younger and with less experience to market myself on, I was much more insecure and vulnerable to people’s perceptions and biases.

          The OP has shaken my nerve some, but I realize her attitude is a her problem, not a me problem, and if she wants to lose out on top talent (and potentially get her employer in legal trouble, if this letter is traced back to her or this discriminatory, misogynistic attitude is otherwise proven), she’s welcome to it!

    27. sunset hills*

      +1 from this Mills grad. Point 4 about the endowment really stings given we just went co-ed due to money woes.

  2. Shenandoah*

    I don’t have a ton to add to Alison’s response but regarding OP’s #3: there are still men only universities! A couple from the Wikipedia article:
    Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Indiana
    Hampden–Sydney College, Hampden Sydney, Virginia
    Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia (has some co-educational cross-registration with other institutions)

    1. Belle of the Midwest*

      We live about 45 minutes away from Wabash and yes, it’s still a men’s college. Rose Hulman Institute of Technology was also a men’s school until 1994 or so.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Rose is still about 75% male, too – I went to college not too far away and the guys would come to our campus looking for girls :P

        1. Belle of the Midwest*

          My husband is a Rose alum (pre-coed days) and I have a pretty good idea where the young men went to meet young women. There is a public university in the same town as well as what used to be a women’s college (I think it’s gone co-ed as well by now).

      2. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

        My father is a Rose Hulman grad. I am a female born in 1991 and he was VERY excited when the school opened up to women because he really wanted me to be an engineer.

        Alas, I did not attend (and am not an engineer). Thankfully he’s come around to realizing both I and the world are better off for those choices :P

    2. bee*

      I work at a religious (not Christian) university that has separate men’s and women’s campuses. It’s definitely still a thing!

    3. zuzu*

      OP might be confusing the gender integration of VMI and The Citadel via lawsuit with “men’s colleges aren’t allowed to exist.”

      VMI and The Citadel are both state institutions, and lost in court when they tried to keep women out (and earlier, when they tried to keep Black men out) because equality overrides tradition and gatekeeping. That’s not a concern with private men’s colleges, because they’re not arms of the state.

      HBCU’s, even when they are state institutions, avoid this problem by never actually prohibiting people from other races from attending. Some do, but most self-select out because they’re not down for the experience they’d be signing up for.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I actually recently read elseweb about how many historically black colleges in the universities are now open to all, to the point where many have a lower percentage of black students than other races.

    4. DJ Acid Reflux*

      I was going to bring up Hampden-Sydney too. I’m from Virginia and Hampden-Sydney connotes a very specific type of man (rich and white), who by virtue of attending that institution is connected to a lot of other rich, white men who tend to hire each other for prestigious jobs. It would seem there’s a bias associated with graduates of such all-male institutions… but a very different type of bias, no?

      1. Catosaur*

        Which is hilarious to me, because my little brother went to Hampden-Sydney and neither he nor any of his friends there had any economic privilege. My brother still doesn’t (though I can’t speak for his friends).

        1. Former Gifted Kid*

          Not to get into a side argument, but I wonder how you are defining economic privilege. My husband went to Hampden-Sydney (for two years, before transferring). His best friend from that time often says that they became friends because they were the two poorest kids at the school. My husband grew up solidly middle class in the suburbs and definitely considers himself to have grown up economically privileged. DJ Acid Reflux’s description of Hampden-Sydney is much more in line with my husband’s experience.

          1. Sir Nose d'Voidoffunk*

            Another Virginian here, and while I think you’re right, I can definitely think of multiple guys I knew who didn’t get into any colleges they initially applied to and wound up at HSC. So they definitely have plenty of non-rich kids there, but it also has a not-entirely-undeserved rep of “They’ll admit you if you/your folks can afford the tuition.”

            Another factor in that is that the “good old boy” alumni network there is extremely strong. I swear I mean that in the nicest way possible. Good lord, those guys network and look out for each other. (To keep it in the realm of formerly all-male colleges, VMI has that reputation as well.)

    5. academic fibro warrior*

      Can verify about Morehouse! It’s part of the Atlanta University Center Consortium of Spelman, Clark Atlanta, and a seminary (Morehouse School of Medicine is independent). All private. Clark is co-ed. Spelman and Morehouse collaborate closely for social college things that tend to be gender differentiated. But like Spike Lee, who graduated Morehouse, took most of his major classes at Clark because Clark has a film major that Morehouse didn’t. All schools welcome students of all races and socioeconomic status. A number of international students from African countries attend there. All sexual and gender identities are welcome and a home can be found on these campuses.

      I went to a PWI state school for all my degrees because I thought some of these things as a teen and honestly? Seeing the lifelong bonds and social and academic benefits of a same sex school at these HBCUs is stunning. I was clearly an idiot at 16 when I picked my college. Grads from my undergrad don’t spend weeks and weeks giving back at their Alma mater decades after moving on. The supposed family like network from my undergrad has completely failed to materialize.

      I contributed to an academic article on sexist barriers in higher education. It’s insane how misogynistic college often still is, never mind racism. It’s insane how embedded it is everywhere. This letter made me really sad.

    6. Vixen*

      My husband went to Hampden-Sydney. All men still, cool place, not banned at all. He’s also not from a wealthy family. Married 16 years, together 22 since I met him on a visit from my women’s college about an hour away. I turned out fine as well.

  3. Moi*

    I agree with you that the idea of colleges only open to women feels icky however they may have great graduates and great academic programs and people may have chosen to go there for that reason.

      1. TechWorker*

        I am not ‘Moi’ but generally women only does produce a mild feeling of ‘idk’ in me because a perfect world it wouldn’t be necessary. But it’s not a perfect world so *shrugs*.

        (Also I went to an all girls school and it did me a lot of good; anecdotally a lot of the women I work with in tech also went to all girls schools. Do I think gender segregated education is perfect in every way – no – but it exists for a reason).

        1. oranges*

          I went to public, co-ed schooling my whole life. A few years ago, I visited a private, all-girls high school to present a grant from my company. I was blown away with the culture relative to my school experience. I kept saying, “do you know how much more I could have focused without boys around??”

          The amount of energy we spent on talking/thinking about boys, trying to get attention from boys, caring about the girls who were popular with boys, makeup and clothes FOR boys, etc. etc. could have powered the sun.

          I’m sure these girls had their own distractions and challenges, but my HS/college school experience would have been very different, and certainly more productive, had boys not been involved.

          1. LittleMarshmallow*

            I went to a coed high school (tiny private school) but my class of 18 only had two boys… my class was one of the highest achieving classes in that schools history. No one knows why there were no boys in that class… classes typically were pretty 50/50. But it was interesting because it was a private religious school and since our class was all girls it was just expected that we took all the science classes and stuff otherwise they wouldn’t have had anyone at all in those classes.

            They generally didn’t discourage girls from stem clases though either. It was such a small school and had a college prep focus. Anyway, going to school with mostly girls was great!

        2. Sharkie*

          I totally get what you are saying. I am from the DC area and in my county there really only 1 well rounded co-ed private high school that my sister and I went to. I applied to all the all girls schools for high school (alot of my friends went to all girls) and my sister did go to a well known all girls school for middle school. While in my experience I have seen the nastier parts of single sex education and know it is 10000% not for me I can see how it can empower other women!

          Also OP why is where someone went to college such a sticking point for you? Once you are 5 years out it doesnt matter!!

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I know for me it is the definition around “women” that can get icky. In the past (and still now) there was some anti-trans bias. However, women’s colleges have been doing much better work grappling with trans issues than most other colleges, so the ick has been working itself out slowly and will hopefully disappear into gender inclusivity.

        1. HoHumDrum*

          Yeah, my alma mater basically admits anyone who isn’t a cis man now. I’m so proud of my school for recognizing how expansive a “women’s” space can and should be.

      3. Qwerty*

        Not Moi, but I’ll try to describe why I would have felt something was off about them in the past.

        For context – I do not currently see them as icky, but as a necessity.

        Back in my naive and optimistic days, I was against mens-only spaces therefore gender-segregated spaces seemed a relic of the past so we could all come together in harmony. It felt weird to barge in and tell men to deal with my presence, then turn around and have an org with a “no boys allowed” sign. Especially because I was surrounded by men, knew mostly men, so the visualization was excluding my very kind supportive friends who building a better new world with me.

        Nowadays, the image of excluded people is of all the creeps, domineering “alphas”, and sexist dudes I encounter regularly. I know that studies on gender segregated learning are that ladies learn better but guys learn worse. That feeling of “icky” might have better been described as a feeling towards the need for women-only spaces, but I couldn’t have articulated it back then.

        1. Sam I Am*

          Well, “off” and “icky” aren’t the same. Icky implies gross.
          But to your point, it sounds like you think differently now.

        2. Hannah Lee*

          I didn’t attend a all-women university, but in retrospect, I think it would have been a good experience for me.

          I was a bio major, pre-med in undergrad and SO MUCH of the undergrad instruction was … it’s not that it catered to men purposely, but I just remember lectures, assignments, class discussion that was often dominated by male (and mostly white) voices, even when the instructor seemed to be trying to make space for others to participate. Some of it was that I wasn’t super assertive, came from a poor family and didn’t have an understanding of what resources were available to me … basic stuff like office hours meaning the professor was available to talk to you, one on one, about whatever class topic, assignment you needed, wanted guidance, support on. And that you wouldn’t be bothering the prof or seen as less than if you went.
          So my voice, needs were easily drowned out by louder, pushier, or just more assertive, ambitious voices or people who understood how things worked. But also there was a bias from the instructors too. I still remember scheduling time to meet with my advisor to talk about course selections and what career paths made sense to explore – I’d been pre-med but was now wondering whether some other allied health or research path would be a better fit… and 10 minutes in a male classmate happened to walk by and popped his head in … and he and my advisor chatted away about the guy’s latest soccer match, his dental school applications, and eventually the two of them got up and walked off leaving me behind. It was clear that Jimmy’s education, future was a priority over mine to Dr B. And then there were little things that didn’t take into account basic safety issues … like having to schedule independent lab time when you could get it which often meant working alone in the basement of a building until 10-11pm or later, and then having to walk clear across campus in the dead of night to get back to the dorms. Or the lab sessions of required courses also being held at night. The guys didn’t think twice about it, but for women, they had to consider safety … how would they move around the campus at night, often alone if they were the only woman in their session, or doing their independent lab work … did the guy’s have to think about finding someone to walk with? Did the schedulers consider physical safety or just the course calendar and room availability?

          Part of me wonders whether spending at least the first couple of college years at a women’s only college would have been a better fit for me. Not because I needed to be coddled, but as a 17-18-19 year old, I could have used the space to *develop* confidence, to hear my own voice, and to learn how to make that voice, my ideas, my questions heard in an environment where someone would actually be listening and would see developing those skills as critical to my education and path in life. I figured it out, eventually, but if I could have tackled it sooner, it would have been a good thing.

          1. Chirpy*

            Same, while I do appreciate my coed college, I do wonder if going to a women’s college might have been better for me at the time. I was coming from a middle/ high school environment with a lot of male-perpetrated bullying, and while my male college friends (who were largely laid back but anti-dating religious types, which actually made it easier to talk to them because no pressure for dates) made me able to better handle being around men, I do wish I’d had more help actually dealing with that trauma, and more female role models/people who might have had more experience or understanding about what I’d been through, to help my confidence.

    1. TinyLibrarian*

      They DO have great graduates and great academic programs, and people chose to go to ANY college for a variety of reasons, none of which are anyone else’s business.

    2. Sylvan*

      Why? What’s gross about only having female classmates? What do boys bring to the classroom that’s essential for girls to learn?

      Or vice versa — there are men’s institutions, too.

      1. High Score!*

        It feels icky to me because the world is full of both men and women. They should be learning to work together and support & respect each other.
        What if they get elected to a public office and cannot be alone with another person of the opposite sex?

        1. JimmyJab*

          Do you think women-only colleges keep women sequestered from men entirely, and that somehow they were similarly sequestered before and after college? This is such a weird question and seemingly irrelevant to the discussion here.

        2. TinyLibrarian*

          That is… a really weird take on what women’s colleges are and do. Perhaps read some of the links Alison posted.

        3. Sylvan*

          Why would going to a single-gender school keep you from working with the other gender or being alone with them?

          1. The Real Fran Fine*

            Right. As many people upthread mentioned, they went to women’s colleges and had male professors, so it’s not like they never encountered men at all.

        4. HoHumDrum*

          Going to a women’s college actually significantly improved my ability to work with men. Prior to that experience I thought I was comfortable with men and confident about stating ideas to them. It was only after being in classes where women were the predominant (not only!) group that I realized how much I shaped the things I said and did by how I thought men would view them. Being able to suddenly see how patriarchy impacted my life deeper than I ever would have realized it helped me understand so much better how to work within it.

          1. Butterfly Counter*


            For me, though I was always at the top of my class, growing up and going to school in the south, it was just accepted that boys/men have the priority in classes. It’s second nature and not something I even realized.

            But, as I mentioned above, when I was in classes with no other men, I realized just how much I was waiting my turn to speak up in class. In high school, the teacher asked the question, a boy would answer, discussion would go from there, and if there was any time left over, I would add my piece. I realized in a majority/only-female class that my own opinion was just as important and how much I had been waiting my turn when my turn could be first!

            1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              yes studies have shown that when teachers intervene in seating plans, it’s always with a focus on the boys, typically separating the trouble makers at the back and making them each sit next to a girl to neutralise them.

              With the result that the girls then had to put up with harassment, and basically keep the bad guy in check, on top of trying to follow the lesson.

            2. My+Useless+2+Cents*

              Way too long ago to cite but I remember learning of a study where they were looking at gender stereotypes and were testing the “Chatty Cathy” myth. One point held up in that girls were reprimanded more for speaking during instruction and for interrupting. Interviews after observed classes supported the myth in that teachers observed girls as talking more and being disrupting to instructions. However, when looking at actual data the researchers determined that the boys accounted for 70-80% of the interrupting and on average spoke 4-5 min more than the average girl. The fact that the teachers couldn’t recognize such a clear cut bias toward a speaking girl really brought home how pervasive the issue really is. (I want to say this was a 3rd or 4th grade age class so that’s about what 10 year olds.)

          2. Slow Gin Lizz*

            For sure! Being in a women’s only environment helps us to see how much of the world caters to men. (I honestly did not really notice I was learning this at my women’s college but I love your point about that.) OP, you wrote:

            …because I want to be taken seriously as a woman, I do not support institutions that exclude men.

            You may have internalized the patriarchy so much that you do not realize how odd this statement sounds. Sometimes groups need to meet on their own in order to build up confidence and discuss issues that are not relevant to every person in society. That is one of the many benefits of “excluding men” from college environments. And this is also why it’s ok to have separate groups for marginalized populations, because they are, in a sense, one giant support group for the people who are not in power. (See also: HBCUs.)

            My friend works at a school for blind kids. She mentioned to me recently that sometimes kids are at the school for a couple of years and then go back to public school and it’s always extremely difficult for them to do so, because then not only are the kids trying to learn all the reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic that they were learning at their specialized school, they also are trying to get around in a world that is not built for them. In their specialized school they can focus more on the learning they need to do (and also have classes where they learn Braille and how to use a cane, for instance) without the extra barriers of existing in a world for sighted people. Yes, eventually they will have to get around in a world of sighted people, but if you can remove that barrier for awhile so that they don’t have to deal with it All The Time, then they learn the things they need to much more easily and quickly. Same goes for women’s colleges; removing the extra pressure, difficulties, and confusion that can exist in coed environments helps women (sure helped me) focus on academics and the extracurriculars that I took seriously when I was in college. And it’s not like men didn’t exist when I was at college, like we were on some distant planet with only women and we never interacted with men at all.

            What I learned being in a women’s only environment was an extremely high level of confidence (not arrogance) that I do not believe I would have developed being in a coed situation. I developed a wonderful group of close friends and 21 years later we still get together as often as we can (and I’m SO EXCITED that we will THIS WEEKEND) and obviously if none of us had our women’s college to go to we would not have met. I spent my senior year in an internship with the college orchestra conductor and got to conduct the choir and the orchestra. It would not have even occurred to me to apply for this internship and if the conductor hadn’t asked me to I would not have. And I am 100% certain that I would not have gotten that opportunity at a coed college.

        5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Citation needed. Many, many, many women in political office both past and present. You know, like Hillary Clinton (Wellesley), Madeline Albright (Wellesley), Stacey Abrams (Spellman), and Nancy Pelosi (Trinity )

        6. Duckaroo*

          >>>What if they get elected to a public office and cannot be alone with another person of the opposite sex?<<<

          You mean like Mike Pence?

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              Not to mention all the famous women politicians who went to women’s collages:
              Hillary Clinton
              Stacey Abrams
              Nancy Pelosi
              Madeline Albright
              Geraldine Ferraro
              Gabby Giffords

              I’m willing to put $$ on all of them being able to meet with and work with men

        7. Sam I Am*

          I don’t know why you think they can’t learn those things there. They aren’t locked away in a convent, they haven’t been sent to the moon. They’re going to classes.

        8. oranges*

          This feels similar to “why doesn’t white history month exist?” and “why can’t there be a specific men’s mentoring program??”

          We already know about white history! Men already mentor! White guys are not getting left out of things, trust me!!

          Women who go to all-women colleges still get enough interaction with men in this world. They don’t need to sit in classrooms for that. No one gets to go through life without encountering men and the way they view and do things.

        9. I'm just here for the cats!*

          “What if they get elected to a public office and cannot be alone with another person of the opposite sex?”

          There are plenty of people (men & women) who have gone to cooed schools who choose not to be alone with a member of the opposite sex. That’s not what a Women’s only schools is about. You do realize that men teach at women’s schools so it’s not like they are teaching students not to work with the opposite sex. Re-read what Alison wrote and take her advice for yourself.

        10. Irish Teacher*

          I just don’t think that attending a college that only caters to one gender means they cannot be alone with another person of the opposite sex. Sure, the latter is problematic, but…I don’t think gendered education has anything to do with it. If anything, I suspect without all-boys or all-girls institutions, those people might just not attend college at all. Or they would attend and still refuse to be alone with classmates of the opposite gender.

        11. Alumna*

          “What if they get elected to a public office and cannot be alone with another person of the opposite sex?”
          WHAT are you talking about?! First off, you’re presumably a fully-grown adult, yet use the word “icky” to describe single-sex education, which is a weirdly juvenile choice, and then you jump to this wild tangent that people from single-sex schools are going to be elected to public office and can’t be alone with the opposite sex?! What in the world are you talking about? I went to a women’s college, got a superlative education, and while not in public office, I’ve managed to work very well with my male colleagues. I even ended up marrying one of them. Your comment is bizarrely off-base.

        12. Emuroo*

          I mean refusing to work/be alone with people of another gender isn’t unheard of – it’s just not something we see in women’s college grads so much as in evangelical fundamentalists like former VP Mike Pence. But you can’t reasonably decide based on no evidence that women’s college grads must do that, and as a grad of one myself I’d be *astonished* to learn that any of my classmates were doing that.

        13. Another Woman in Tech*

          ROFL! It’s college, not a convent or a harem, and even *those* spaces have men in them.

        14. biobotb*

          Who goes to women’s only colleges because they can’t be alone with someone of the opposite sex? Do you think they sign some kind of agreement to avoid men or something?

        15. "So she didn't go to Smith"*

          “What if they get elected to a public office and cannot be alone with another person of the opposite sex?”

          That….is not a thing that is related to women’s colleges. Not even a little.

        16. Unaccountably*

          Do you think that women who go to women’s colleges somehow don’t have male friends and family or…?

        17. WantonSeedStitch*

          The only people I know who refuse to be alone with a person of the “opposite” sex are cis men like Mike Pence. Every graduate of a women’s college that I know has zero issue with it…unless the man is behaving in a way that is unsafe towards her, as absolutely happens.

        18. HollinsU*

          Women’s college attendance doesn’t mean you are sequestered from men. I went to a women’s college (Hollins)- we saw men all the time- professors and staff of the school, grad students, people that lived in town, boyfriends and friends who visited campus and stayed overnight. They just weren’t in class. I am married to a man and work in a male-dominated field- I’m fine.

        19. ADidgeridooForYou*

          Well first of all, they assumedly grew up in normal society, so they’ve been exposed to men before. Women’s colleges aren’t some sort of Themiscyra utopia where men who step onto the campus are killed on sight by the Amazon students. My mom went to all-girls’ schools until college, and the girls still had male friends and boyfriends.

          Also, would you say the same thing about HBCU’s? No (I hope), of course not. Black and Brown people have had to exist in a majority-white society for their entire lives; going to an all-Black college gives them a space where they’re ideally freer from the systemic racism that could harm them in a traditional university. It’s not like they can’t work with white people once they leave and get a job…

          1. Foila*

            “Women’s colleges aren’t some sort of Themiscyra utopia where men who step onto the campus are killed on sight by the Amazon students. ”


          2. MEH Squared*

            “Women’s colleges aren’t some sort of Themiscyra utopia where men who step onto the campus are killed on sight by the Amazon students. ”

            Hear me out. What if they were, though? That would be all kinds of amazing. (Joking, of course, but I love the idea.)

            1. M*

              My first reaction was “not for lack of trying…”

              But in all seriousness, my school wasn’t like that. Young men wandering around by themselves might have campus security pull up and ask them who they were there to see, but that was about it.

        20. MCMonkeyBean*

          This may be the wildest straw man argument I’ve ever seen on the internet which is honestly a pretty impressive feat, so congratulations I guess. Please don’t hurt yourself with all that stretching…

        21. JustaTech*

          Right, so I went to a girls’ school for 4-10th grade, then a co-ed school, then an undergrad that was like 3:1 men to women.

          What did I get from my years at girls’ school? A chance to be smart at/be interested in technical subjects without any social pressure to dumb myself down (because it does still happen and it starts young and it is taking far too long to change). A chance to go to school and not be told that my existence/clothing was a “distraction” (even though we did have a uniform).

          Was I somewhat awkward around boys when I moved and changed schools? Yes, but I was also a teenager, the age that defines awkward. And most of my friends at that school, and in college, were guys. I was perfectly capable of working with them.

          Here’s the thing: studies on K-12 education show that girls have greater success in a single-gender environment, and boys do better in a co-ed environment. As far as I know no one has figured out how to make that work (maybe single-gender schools only for middle school?), but it doesn’t mean that people who go to girls’ school or women’s colleges never figure out how to deal with men.

          1. Fastest Thumb in the West*

            My children attended a public middle school where the core subjects: English, math, science, and social studies were taught in single-gender classes and the other subjects: foreign language, art, music, etc. were taught in co-ed classes. I loved it and my kids did too, but unfortunately it was killed by budget cuts a few years ago.

            1. anonagoose*

              As a teacher who is deeply envious of my friends who teach at an all girl’s school, and yet also takes deep pride in the work I get to do with male students…this sounds like a truly wonderful setup and exactly what I’d love to work in.

        22. anonagoose*

          So what you’re saying is you formed an opinion on women’s colleges without knowing anything about how women’s colleges work or what their outcomes are like.

          Because, fun fact, “not being able to be along with a person of the opposite sex” is not a thing that happens to people who attend women’s schools at the high school or college level, and the fact that you think it does really just shows your ignorance. Do some research before you start spewing nonsense next time.

        23. Beth*

          Lol women’s colleges absolutely have men on campus. Faculty and staff can be of any gender. Students go off campus for hobbies, parties, jobs, etc. People from the surrounding town come on campus to walk their dogs, let their kids run around on the grass, go for walks, and generally share the space. Many offer cross-registration options with other schools–we had tons of students coming onto campus from other schools, including men, because we had unusual language classes that weren’t always offered elsewhere.

          And most of all, students have friends, partners, and family members visiting all the time! Saturday and Sunday mornings in our dining halls always featured a host of boyfriends. One of the main annual issues in the dorms was the question of bathrooms–since they were designed to be all women, most floors only had one communal bathroom available, with all the toilet and shower stalls in the same room; we had to decide as a floor whether it was OK for visiting men to use it, or (if the idea of a dude coming in while they were showering made people uncomfortable) what our alternative plan would be.

          What women’s colleges DO have is spaces where you can pretty reliably count on the star student in the classroom, the TA, the org president, the rugby star, etc being not-a-man. And I gotta say, being in a space where the default expectation was that of course non-men would excel and have power? That was very, very good for 18 year old me.

        24. Dfq??*

          It’s so interesting that every time this site touches on gender issues, a deep well of total misunderstanding / ignorance about systemic sexism is revealed.

          High Score, the issues of mismatched expectations and performance in education for men and women / boys and girls have been well-documented for years. To reduce it to being alone with someone in a room is puzzling and off-piste, really.

        25. Came for the articles stayed for the comments*

          Because, obviously, women-only colleges are nunneries. And also, obviously, problems occurring when men and women work together is because women never learned!!! Because they’ve been in nunneries!!! Strict nunneries with absolutely zip-zero-zilch contact with the outside world, ever!!!

          But in all seriousness, are you serious?

        26. pandop*

          Plenty of men go to co-ed universities and *shouldn’t* be alone with a member of the opposite sex (or in some recent UK cases, their own sex)

        27. Platypus*

          my boyfriend went to a men’s only college and, shockingly, he can still interact with me, a woman, as well as all of his female friends, without any issue.

        28. MurpMaureep*

          Right, because that’s why men go to co-ed institutions, to learn how to “work with and support and respect” women.

          I’m also pretty sure the elected official who famously claimed he couldn’t be alone with a member of the opposite sex didn’t attend a women’s college (or even a single sex one).

          Conversely, we now have an elected official (in the same office!) who attended a HBCU*, and I’d dare anyone to make a similar argument about her ability to work with others different from herself.

          *I know this is different from single sex but the door was opened for the comparison in the response and, weirdly, High Score! seems in favor of HBCUs in some situations

      2. Books and Cooks*

        Single-sex education is beneficial to both sexes, actually. And yeah, it’s not “icky” to want to try, spend time in, or live in an environment geared specifically to your sex. It’s not a matter of “need,” it’s just a matter of environment.

        1. UKDancer*

          Different people have different needs. The UK doesn’t really do women only universities or men only universities, but a lot of universities have single sex halls of residence. I opted to be in the women only hall of residence because I didn’t want to share bathroom facilities with men. I wanted a women only flat. One of my friends grew up mainly with brothers and she specifically wanted a mixed one.

          I think it’s important we have learning environments that meet our needs. My needs are not the same as my friend’s needs and it’s good for learning institutions to respect and include the different needs of different people.

          1. Anonymous*

            I lived 3/4 years in the girls only dorm on my campus and it was certainly not the case that we were isolated from boys in any way… First, there was the entire rest of campus. Second, trans men exist, and at least one lived on my floor.

            (Also the RA’s generally had a policy, regarding overnight visitors, of ‘If I can pretend I don’t know it’s happening, I don’t have a problem with it, officially.’)

    3. TPDSpecialist*

      This all day! I didn’t go to a Christian college because I specifically wanted to attend a Christian college. My school had a fully online Bachelor’s HR program with wonderful instructors and a great tuition rate (by comparison to other online programs). They also accepted every single one of my credits from the community college where I earned my Associate’s. I’ve worked with at least one person that I know of who made assumptions about me because of my education.

      1. I'm just here for the cats!*

        Similar. I chose my catholic university because I liked the area, the program was great and I felt very welcomed as a not-quite-traditional student. I also chose it because I didnt have to take the SAT/ACT and they took all of my credits from Tec college. I don’t agree with a lot of the catholic church but I sure hope I wouldn’t be discriminated because i went to that church.

    4. Moi*

      I think that my “icky” feeling comes from my dislike of excluding others. There are certain roles where being a specific gender is beneficial, (e.g. some people prefer a male or a female doctor) but otherwise why are we gendering it? If you don’t need to be “____” to study/do/participate than why exclude people? The majority of the real world includes mixed genders, and working with people different than us (in a variety of ways) is a strength.

      1. HoHumDrum*

        In a world in which gender is an axis for oppression, those who live as marginalized genders actually gain quite a bit from a gender-exclusive space.

        I posted this above, but my ability to work with men went up significantly after attending a women’s college. Prior to that experience I felt I was confident, and staunchly feminist, and very capable regardless of who shared a space with me, and I laughed at the idea of a women’s college doing anything for my self-esteem. After literally my first class there I suddenly realized my whole life I had been tempering everything I did in co-ed environments by the fear that I would reveal myself as less worthy than the boys and that if I failed I was letting down other women. I felt this extreme pressure and I had absolutely no idea it was even there, it was invisible to me my entire life until the moment I was in a context where it was suddenly made visible. That pressure was actively holding me back from learning to my fullest capacity, and from achieving what I wanted to achieve. It made me able to more clearly see the myriad of other ways living under patriarchy was shaping my views, my choices, and my life in a way I never had before, despite the fact that I was raised a feminist and had identified as one my whole life.

        After being in women’s spaces I was able to understand and operate within the framework of patriarchy in a way I hadn’t been able to before. I am so much better at working with men and people of other genders *because* of my experience at a women’s college. It’s obviously not the only way to get to the point, but I can tell you there is nothing about going to a women’s college that hampers you from understanding men or anyone else different from you, quite the opposite.

      2. SW*

        By that logic, why have LGBTQ centers on college campuses? Those exclude straight people! Won’t queers have trouble relating to their hetero classmates? Won’t they struggle with having straight co-workers?
        I’ve found that the people who have gone to women’s colleges have done a better job of treating people the same regardless of their gender than their coed equivalents. It’s almost like they’ve learned to not automatically defer to men because they’re men.

      3. ADidgeridooForYou*

        Because the world has gendered it. Laws may say that you don’t need to be X to do/study/participate in something, but the truth is that society has given certain genders, races, etc. far more support and resources when it comes to particular paths. The journey to become an engineer is more difficult for women because it’s fraught with sexism. The journey to become a doctor is more difficult for Black people because it’s fraught with racism. The people who pull the “why are we making this about race/gender/sexuality” card always seem to forget that the world has made it about race/gender/sexuality.

        Plus, women’s colleges don’t exist because “men=bad.” They exist to give women a space to grow and evolve without (or with less of) the sexism that’s prevalent in society.

      4. anonagoose*

        > The majority of the real world includes mixed genders, and working with people different than us (in a variety of ways) is a strength.

        But women’s colleges, much like HBCUs, don’t take away that strength. They help marginalized groups (in this case, marginalized genders) develop intellectual and leadership skills in a space where they are prioritized, which is so rare in this world, and they take that into the world and do good.

        Exclusion isn’t inherently a bad thing. Sometimes, when it serves to uplift and protect marginalized groups, it’s an active good. If you look at all forms of exclusion as equally bad, which is what you’re doing here, then you’re part of the problem that necessitates spaces like women’s colleges or HBCUs or LGBT centers and so on–because when you see all exclusion as equal kind of oppression, you empower oppressive systems and further marginalize those who are actually being oppressed.

      5. RPM*

        I didn’t attend an all-women’s college but I did attend a girls’ school for grades 7-12. I am better at working in a mixed setting *because* of that. I gained the confidence necessary to not let myself be steam-rolled by someone talking loudly but with less expertise. This was critical as I pursued my PhD in a STEM field. And FYI, men are perfectly willing to exclude women in STEM fields, which is why I needed the confidence that I gained in my single-sex school to push back on it.

    5. Beth*

      Most women’s colleges aren’t only open to women at this point; all of the ones I know of (including the one I went to!) accept nonbinary students as well as both cis and trans women. It would probably be more accurate to call them “colleges which historically existed as spaces for women who were excluded from other institutions and are now open to students with marginalized gender identities more broadly,” but that’s too much of a mouthful!

      If what you mean is that it feels icky to have a space that explicitly excludes men, that might be worth thinking on. Why does it feel icky to build spaces that refuse to center a group that’s dominant in the rest of society?

      1. MigraineMonth*

        The ones I know also admit trans men, because they also have a marginalized gender identity.

        1. Beth*

          My undergrad officially doesn’t admit trans men (their policy is basically “all non-men”) but also has always had some number of trans men on campus because people transition post enrollment. That said, I’ve heard from classmates who are men that it can make things hard for them. Having a masculine name and appearance alongside a well-known women’s college on their resume basically outs them as trans while job hunting. Same goes for as any conversation where their undergrad experience comes up.

          I think the school community could benefit from admitting all marginalized genders, and I’d like to see their policy become more inclusive. But given that lifelong outing issue, I’d hesitate to recommend it for a trans man even if the school did have a more ideal admission policy.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          The one I went to admitted anyone who either was AFAB or identified as F (20+ years ago). As far as I know, currently it’s pretty much “anyone who isn’t cis male”. But of course there were cis men all over the place anyway: profs, staff, students from other schools in the consortium.

    6. MigraineMonth*

      Did you know that most coed colleges (outside of some math/engineering schools) deliberately judge men’s college applications less harshly than women’s? On average, women have higher academic achievement, so co-ed colleges give men priority in order to keep the ratio of women to men low.

      Weird how that never comes up in conversations about affirmative action, right?

    7. Saraquill*

      A major reason I applied to so many women’s colleges was because so many boys were disruptive in my 1-12 classes. Much easier to focus at Simmons.

    8. CPegasus*

      Honestly, I understand having the instinctive “ew, discrimination” reaction, but it’s on me to get over that and understand the good reasons for people to choose single-gender education. I feel like “icky” is a good word because it’s NOT rational or really explainable, and it has to be ignored.

    1. Justin*

      When folks from marginalized groups are critical of their own group in this weird bootstrappy way….

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        Right. And let’s say there were no valid reasons for woman only colleges to exist like OP claims, they whole “you have a choice of where to go to college” is odd too. Sure, there’s a choice, but not everyone has wide ranging options for many reasons. Also, people change! Where you got your degree is something one can’t go back and redo if they became atheist after attending a Catholic university.

        1. oranges*

          Most college choices are made by 18 year olds with a lot of parent input. And many private college choices are extensions of private K-12 schooling that was almost entirely parent-driven.

          So LW is really punishing these professional women for (perfectly reasonable!) choices they made as a barely adults and heavily influenced by their parents. Yikes. Internalized loathing, indeed.

        2. Sleepy*

          Agree there is some choice but there are so many factors, from financial aid/scholarship packages to program interest to location.

        3. WhoKnows*

          100% agree about people changing (though I don’t think it should factor in as it pertains to graduates of women’s colleges since there’s nothing wrong with them). I went to school at a somewhat prestigious university (which thinks of itself as an Ivy League even though it is very much NOT). If I could go back in time, I’d switch in an instant. I could have had a better experience at another college and still had similar opportunities.

        4. MurpMaureep*

          Somewhat ironically, I initially chose to go to a women’s college in part because my high school boyfriend had family members who had attended and he encouraged me to apply.

          Obviously, in retrospect, this was a clear ploy to keep me from sowing any wild oats and stay committed to him while he went to an Ivy-ish University (and sowed wild oats).

          But he played himself – while we remained long distance on/off for a while, attending the school I did raised my consciousness to the point where I was able to recognize I had been locked in a cycle of emotional abuse for years and I deserved better. By the time I went to grad school I knew I deserved better and found the person to whom I’ve been married for almost 28 years.

          If that’s being “coddled”, sign me up.

    2. different seudonym*

      Oh for effin’ sure. Thanks for saying it. I would add that it is unlikely to be internalized misogyny only, but also internalized homophobia.

      1. Justin*

        As a Black person with a version of neurodivergence, it would be very easy for me to look at my degrees and say, see, anyone can do it. But I know I’ve been privileged in other ways and that we can’t just say barriers don’t exist because they don’t stop literally everyone.

        1. Industrial Tea Machine*

          I’m going to write down “we can’t say barriers don’t exist because they don’t stop literally everyone” so I can use it in conversations. So well put.

          1. Another Woman in Tech*

            Me: “I accomplished a great deal despite [barrier x] and [barrier y], what’s your excuse?”

            Friend: “I was unable to overcome [barrier x].”

            Me: “That’s a really good reason, and you are valuable regardless of your accomplishments. I’m sorry you had to deal with [barrier x]. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.”

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              You really ask people “What’s your excuse?” Your friend is more patient than I would be, cuz if you played that game with me, I’d be your former friend right quick.

        2. Irish Teacher*

          This. I am from what would probably be considered a “socio-economically deprived background,” grew up on social welfare and it…never held be back or was even a consideration, but…as you say, I have many other privileges, a supportive family background, no addictions in my family or family conflict, no learning disabilities or physical disabilities or mental illnesses (possibly some neurodivergence; nothing diagnosed but identify a LOT with autism), live in a country where college education is free if you are below a certain income, grew up in a town where everybody went to school together and honestly, my school got the highest results in the country two years in a row when I was there, grew up in a low crime area, am probably of above average intelligence, etc.

          It was when I did work experience at college in one of the country’s most “deprived” estates (don’t like that term, but let’s say an estate that regularly makes the news due to crime and so on) that I learnt that growing up “poor” in a house your family owned in a mixed income area and attending a school that had an extremely good reputation is a lot different from growing up poor on an estate built outside the city, with a flippin’ 8 foot wall around it and no amenities and with a number of criminals also housed in the area. And that my assumption that “pfft, income has nothing to do with achievement; it’s just middle class people being snobby and assuming everybody with good grades must be from middle class backgrounds” was incredibly naive.

      2. Despachito*

        I would say the opposite – trying to divide genders and skin colours in education reeks of sexism and racism.

        I like to have the possibility to interact with people not along the line of their gender or skin colour, but along the line of common interests. Boys/girls/whites/POC only education would deprive me of this possibility and of the chance of meeting inspiring people because they have the “wrong” gender or colour. No, thankyouverymuch.

        1. Em*

          Perhaps the point isn’t for YOU to be comfortable and have what YOU like, but for the marginalized people to be comfortable. Maybe this isn’t about you trying to interact with anyone at all, but for people who are constantly the other in a room to feel comfortable. Maybe there are enough spaces where you can meet people who are the “wrong” gender or color and be “inspired”. Perhaps you should consider why you find people taking spaces for themselves as sexist and racist instead of finding a place where they can just be.

          1. The Real Fran Fine*

            All of this. Thank you.

            And if you want to be around other races, genders, whatever – you do know you could just go to where they are, right? HBCUs don’t preclude non-blacks from attending, and as far as I know, neither do many women’s colleges (but women’s college grads can correct me if I’m wrong). You can also attend events, meetups, and just generally walk around outside for this purpose as well.

            1. Another Woman in Tech*

              Many historically women’s colleges now admit cis men, and even the ones that don’t still admit trans-men and often have cross-registration with co-ed or men’s-only colleges.

        2. Gerry Keay*

          Luckily, choosing to spend some of your time in a space that is designed to meet the specific needs and challenges of people who are share your identity does not preclude you from meeting people of different identities throughout the rest of your life.

          1. Properlike*

            +1 for both Em and Gerry Keay’s comments here. Just because YOU don’t care for it does not make it “sexist and racist.” No one is advocating that this is should be the norm for everyone, throughout education. Proclaiming it shouldn’t exist at all because YOU don’t like it reeks of privilege and self-centeredness.

          2. Martin Blackwood*

            It’s laughable to think that being at a women’s college would somehow shelter people into not interacting with men AT ALL. This isn’t the 1800s.

            I’m a trans alum of Hollins, and a large part of my gender evolution was supported by my peers in school in a way I may not have felt safe enough to explore in a co-ed environment.

            Rest assured that four years of not having to fight cis men for academic engagement does not somehow stunt a person’s ability to participate wholly in their adult careers.

            1. MurpMaureep*

              >Rest assured that four years of not having to fight cis men for academic engagement does not somehow stunt a person’s ability to participate wholly in their adult careers.

              If I were more crafty I would embroider this on multiple samplers and bring them as gifts to my next (women’s) college reunion. That whole “real world” argument has always baffled me…especially because the aforementioned cis men don’t seem particularly concerned with figuring out how to navigate spaces with folks who look different than they do.

        3. AsPerElaine*

          For most people who gravitate to a gender-only (or historically-Black, for that matter) educational setting or affinity group, it is not a matter of “depriving oneself of the possibility of meeting xyz.” For a woman in US society, or a Black person in many places in the US, one is going to encounter men/white people — that is an unavoidable fact of life. Even if the educational institution is strictly separated (which most aren’t), there are men in the grocery store, and on TV, and taking up most of the spaces on the ballot, and on social media, and in one’s family, and etc. etc. etc.

          Yes, to go to a white-only school WOULD limit who YOU meet, but that is because you exist in a space that is already dominated by people like you. For someone who experiences that domination as an oppressive force, something that at best is tolerated and is likely having tangible impacts on your day-to-day experience (look up how often teachers call on girls vs. boys, for example), having a non-mainstream space is a chance to breathe.

          When I walked into a classroom that was entirely women, I discovered that men and boys had been taking up more than their fair share of verbal and physical space for my entire life, and I had just come to accept that perhaps 35% of one person-space was “my fair share.” I learned to embody 100% of my person-space, and to see it as my right, the way men do. That was a gift that a women’s college gave to me, and now that I have learned it, it is something I carry with me that cannot be taken away.

          1. Esmae*

            When I walked into a classroom that was entirely women, I discovered that men and boys had been taking up more than their fair share of verbal and physical space for my entire life, and I had just come to accept that perhaps 35% of one person-space was “my fair share.” I learned to embody 100% of my person-space, and to see it as my right, the way men do.

            This, so much. In middle and high school I had teachers fully stop calling on me because I had too much to say. I had teachers ask if anyone had anything to say, and then clarify “anyone except Esmae.” Then I walked into my first all-female classroom and discovered that actually, I had a completely normal amount of stuff to say and so did all the other young women around me. I’ve never forgotten that.

            1. Hannah Lee*

              The middle and high-school and even grade school experience … ugh. I didn’t realize until I was much older that I had been treated like (and programmed to believe) that my presence at school was not about MY education or getting along with other kids, it was about facilitating the education of the boys around me.

              Jimmy’s having trouble with math? Let’s move Hannah to sit next to him so she can help him with his problems.. instead of the teacher teaching him or doing something that would actually move Hannah’s education forward. Get the girls to organize the class lines to the lunchroom, have them wait their turn to play on the basketball court because the boys are playing now, have them just quietly work in their workbooks while the teacher sorts out the two boys acting out in the back row. “not you” when teachers asked for class discussion, or even when I was called on, if a boy chimed in, the teacher redirected their attention from me to them. (or literally, in one case, having a teacher offer to demonstrate something to people who hadn’t seen it before and having the teacher say “Not you Hannah … this is for the boys. You go home and ask your mother to show you” )

              1. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

                Had to literally go to the principal over this and the noncomprehension… but Little Mark It Confidential *likes* to help and she’s so good at it! I don’t care. She’s not here to assist. She is not a TA. If every boy sinks to the bottom, so be it. They have parents. They have teachers. They don’t get an assist from the smarter girls in class, too.

              2. Hannah Lee*

                IDK, reading that back, maybe I just had an unusual % of boy classmates who needed one-on-one instruction or had behavior issues, acted out in class drawing all the teachers’ attention. I don’t remember ever being praised for my work, or achievements or guided on what comes next for me … the praise was for being well-behaved, or helping other kids or the teacher. But also things were biased back in those days too. My nerdy National Honor Society friends in high school would compare notes on our sessions with the guidance counselors …. 100% of the boys were told to apply to the University of Lowell to major in Engineering. 100% of the girls were told to apply to the University of Lowell to become nurses. No matter what our interests or skills or potential.

                1. JustaTech*

                  I don’t think you had an unusual % of boy classmates who needed extra help. I did that some too, and I was not a model student (hello not-yet-diagnosed ADHD!).
                  But when I moved to girls’ school I was never asked to do that. The teachers might have moved people to separate friends who couldn’t stop talking, or kids who were fighting, but it was never “you go be a good influence”.

                2. Eyes Kiwami*

                  Nope, I had your experience too. Always asked to sit next to the poorly-behaved boys and help them, praised for being a little TA/helper instead of encouraged on my own.

              3. Anonymous*

                Growing up the unofficial TA because coursework was easy (to me) really messed with my ability to study when things *weren’t* easy, not to mention my relationships with the rest of my class…

            2. Chilipepper Attitude*

              Came here to amplify that passage!

              I went to a coed school (one that had only switched from male to coed 10 years before I attended).

              I had multiple experiences of male professors who would call on me and say my answer was not quite right. When a male student said the same thing, the profs would say, “that’s right!” It took a female professor to point it out for me to realize what was happening and to stop questioning my own ideas!

              A women’s college would have been a good fit for me and I regret that my 17 year old self did not know that at the time.

            3. OyHiOh*

              I had the exact same experience of “anyone except Oy.” I also got “Oy, I know you know the answer, I want to know if ‘Kevin’ knows also,” where Kevin was a shockingly quiet student who did not want to be at the school and literally never spoke unless required to.

              When I attended a women’s college years later, I was rather surprised to find that nobody was rewarded for talking more, or penalized for talking less. We didn’t have to compete. Because that’s the other part of the bit above with Kevin — my hand shot into the air at every opportunity, not because I knew all the answers (I didn’t) but because I’d learned early that if I wasn’t the first person with my hand up, a boy would be called on, and I’d never get to say anything at all.

            4. missmesmer*

              There is evidence that girls fare better in single-sex schools compared to coed, both academically and in terms of well-being. OP is basically suggesting that women give up some of their power and opportunities to benefit the already dominant population group.

          2. 10 cents gets you nuts*

            Agree. That isn’t *the* reason I chose my school, but a huge benefit to me was realizing how entitled boys and men were to their voices. My classmates and I learned to use our voices and that’s only a benefit in my eyes. Looking back…not hearing boys/men opinions during this time was really incredible.

            1. M*

              This is exactly what I tell people is the number one thing I got from my education at a women’s college. I don’t suffer fools when it comes to sexism, and I know the power and the value of my voice -because- I had the space to use it at that formative time in my life.

              They weren’t overtly trying to teach us this at all, it was just by the virtue of having a space where men weren’t centered, unconsciously or not. Just existing in that environment, that’s all.

        4. DataSci*

          I do not exist in this world to give you opportunities. If I, as a woman, choose to sometimes inhabit spaces that do not include you, that is NOT ABOUT MEN. If my Black son chooses to attend an HBCU when he’s old enough, that is NOT ABOUT WHITE PEOPLE. Acting as though spaces carved out for people who are historically not privileged in our society is akin to white supremacy (I saw you sneak “whites only” in there) ignores reality.

          1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

            Gotta say, I’m gettin’ reeeeeeeeal tired of the cold takes Despachito and High Score! have been posting on this site. I really hope they take a step back and examine their own biases.

        5. biobotb*

          Then don’t go to a women-only college or HBCU? There are plenty of other options if you’re morally opposed to them.

        6. WantonSeedStitch*

          This reminds me of someone I know who scolds their friends for “living in a bubble” because they unfriend the people on social media whom they see espouse conservative opinions (e.g., anti-LGBT, anti-immigrant, anti-trans, etc.). They say things like, “it’s important to know that these people exist, and to learn to engage with them so you can maybe help change the way they think. I have told this person, “it’s impossible to ignore that these people exist, because they have very loud voices and are given very large platforms in the media and in government. Engaging with them pretty much never changes the way they think–it just exposes the engager to abuse and pain. And even if someone DID manage to eventually change one person like that after a lot of interaction, is it really worth exposing themselves to all that?”

          1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

            I was just about to make this comparison but your comment is better than mine would have been.

          2. Here for the Insurance*

            “[I]t’s important … to learn to engage with them so you can maybe help change the way they think.”

            Man, this line of thinking really grinds my gears. If someone is racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, etc., it’s not the rest of the world’s responsibility to fix them. And it’s even worse if the responsibility is being shoved onto people who’ve been hurt by their beliefs or actions. Like it’s not bad enough to be the recipient of their crap but now you have to take on the burden of cleaning it up, too. Absolutely freaking not.

            It’s on them to take ownership of their faults and fix themselves. Sure, engaging with them is one way to make them aware of their faults. You know what else generally gives people a clue they have a problem? Being shunned for being an asshole.

        7. anonagoose*

          Uh…no. Studies show, actually, that women’s schools and HBCUs actually allow for their target students to show up more completely as people–so if you want to get to know them and not their gender or race, you should be grateful that they have educational options that are designed so that they aren’t constantly thinking about their gender or race. Because, unfortunately, coed and mixed race schools function in such a way that unless they are majority female or majority POC they are going to have racial/gender dynamics at play that force people of marginalized identities to constantly navigate that on top of their education and personalities and interests. Schools that sidestep that issue by specifically serving women or people of color are still schools that interact with the world, but allow those students a better chance to show up as whole people.

          Incidentally, I’m a woman of color who went to a coed PWI. I spent a whole lot of mental energy navigating that and guess what? That ended up being what I built my friend group around for a reason. You would probably be annoyed about that, but my main common interest became, due the nature of my gender and race and the institution’s makeup, gender and race. If you wanted to find interests we shared that weren’t those I’d probably have very little time for you, whereas if I’d been at an HBCU or women’s college it would have been very, very different because I would have been spending so much less energy dealing with racism/sexism and would have had less need to build a social circle explicitly to support me in navigating that.

          And, you know, these institutions aren’t there for your interests either–they’re to serve people like me who might otherwise spend their education fighting those streams of racism and sexism. And women and people of color aren’t in school to enrich your education or “inspire” you. So please keep that in mind.

        8. Oryx*

          Imagine thinking you are entitled to interactions with other people even though it might make them uncomfortable.

            1. Dfq??*

              I cam back to this a day later because the follow-up to this comment and its tone-deaf arrogance, was so offensive that I thought about it overnight.

              Equating affirming spaces for learning and advancement for marginalized groups to “but what the menz / the whites / ME??” boggles the mind. I’m glad Alison intervened, because sometimes if you don’t know the context, then sitting this one out is the sounder option.

        9. anonagoose*

          Ok I’m coming back to this because I’m still really mad about this comment. You say you want to have the *possibility* of interacting with people based on common interests. Guess what? You do. Everyday. By virtue of living in a society, especially a society that has access to the internet. Some spaces being for minorities or marginalized groups only does not take away your ability to form connections based on shared interests in any way. These schools aren’t sequestering interesting people away so that only women or people of color can access them; that isn’t how the world works! They’re still there. They’re still accessible. I didn’t go to an HBCU and I still have friends who went to the HBCU in my city; I didn’t go to a woman’s college and I still made friends at women’s colleges. You could too if you had the guts to imagine that possibility.

          Instead you’re just creating a strawman argument because you’re upset about the idea of having spaces you don’t have access to and that’s really, really frustrating–because those spaces are life-giving to people who are marginalized; they are essential. And you coming in here acting like your desire to have people around on standby so you can maybe interact with them for your own enrichment should supercede the benefit those spaces give to those groups, even though the existence of those spaces has absolutely no bearing on what you want to get out of relationships anyways, is really galling.

          I’m also going to add that as a woman, a queer person and a person of color, I don’t want to meet people who are “color blind” or “gender blind” or whatever. I’m a woman and queer and mixed race all the time, even when I’m playing DnD or talking about books or scuba diving. I might not meet you in a space for those identities, I might meet you in an activity or space for a shared hobby, but I’m always going to be doing those things as a queer woman of color, and the idea that you can meet people without meeting their skin color or gender is not one that sits right with me. It’s very…you-centric, and takes nothing into account of how *I* or any of the people you supposedly care so much about meeting might experience the world.

        10. Dfq??*

          Congratulations, you don’t understand either racism or sexism.
          Seriously, please do some readings on those concepts, because I promise you that they do not mean what you seem to think they mean, and the way you’re defining them is actively harmful.

        11. LilPinkSock*

          Women and people of color are not on this earth to be your personal advancement opportunities.

        12. M*

          I met far, far more inspiring people at the women’s university I went to fly undergrad than I did at my co-ed grad school. Partially because we had more room to be ourselves outside of more strict societal roles.

          And we were gathered in the name of a common interest. An education from that particular school. Most of us didn’t choose it because it was “women only.” We either didn’t care or some even didn’t like that but we’re willing to give the school a chance for their own reasons.

          And we also met and interacted with plenty of men, they weren’t banned from campus. Plus at least three people I was there with are trans men, and I learned so much about why I should reject the gender binary from my experience there. Being around so many awesome women, trans men and NB students taught me more than any frat party ever could have.

      3. LittleDoctor*

        Yeah honestly, as a lesbian, given the STRONG association between lesbianism and female colleges (and similar things like female and lesbian separatism, women’s land, female only festivals and events, etc.) this letter honestly does read to me as genuinely lesbophobic.

        1. Anonymous*

          Apologies if I’m reading this wrong, but I want to be very clear: many women’s colleges/historically women’s colleges are NOT female only spaces and are not aligned movements like feminist separatism. I am very proud to have gone to a HWC that welcomes trans and non-binary folks, and we’re not unique. Not all HWCs do, but many of us understand that we can fulfill our mission by being a welcoming and safe place for gender diverse folks.

          1. LittleDoctor*

            Oh obvs, I mean it’s more of a stereotype people associate female specific things like women’s colleges with lesbians and lesbianism. When I was in high school bc I’m a gnc lesbian most people assumed I planned to attend a women’s college, for example. I also often hear people assume most students who went to women’s only colleges are lesbian. As well, lesbians have historically been heavily involved in the founding of women’s colleges.

            Also IDK why you think no feminist separatist space would be welcoming for trans people. There are multiple trans women only separatist communities, for example, particularly in the south.

            1. JustaTech*

              Ha, that stereotype exists in the high school space as well! My girls’ school was on the academically-hardcore/ feminist end of the spectrum and we were regularly described as the lesbian or “proto-lesbian” school (which was better than what one of the other girls’ schools was called, ugh).

            2. Aitch Arr*

              When I told my friend’s mom that Mount Holyoke was my first choice, she said “why do you want to go to a college full of lesbians?”

              This was 1991.

              Luckily, my parents were extremely proud of me getting into a Seven Sister (and are not homophobes, which is good, since I came out in college).

            3. HoHumDrum*

              I means there’s definitely a lot of TERFs who use the idea of “female spaces” as a way to police who is a woman and to keep trans and non-binary people out. It’s a weird thing where HWC are often far more welcoming to trans and non-binary people than many of their coed counterparts, but then also have a certain subset of their population be vehemently against the inclusion of them for gender essentialist ideological reasons. Sometimes when I’m all excited about things geared towards women I have to take a sec to double check- is this place/event supportive to all those who experience gender based oppression, or are you using “women” as a weapon to attack trans people with? It’s a bummer that it can’t be taken for granted that feminist spaces are inclusive

        2. Chilipepper Attitude*

          I think that is a good point and something the OP should consider. That is definitely a popular view of WC, the association between lesbianism and female colleges. Maybe the OP’s bias has to do with gay culture?

    3. KHB*

      It’s a version of the Smurfette Principle, I think: “I’m the one woman who’s good enough to join the boys’ club, and I’ve made that a big part of my identity. Women who reject the idea that they should be trying to join the boys’ club are therefore a threat to me.” I know OP isn’t saying exactly this, but there are a lot of the same undercurrents.

      1. KHB*

        So I’d ask OP: Is it just women’s colleges you have a problem with, or do you also object to other structures for women to support each other and make space for themselves? (Women’s clubs and professional organizations? Or even just close friendship groups of women?)

        1. Despachito*

          I am not OP, but I find the idea of ANY school/organization being prohibitive to any gender/colour REPUGNANT.

          So I think that if there is a university open only to males, it is WRONG.
          If there is a university open only to white people, it is WRONG.
          If there is a university open only to females, it is WRONG.
          If there is a university open only to people of colour , it is WRONG.

          I would hate not to be able to enter a public place, except public pool showers and toilets, because it is “men only”. Do not unto others…

          1. HoHumDrum*

            You can’t equate minority and majority only groups that way though. Minority groups have historically created their own organizations and groups as a respite from being othered and oppressed. If you can’t understand the difference between those things than you are part of the reasons those groups need to exist.

            1. LittleDoctor*

              Yeah, marginalized people deserve private spaces where we can communicate with, learn with, socialize with, exercise with, etc. other people who share our experience of being oppressed on the basis of our sex, of colonialism, etc.

          2. Colette*

            There have been studies that show that when a teacher alternates beteween calling on boys and calling on girls, boys believe they are not being called on fairly.

            There are still math teachers who tell girls they can’t be good at math.

            Given that co-ed education favours men, how is having an environment where women don’t have to fight this sexism wrong?

            Should the Girl Scouts be forced to be co-ed? What about gyms for women?

          3. anonarama*

            I think if you were to spend literally 5 seconds researching HBCUs and/or women’s colleges you would learn that they while they center the experiences and primarily serve women and/or people of color they are not fully exclusionary of men and/or white people.

          4. Gerry Keay*

            This heuristic fundamentally lacks any understanding of power dynamics, historical oppression, or the day-to-day experience of many many marginalized people.

          5. Anniekins*

            You are certainly doubling down on this without considering what might be best for everyone in the world besides YOU.

          6. Warrior Princess Xena*

            I would love to live in a world where we could do this and have it function.

            Realistically we do not live in that world, and having safe spaces for everyone, but ESPECIALLY for marginalize groups, is important.

          7. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Despachito, I forget what country you are in (Czech Republic, I think?) but you’ve made it clear in the past that you are coming from a very different cultural context than most commenters here. When you interject this kind of thing into discussions of race and gender (as you have quite a bit recently), you’re ignoring the impact of systemic oppression and marginalization. I welcome your comments on this site in general, but I don’t think this community can be asked to explain those issues to you over and over so going forward, I’m asking that you stay out of gender and race discussions for a while because it ends up drawing a disproportionate amount of commenter energy to respond. Thank you.

        2. KHB*

          Replying to myself once more to say: To the extent that this is what’s going on in OP’s head, I don’t want to be perceived as beating up on her for it, and I don’t think she should beat up on herself for it (although she should engage in some self-reflection and try to change). It’s not totally her fault that she (or anyone else) feels that way, because we’re taught from a young age that we should be striving to be the Smurfette, by seeking male approval and seeing other women as threats. And unpacking all those years of lessons is hard.

      2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Thank you for putting this into words. I was grasping at trying to explain how to borrow Moi’s adjective from above, absolutely disregarding the work and the education of women who didn’t follow the path OP did is “icky.”
        I was flashing back to other letters and comments from women who were told by more senior women that they were mistreated and that’s just how it is. If you can’t handle it, get back in the kitchen type of thing.
        Like the response to student debt relief:
        “I had to fight in combat, why should you get a free pass?”
        “Finally, no more lifelong crippling college debt for the next generation.”

        1. Merci Dee*

          I remember hearing about some of the student debt relief measures that were going to be put into place. My debt has been paid off for a few years, so none of those measures would have benefitted me, but I remember riding down the road and listening to the news on the radio and feeling like a huge weight had been taken off my shoulders, and being thrilled that something was finally being done to help the people that really needed it. It’s getting to the point where a basic bachelor’s degree is necessary for most jobs these days (I remember seeing an ad for the receptionist position at my work place a few years ago, and wondering why they were requiring a bachelor’s degree for a job that would have been perfect for someone working their way through school), but they’re pricing the “key” to entry-level jobs so highly that you have to work for 20 – 30 years just to pay off the price to get in the front door. What the hell kind of system is that?

          1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            A very broken one, indeed. The “you need to go to college!” mantra of the last fifty years needing justification. “You can’t just walk into a job anymore!”
            Why the hell not?

          2. Anonymous*

            Also, as someone who was fortunate enough to get loans paid off… this DOES directly benefit me. Jobs are going to have less leverage to underpay my peers and I, my peers are going to have more economic opportunity and more chances at stability (i.e. not desperately clinging to jobs and having to move to new cities and contribute to demand for ludicrous rental prices anymore), so my odds in both the job pool and the housing market are going to improve!

      3. Jack Straw from Wichita*

        I had not previously heard of the Smurfette Principle, and I love it. It’s akin to the “not like other girls” mentality that does nothing but tear other women down.

        1. Properlike*

          Some of the worst sexism I’ve encountered in the workplace has been at the hands of other women.

          1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

            YES. Years ago, a few years into my career, I read _She Wins, You Win_ and it shaped so much of my ideas around other women in the workplace. I’ve been meaning to re-read it now, 20 years later, to see if the ideas and concepts still hold water. I think this post is my sign to dig the book out tonight.

        2. Properlike*

          This from OP’s letter is a red flag to me: “I think, as women, the best way to combat sexism and misogyny is to insist that things are equal. It’s really not fair to say, ‘I want the same things as a man, except when I go to school, I don’t want them around.'”

          I wonder if OP is also the type of person who “doesn’t see color”: confusing the appearance of equality with actual equality.

          OP, while you’re working on this bias, please also learn the difference between “equality” and “equity.” It’s very common to confuse the two, especially when you harbor simplistic views about fairness and assume that everyone operates on your level of privilege. I fear that your sense of “fairness” is creating other problems for those you manage, now and in the future.

          1. WantonSeedStitch*

            I love the meme that has a picture of three people of different heights watching a ball game over a fence, and has different versions for “equality,” “equity,” and “justice” as an illustration for this concept.

            1. GammaGirl1908*

              (Side note: In my office, we’ve actually stopped using this graphic because, frankly, everyone should be inside the ball park. The idea that everyone should be helped to navigate a barrier is good, but it’s less powerful than the idea that the barrier itself needs to be removed.)

              1. Queer Earthling*

                In the original comic there’s actually a fourth panel showing the fence gone completely.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yes, this is a *huge* issue and is way bigger than just where your employees got their degree.

      4. Goddess Sekhmet*

        I agree so much with you. Having worked predominantly for organisations that were white male dominated in leadership, it really depressed me how some women joined the boys’ club and were, frankly, completely obnoxious. Those of us who weren’t prepared to do that had a much harder job progressing, and were looked down on by them as not able to cut in the real world (the real world being the one dominated by Middle Aged White Men).

        1. Chilipepper Attitude*

          sometimes to succeed, you have to be more catholic than the pope; you have to be more toxic masculine than the men.

      5. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

        I see it as more of a ‘if you want to be taken seriously as a woman in the workplace you can’t be overtly feminine’ undercurrent. In my world guys refer to they type of person as the ‘pick me girl.’ Most guys I work with find the pick me girl personality to be annoying. Especially when you’ve got the type that is very vocal about ‘not being like that girl.’

        1. Hannah Lee*

          While the OP voiced the idea that women who chose to women’s colleges might need to be coddled, there was also a whiff of “women’s colleges are real colleges” ie the education isn’t up to the standards of “real colleges” that came through, to.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Experience and growing up, mostly. I go into it a bit upthread under the 1st comment

  4. SereneScientist*

    As a non-binary Asian employee, if I had you as a manager–I would be horrified. This letter is not directed at someone like me but the deeply flawed reasoning behind it suggests to me you don’t fundamentally understand much of our culture’s inequities (assuming you’re American). Not only that, you seem to fall into the category of skeptics who also think that current measures to increase equity only create entitled and coddled people. That’s a very strong undercurrent of “well I struggled through and so should you.” Please reflect deeply on this because it is affecting how you manage.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “That’s a very strong undercurrent of “well I struggled through and so should you.””

      I find this to be so common and such a hard thing to internally overcome until you name it, acknowledge you had to deal with things that are unfair, and look out into the world wanting things to be better for others.

      The resentment feeds this narrative that the bias is justifiable. That someone is somehow weaker, more “coddled”, less world-weary, and that in turn makes them less professional or able to achieve. I see it so, so much in leadership and it never leads to anything good.

      1. SereneScientist*

        Yeah, absolutely. And LW might think she is being covert in this attitude, but it very likely isn’t.

        1. Goddess Sekhmet*

          Given her boss already noticed her hostility, I don’t think it’s as covert as she might think.

            1. Tedious Cat*

              This part really sticks out to me. How much time and vitriol is OP devoting to bashing women’s colleges that boss knows about it? That’s completely unprofessional. If you need something to froth at the mouth about that badly, OP, just hatewatch terrible TV like the rest of us.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                I wasn’t sure but I think it wasn’t that boss knew about the women’s college issue specifically, but just could tell that OP didn’t like the candidate even if they didn’t know why.

                Either way–really not great! I get it, I am very bad at hiding when I don’t like someone (one reason I am very grateful for WFH!!) but that is obviously a very big issue for a manager. So OP needs to work both on 1) keeping their personal feelings about coworkers better hidden and 2) their internalized misogyny and understanding of equity and how to provide support for marginalized groups.

                That’s a lot to chew on! But the fact that they are reaching out is a good start and I hope they are open to hearing this because I know getting all this blowback at once can make a person want to block it out and double-down.

      2. Gracely*

        I see this “well I struggled and so should you” mentality in so many damn places with so many people. It’s beyond frustrating, because sometimes, even when you point it out saying “wouldn’t it be better if people didn’t have to struggle like you did, though?” people will double down on it.

        This attitude that “fair” can only be everyone doing/going though exactly the same thing is harmful and unproductive (not to mention unrealistic), and actively works against the idea of improving and making the world better.

        1. SereneScientist*

          Yep. Our ideas of “fairness” don’t stand up well because the race is never equal in reality and having people in management positions who don’t understand this is a major problem.

        2. Chirpy*

          I mean, why make everyone reinvent the wheel when we could be using that time and effort to focus on building whole vehicles instead?

      3. TechWorker*

        Also just – people are different! What you need and want is not going to be the same as those you manage.

        (I had a microcosm of this when my female friend – extremely smart, very loud, very confident, didn’t see the point of womens maths competitions, until she went and volunteered on one and realised ‘oh – other women (/girls, they would have been teenagers) really need this and benefit from it’.)

      4. whingedrinking*

        To me it cuts even deeper than that. An attitude of “that’s life, get over it” at least acknowledges that there’s an issue that a reasonable person could dislike. The vibe I’m catching off the letter is that the writer thinks it’s ludicrous to have concerns about men at all, and that women who do are absurdly fragile – like the kinds of parents who won’t let their kids eat non-organic produce or watch Disney movies because of “the gay agenda”*. It’s the kind of letter where I wonder if the writer had to actively refrain from using the word “snowflake”.

        *I struggled to find an example because there actually aren’t a lot of people I think are “weak” or “pathetic” in this way. I tend to think if you have severe anxiety about something then you have anxiety, not a moral deficiency.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        I would compare this to me saying, “I’m not going to get my son the vaccine against chicken pox because I had to have chicken pox as a kid before the vaccine came out, and I survived! He should have to have it too, it’ll build character!” Gah.

        1. Too Many Tabs Open*

          Now that I’ve experienced shingles, I am very glad that I decided to vaccinate my kids against chicken pox.

    2. Smithy*

      Thank you so much for this.

      It’s certainly possible to pick at a number of the different points mentioned in the letter as curious – such as the endowment size part (like, no similar feelings about Ivy League schools and similar that on average have far far larger endowments??). But the greater points around equity are just so concerning from a management point. Tone policing, microaggressions, accommodation, inclusion….it’s hard to see that a negative view on women’s only colleges is where these types of views stop and start.

    3. NotBatman*

      Agreed. I would not want to work for LW, or anyone else who thinks women are “precious” and “need coddling”.

      In addition to all of the advantages of women’s colleges listed above, there’s also:
      – Safety: women who fear sexual violence, or even just discrimination, have lower risk of either at all-female schools
      – History and culture: it’s really cool to attend a school with a strong history, and many schools that broke new ground for women are attractive in that regard
      – Dating: I know at least one lesbian who sought all-female colleges in the hope of romance
      – Money: a lot of all-female schools offer scholarships and grants, and a growing segment of college students are (smartly) shopping for the cheapest option

      1. LittleDoctor*

        The safety thing in particular is really key to me. With upwards of a quarter of girls experiencing sexual abuse during childhood/adolescence, before they start university, and with that violence being overwhelmingly (not exclusively, but overwhelmingly) carried out by men and boys, how can you earnestly fault women and girls for seeking the comparative safety of female only spaces?

        1. A Becky*

          Oh, but seeking an out from sexual mistreatment is coddling the weak – I got groped at university, it didn’t hurt me (sarcasm) (vomit emoji)

        2. Hannah Lee*

          I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I was in undergrad, physical safety on the university campus played into SO many decisions for me. Not just RE socializing, but which work study jobs I sought, how often I did independent study work in the biology, chemistry labs off hours, which electives I took, how often, how long I went to the library, computer lab, research center. Basically, anything that involved me hauling across campus, or even just across the quad after dark … which could mean as early as 5 pm sometimes …that I didn’t have a classmate who would be walking with me, was something I weighed VERY carefully, and often decided against.

        3. Aitch Arr*

          I’ll blow up all the anecdotes with one of my own.

          I went to a women’s college and was sexually assaulted on campus.
          By a male guest of one of my friends.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        I get the safety part. When I went to my local state university it had a nickname as “Rape State”. I didn’t have an issue because I didn’t do the Greek thing, I commuted, and I let my freak flag fly so much that people would cross the street when they saw me coming. But I was aware of the problem and the danger, and I still have a great deal of situational awareness and defense reflexes.

      3. Observer*

        – Safety: women who fear sexual violence, or even just discrimination, have lower risk of either at all-female schools

        See? You just proved the OP’s point! You want to go to a place that is safe for you instead of going to a REAL college and keeping yourself safe! How spoiled and entitled can you get? The very definition of coddling!

        OP, please understand that while I was being snarky, that’s pretty much what you seem to be saying when you say that women who go to women’s schools want to be “coddled”

      4. Martin Blackwood*

        Hollins alum here — I think at least 40% of my graduating class was queer in some way. Women’s colleges are not just a haven for cis women, but also expressions of gender and sexuality that aren’t acceptable by the mainstream. If being able to learn and grow in a positive supportive bubble is “coddling,” so be it. It helped shape me in ways that I try to bring that same energy and intention to the rest of my life — acceptance of difference, championing and protecting those who are disadvantaged, working toward an environment of that same supportive evolution that I got to live in for my undergraduate years.

        1. RWM*

          Yeah I couldn’t help but wonder if there are some anti-gay attitudes underpinning this LW’s attitude, since there is a big association between queer women and women’s colleges.

    4. Lils*

      As a middle-aged person who grew up female, I sometimes have thoughts like “well I struggled through and so should you”. It is hard to watch younger people get upset over smaller injustices I would brush off, because I experienced much more difficult situations in my youth. I have a feeling of wanting younger folks to feel easy and be calm: “It could be so much worse than this!” I think. “You have it easy!”

      But…they are right to be upset about injustices, no matter the size. I should be glad they are “soft” from being “coddled”–they haven’t experienced as much trauma as we older people did–that’s good!! To take this to an extreme example, why would I wish every baby be raised in a war zone so they can handle future horrors? That’s ridiculous. We NEED young people to not find current conditions acceptable and to demand change.

      I only wish I had had the opportunity to attend a women’s college. All-female spaces allow you to be a full person, away from the overwhelming presence of men. It took me years and years to learn this on my own.

      1. Le Sigh*

        And to build on your point, often the reason the younger generations can take on the seemingly “small issues” is because generations before them made progress on the “big” problems. That’s the whole idea! What’s the point of advocating for change and fighting the system if not to make it better for you AND the people who come after you? (Though I could go into a whole diatribe on how seemingly small issues on the surface are often part of a fabric of much bigger problems and not really as small as they seem.)

        Separate diatribe: I can only speak to the U.S., but I don’t think the kids today are soft at all. Older generations might view them that way, but they have grown up in a country where gun violence in their schools are common, their reproductive rights have been taken away, they might not be safe if they aren’t cis and straight, and they can already see the impact of climate change that they’ll have to live with. There’s plenty of serious trauma to still go around. And a lot of the younger generations are pushing back against unhealthy job expectations and putting their foot down about unequal treatment. I don’t think the younger generations will solve all the problems any more than the people before them, but I think they’re a lot tougher than they get credit for.

        1. Lils*

          I agree, they are tough. But they are soft-hearted and less cynical in a way I didn’t feel nor witness as a young person. I love this about Gen Y/millennials! Somehow, they aren’t as hard as we were but they’re still fierce.

          It’s interesting to think about how, decades ago, how to avoid getting assaulted and what to do when you get assaulted and constant sexual harassment at work took up a lot of my thoughts…but I never worried about accessing abortion care.

        2. Danish*

          What’s the quote, my father was a soldier so i could be a farmer, im a farmer so my son can be a poet..?

      2. Here for the Insurance*

        Every generation says they want their children to be better off and not struggle like they did, and then turns around and gripes about the kids not having to struggle the same.

        Humans, we’re exasperating.

    5. Unaccountably*

      Yes, and it’s also likely to create an atmosphere that negatively affects things like work-life balance and career opportunities because “I never get to have things my way so you don’t get to have them your way either.” Justified, of course by the idea that that’s just how the world works, and completely overlooking the fact that the world “works” that way because people like the LW have ensured that it continues to.

  5. ThatGirl*

    I’m not sure what “men’s colleges would be banned” means, either – there aren’t a LOT of them left, for various reasons, but there are three private, non-religious colleges in the US that are all-male. (One of them is my alma mater’s chief rival.) There are also a handful of other examples that are part of a larger institution.

    It’s kind of funny that you’re aware it’s a bias, and want to treat people fairly, but you don’t want to have to overcome that bias to do so.

    1. LittleDoctor*

      And men and boys don’t have much reason, comparatively, to seek out male only spaces, because they already dominate their classrooms and school environments.

      1. HoHumDrum*

        I would love to see a rise of male spaces that specifically exist to help eradicate toxic masculinity and help men develop a healthy relationship to their gender identity. Would do so many non-men a world of good if the men around them had also benefitted from freeing themselves from the burden of patriarchy.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        I feel like I read somewhere that studies showed that boys on average learned better in a mixed environment and girls on average learned better in a girls-only environment. I think that was on like elementary schoolers so I’m not sure how it translates to colleges.

        1. LittleDoctor*

          Yes! That’s the most common and most solid data. Some studies have differed, but it’s the overall average finding and it plays heavily into my own ideas about what I want for my children.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      “I’m not sure what “men’s colleges would be banned” means, either”

      Given that it is a factual assertion that sounds sorts of reasonable but actually is trivially easy to disprove, but which is used to bolster the argument despite this, the relevant work on the subject is the classic “On Bullshit” by Princeton philosophy professor Harry Frankfurt.

  6. ChemistryChick*

    My eyebrows went to the ceiling while reading this. Holy cow OP, please take every bit of Alison’s advice.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      My eyebrows are level with the ozone layer right now.

      My brother mocked me for wanting to go to Barnard. He called it a college for unmarried lesbians.

      This was in 1994. My brother is an Ivy League doctor.

      Progress and equality, my ass.

      1. LegalEagle*

        You hit on something I think OP doesn’t realize, which is that going to a women’s college means you’re going to be hearing people’s sexist and misinformed opinions on your education from the moment you put down the first deposit. People said things to my face and about me and my classmates online that were wildly misogynistic, and I think they felt they “could” because were people who had chosen to be in a space without cisgender men and thus had made ourselves “different.”

        Going to a women’s college was great for so many reasons, but one of them is I don’t need to guess if people have some sexism they haven’t dealt with, because they’ll say something inappropriate about my college right to my face, and think it’s ok. My alma mater is a built in BS detector, and going there made me better able to deal with sexism.

      2. münchner kindl*

        As opposed to a mixed college where for decades upper-class women went solely to get a husband, not because they were studying seriously?

        Wasn’t that stereotype accurate a lot of times (until college tuition in US exploded and enough women no longer needed to catch a husband?)

  7. Meghan R*

    Yikes on bikes, OP. Why are you even looking that deeply into someone’s college choice? Unless the individual college *itself* has issues, it shouldn’t even make a blip on the radar. Congrats they have the degree you require for the position.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      College is often a choice someone makes very young based on very personal criteria. It doesn’t mean anything out of context, unless you’re hiring for a position with needs so specific you’re only taking people who graduated certain programs.

      1. starsaphire*

        More often than not, in my generation anyway, college was a choice that one’s *parents* made, or at least weighed in heavily on.

        There are so many factors weighing into college choice — economic status, legacy standing, proximity, location of family friends/relatives — and it’s a heck of an albatross to hang around someone’s neck, to judge them on what schools their parents were willing to pay application fees for.

        1. LCH*

          so true re: the parents. i have a friend whose parents required her to live in one of the women-only dorms on campus. is this the same as attending a women-only colleage? she certainly thought it was silly.

        2. Starbuck*

          Yeah, considering how often kid’s agency is limited in what colleges they can chose, it seems especially cruel to be judging someone based on your personal taste for the type of school they went to, beyond academic merit/rigor. That’s all that should matter.

        3. KoiFeeder*

          My generation too- I knew a lot of people who’s parents were pretty clear that they weren’t allowed to go to a specific college because it wasn’t “good enough,” or weren’t allowed to take specific majors because they “wouldn’t lead to a real job,” so on and so forth. The student didn’t feel they had any way to pay themselves, so the parents felt entitled to micromanage every aspect of their education.

        4. The Real Fran Fine*

          Yeah, I had some say in where I went to college back when I was making the decision in 2004, but ultimately, my mom overruled my top choice and I went to another choice because it was in a city where her family lived. She preferred that because it was 600 miles away from her, and if I was going to go that far, she wanted me to be near people she (somewhat) trusted would have my back if I needed help. It ended up being a costly decision for me, and if I could do it all over again, I would have stayed in state, but whatever.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Not gonna lie, I picked my undergrad on 1) whether they had a community college junior transfer program, 2) the weather, and 3) not doing what my mom recommended (women’s college) because I was that kind of kid. I didn’t know what I wanted to study so didn’t even look at the programs. Luckily I lived in a state with some excellent public universities, but I cringe at the idea of someone looking at my 16-17 year old decision-making as a reflection of adult me decision-making. I mean, I also used to hop freight trains for fun with friends, so good judgement was not in plentiful supply

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Yeah, when I think of some of the things my friends and I survived in our early 20’s … good judgement was not apparent much of the time. (and we were the “smart” kids)

          eg one Saturday night my freshman year, my friends and I went to some frat parties on Greek Row, got drunk, and on the way back to our dorm decided to , instead of walking on the street, sidewalks back to main campus, to take the direct route … straight through a residential neighborhood under construction .. a handful of foundations and framed structures, no floors or walls yet. We made a game out of seeing who could get to the highest level of the house frames without falling off. Walking along 20′ stretches of 2×6 beams dozens of feet in the air, while drunk and laughing our heads off. Not our best moment.

      3. pugsnbourbon*

        Yep. IIRC there was a letter from someone who went to a conservative religious college but had either left the faith or was much less conservative than they used to be, and were looking for ways to express that in their application materials.

      4. drinking Mello Yello*

        Trufax. I went to a Jesuit university because it was close to home and had an excellent academic program. The fact that it was nominally Catholic had no bearing.

      5. tangerineRose*

        “College is often a choice someone makes very young based on very personal criteria.” This!

      6. EchoGirl*

        Yeah, I noticed that too. My ultimate deciding factor in where I went to college ended up being location — it was down to a small college in a rural area or a state school in a medium-size city, and I decided that even though I technically liked the small school better as far as what it had to offer, being essentially stuck in a tiny town 60 miles from the nearest significant city (I didn’t drive and wouldn’t have had access to a car anyway) just didn’t seem like a situation I wanted to put myself in. Other people I know made these kinds of decisions based on proximity to home/family or on who offered them the best financial aid package. And that doesn’t even take into account parental pressure or people who made a choice based on beliefs that later changed.

        All this is to say that EVEN IF everything else OP said about women’s colleges was true (which, to be clear, I don’t believe it is), it would STILL be flawed to judge someone based on the assumption that they chose that school for those reasons. So many things go in to making that decision, and it’s really not fair to judge someone based on a decision process you’re ASSUMING they made.

    2. Heidi*

      I also found the extreme reaction to this one minor detail to be odd. The college someone went to is not usually a huge factor in hiring compared to prior work experience and references, but it seems to have overriden all other qualifications for the OP. Plus the fact that the OP was so obvious about it that someone felt compelled to call her out. It makes me wonder if the OP said something rude to this applicant. If I were the applicant, I would think twice about this job.

      1. Another Woman in Tech*

        You’re right, that is quite the thing to focus on! Even right out of college, my sense was that having the degree mattered, but college and major were not that important (unless there was a specific degree requirement, or you went to University of Phoenix or Trump University).

    3. hbc*

      Yeah, I think this is actually the main thing. I have all kind of biases that I can more or less justify. Just around college, I have tons of generalized Opinions–women’s colleges, military academies, religious schools, Greek participation, getting a minor in something that overlaps 95% with your major, etc, etc.. I will join anyone in a lively debate about the net value of any of those things or what they mean on average.

      But judging an individual is a completely different story. You picked X school four to forty years ago? That’s a tiny piece of info amidst all the other stuff I can get from the resume and interview. (And I’m certainly not going to hold Wellesley’s endowment against their graduates any more than I would Harvard’s.)

      1. Anonomouse*

        This is what I was thinking! What an unusual and most likely meaningless thing to fixate on. I also have some strong opinions on college/university decisions. For instance, I work at a school that I would actively discourage friends/family from attending as an undergrad but I can’t imagine prejudging an employee for their school choice!!

        1. JustaTech*

          Literally the only reason I would even register if someone had a women’s college on their resume is that I am marginally more likely to recognize it than other types of private colleges.
          And to be honest it’s really probably only 5-6 schools, including the one my mom went to. And I would probably mentally file it under “interesting non-work information about this person” rather than “the defining characteristic of this candidate”.

    4. anne of mean gables*

      So true. I work largely with PhDs. I know where exactly one of them went to undergrad – our Director, who occasionally mentions that she went to a minor SUNY as a “…and look where I am now!” humblebrag. I am wracking my brain and can’t think of where anyone got their doctorate, tbh. Someone I was meeting (at work) asked me where I went to college the other day and I was completely taken aback because it hasn’t come up in so, so long. I am baffled that this is coming up in hiring, honestly – I am assuming OP is mining resumes for this information but if the company is discussing it as part of the hiring discussion they really need to consider that from an equity perspective. We have just started redacting institution names from CVs as part of our DEI-focused overhaul of our hiring process in an attempt to preclude exactly this kind of thing.

      1. JustaTech*

        I work with a similar group of people and the only time anyone’s undergrad has come up is when a coworker’s kid is getting ready to start applying for colleges and the coworker is asking around about people’s experiences at different schools.

        Nobody cares that I went to Small Fancy School and that my coworker went to Major State U and our other coworker went to Minor State U. Like, maybe it mattered when we just started working, but 10 years in? Your track record is so much more important.

      2. pandop*

        I work in an academic library, but I don’t know where a lot of my colleagues studies. It’s also the sort of job where ‘when I was at X’ could refer to studying there, working there, or both.

    5. squid*

      People choose colleges for all kinds of reasons. I, for one, went to a public ivy…. not for the educational value, no, but because I had a crush on a girl who went to a school a few miles away lol. The priorities I had at age 16 when I was filling out applications were the kinds of priorities only a 16-year old could have.

      (I turned out to love the school anyway so it did work out for me but reading That Much into college choice is truly such a silly thing.)

      That said! I think the best way to overcome any kind of bias is to immerse yourself. Make yourself some friends, colleagues, acquaintances who went to these kinds of schools. Get to know them. It’s easy to be biased from a distance, but once you stop seeing people as stereotypes and instead as real people who you personally know, you may find it all crumbles apart.

    6. Stormfly*

      Yes, that’s what really stuck out to me. Aside from whether her bias is justified or not, the fact that that one fact made her so visibly dislike someoneis really worrying in a manager.
      I mean, I don’t agree with private schools on principle, and think they should be abolished (I’m not from the US, so I’m not speaking to that context), but I don’t think any less of my reports who went to one. And if I do feel a little judgmental at hearing a story that reflects their privilege, I hold it against society as a whole rather than them.
      You need to think of people in their entirety. What school they went to should be a single data point in the opinion you form of them.

    7. Kayem*

      Agreed for sure. I went to a private Catholic university for undergrad. I’m nowhere near Catholic, but I had tuition benefits making it the only affordable choice available to me. I’d be furious if I didn’t get hired because of it, or if my manager treated me unfairly just because I went to a Catholic school.

      For my first graduate degree, I went to a university that was originally women-only. They’ve since gone co-ed, but the name still has “women” in it. I didn’t pick it because of that, I picked it because of the best three schools that had the academic program I wanted, one ghosted me and the other one would have required moving to a new city, which I couldn’t do. So again, if a manager treated me poorly based on asinine assumptions just because of where I went to school, I’d be furious.

    8. Cold and Tired*

      This! Like, genuinely don’t care where you went to college as long as you have the skills to do the job and your degree is real. Everyone picks colleges for their own personal mix of reasons, and it honestly has no impact on my life why someone else made the choice they did.

    9. I am Emily's failing memory*

      I just hired a new direct report in June and I literally could not tell you what college she went to. It was on her resume, and I do remember that she has a BA (not a BS), but the specific institution she attended? So irrelevant as to be utterly forgettable.

    10. Anonymous*

      This. In the 00’s when I was looking for colleges there were a lot of factors: sending me off to the cheapest option for the percieved academic buck, me not wanting to go to the top 3 state schools because that’s where most of my high school graduating class was going and I wanted to actually have a fresh start, and a small campus so that I could be guaranteed to get around easily despite being able to twist my ankle tripping over a twig, and my then-inability to read a bus schedule.

      Also, the college I chose took all my AP credits. Half of my spanish minor was technically done during high school, which freed up a lot of credit hours for me.

    11. Peeklay*

      I once worked with someone who felt this way about anyone who didn’t attend an Ivy (which was most of the people in our company). She was exhausting to be around and the elitism that she oozed was gross.

      I think since it’s now mostly socially unacceptable to be outright racist in a work environment some people cling on to these sorts of arbitrary seeming traits to judge others by. If you went to an Ivy you get to feel like you’re better than people who went to state school or *gasp* community college.

  8. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I think OP is misinformed about the endowments. There has been at least one high-profile case of a womens-only college (Sweet Briar in Virginia) that went to the brink of closing down in the last decade due to money.

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      I don’t quite understand the huge endowments component of this. The largest endowments in the US are all coed colleges, many of them private and Ivy League. Women had to fight to be admitted to several of the schools in the top 20 endowment list as late as the 1960s.

      1. BethRA*

        I think it’s just another example of how OP’s objections to women’s colleges are grounded in nothing but their own assumptions.

        I’m not trying to be mean, I’m glad they have enough self-awareness to understand their bias is a problem that needs to be dealt with (and I think it took some courage to write in), but none of their justifications/assumptions have any kind of factual basis.

        1. LittleDoctor*

          It reminds me of the biases against sororities, cheerleading, and really any female dominated activities, which are often based on nothing more than someone’s impressions from the media and their internalized misogyny.

        2. WantonSeedStitch*

          I’m guessing they might have looked at the numbers for the endowments of women’s colleges, and thought, “golly, that’s a lot of money!” without realizing that compared to the Ivys and their ilk, it’s really NOT that much.

      2. Moho With a Grudge*

        As late as the *late* sixties. The first women to graduate Princeton and Yale were the class of 1973, I believe.

          1. JustaTech*

            Harvard and Radcliffe (the women’s college associated with Harvard) only fully integrated in 1999. 1999!

            1. fhqwhgads*

              Yeah but the first class of people who applied/were admitted to Radcliffe to get a degree that said “Harvard-Radcliffe” was, I’m pretty sure, 1972.

      3. I am Emily's failing memory*

        It’s also just a weird framing, to say that colleges having endowments – which overwhelmingly fund need-based aid for women’s education – bother her because the same amount of money could be used to help women in different ways that she would prefer. It’s almost seeming to imply that the endowment is taking money from more worthy women’s causes, but there’s no reason to think that the size of a women’s college’s endowment has any causal relationship to funding for other women’s causes.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          Right. A giant amount of those endowments is from rich alums. If those rich alums had gone to a different school, most likely that money would be in that other school’s endowment instead.

    2. Anon for This*

      Pine Manor in Boston also had financial problems, started to admit men in 2014, and ultimately merged into Boston College.

      1. Hoodie*

        Hood College in Maryland had to go co-ed from a women’s college for the same reason. As an alum who was there shortly after it went co-ed, the school is only now in a more stable position two decades later.

      1. HoHumDrum*

        Great example because Harvard has insane money, I know someone for whom Harvard was cheaper than state college because it had so much more money to give away.

        Many schools with large endowments use that funding to increase financial aid packages and pay for things like laptops, textbooks, internships, study abroad, etc for poorer students.

        What about *that* offends you, OP?

        1. Starbuck*

          It seems like their objection is that the money is going to the relatively privileged (they assume) women attending these schools, when it could be given to other, more disadvantaged women…. somewhere else I guess. Ignoring that it’s not only the kids of rich parents paying the full tuition price that go to these places.

          1. HoHumDrum*

            And that schools with better funding typically are far more inclusive than schools who rely on getting every penny from tuition to stay open. Obviously schools with public funding tend to be most inclusive (because there are more requirements to keep that funding), but in my experience schools with large endowments actually have more money to use for financial equity work among students. With my Harvard example, it’s a big deal that they don’t just offer tuition help, all those extra I listed above are the kinds of things that lower income students often don’t get help with and can really drastically change a college experience and the opportunities one has access to afterwards. So yeah, large endowment =/= all wealthy students, that shows a profound ignorance of how this all works.

          2. Martin Blackwood*

            I was a first-gen student with zero financial support from my parents. I couldn’t attend my first choice university because of cost and lack of big enough financial aid packages. A big deciding factor for me going to Hollins was the percentage covered by aid. I don’t doubt that the large endowment had a lot to do with that.

        2. Bee*

          Right, I just straight-up do not follow the logic from “they have huge endowments” to “that money could be better spent” as someone who attended an Ivy on so much financial aid it was cheaper than my state school – better spent than on paying the costs of college for low-income students? Letting kids whose parents can’t afford college graduate with minimal debt? What? I guess this person just looks at the sticker price of tuition and the endowment numbers and hasn’t actually looked into how much the one offsets the other.

    3. Esmeralda*

      Mills College got acquired by Northeastern U recently, after many years of financial struggles. And not for lack of fundraising either.

    4. Skippy*

      Women’s colleges typically have smaller endowments than their co-ed counterparts because women don’t make as much as men, so the dollar amount of alumnae giving is lower. In fact, one of the arguments cited in debates over whether these colleges should start accepting men is that it will be to the institution’s financial benefit.

      If endowments bother the OP so much, why doesn’t she complain about people who went to Ivies, which each have an endowment that is the equivalent of the GDP of a small country.

    5. Mitford*

      Former development office employee of both Mount Vernon College and Trinity University, both in Washington, DC. Mount Vernon was absorbed into George Washington University because it ran out of money, despite valiant efforts by a number of people, so no massive endowment there. And if Trinity has a large endowment, they’re hiding it really well.

    6. Hillary*

      I wonder if OP is focused on the seven sisters and doesn’t know about the many other great women-focused colleges.

      Here in MN we have St. Catherine plus St. Benedict/St. John’s. St Kate’s is women’s, St Ben/St John’s are affiliated women’s and men’s schools a couple miles apart. They all provide great educations.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        This is my guess. I don’t actually know anything about the seven sisters’ endowments, but there is a stereotype of, for example, the Wellesley student. Given how much the OP’s case is based on questionable stereotypes, this would fit as the driver of their impressions. Even to the extent that this stereotype were true, this would be an over generalization.

        FWIW, my wife went to an (until very, very recently) all-women’s Catholic college. I have seen little evidence its having an extravagant endowment.

      2. Observer*

        I wonder if OP is focused on the seven sisters and doesn’t know about the many other great women-focused colleges.

        I highly doubt it. If you look at the numbers even the highest profile schools with the largest endowments are nowhere near the top coed schools. I think that the the largest endowment that any women’s school has is just over $2B, which is not nothing, but the lowest amount in the top 10 is >$15B, and most women’s schools have less than $1B.

        Which is to say that even looking at those schools, her assumptions make no sense. There is simply nothing close to a factual basis to them.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Sure, but this clearly is not a rigorous argument based on rigorous factual research and strict adherence to the canons of logic. There is a stereotype about the seven sisters. Whether or not it is true is entirely beside the point for purposes of the argument.

    7. Sara without an H*

      Definitely. I think OP is also seriously uninformed about the state of higher education in the USA. A lot of small private colleges and universities have minuscule endowments and rely almost entirely on tuition.

    8. Frideag Dachaigh*

      Just spitballing here, but what if these endowments went towards creating networks of spaces where women and gender minorities could come together, say for 4ish years, and have access to high caliber educational experiences. Maybe they could provide housing, internship/work opportunities and social activities too!

      As a women’s college grad I would like to point out that a lot of our colleges do an incredible, like truly incredible, amount of work in the community. Both in the colleges providing opportunities to people in the area, and the just expectation that we’re going to go out into the community and give back, both while students and after graduation. So yeah, those endowments do pretty clearly and directly go towards “initiatives that uplift women.”

  9. CTA*

    As a woman reading this letter that was written by a woman, it just makes me feel disappointed. LW has such strong negative feelings about other women and formed that dislike based on something that those women don’t deserve to be judged for.

    1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

      Yep. I kind of chuckled at “…because I want to be taken seriously as a woman, I do not support institutions that exclude men.” It’s a common enough logic pattern for people who dislike other members of their own “group” (“I’m one of the good ones!! respect me!! pick me!!”) but the sad fact is that people who don’t take you seriously as a woman will not take you seriously because you share their contempt for other women. Any respect they might have for you will always be conditional.

    2. marvin*

      I think this women’s college issue is just the tip of an iceberg of internalized sexism. This letter writer used some pretty infantilizing terms to describe other women (“precious,” “coddled”) and generally seems to have really burrowed deeply into this niche where she feels comfortable justifying and expressing a bunch of sentiments that support sexism and resist attempts to undermine it.

      1. Tired of Working*

        I graduated from Douglass College, which was a state college for women, and I resent being referred to as precious and coddled. Even though the LW said that people can choose where they go to college, I really couldn’t, because Douglass was the only college that I applied to, because it was the only one I could afford. I don’t see how that makes me privileged and entitled.

    3. tangerineRose*

      “As a woman reading this letter that was written by a woman, it just makes me feel disappointed.” Yep, me too.

  10. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

    Had Alison not brought it up, I would have mentioned the HBCU as well.

    LW, has it occurred to you that women might choose women-only colleges for, I don’t know, SAFETY? Or feeling like their voices won’t be drowned out by the (historically white) men in their classes who get called on more, get better opportunities, get better facetime with the professors?

    Your letter reeks of entitlement in your bias. You have convinced yourself you’re justified in how you feel, and you don’t come across as wanting to change so much as you want someone to tell you that it’s OK to feel how you feel.

    Your boss noticed, and called you out on it. If you don’t get your bias under control, and I were your boss, I’d be questioning your future at the company and in a managerial role.

    1. Yoyoyo*

      Yes, I had the HBCU thought too and was glad that Alison brought it up. I also agree with your point about safety – I would have felt a lot safer at a women’s college! The fact that this person didn’t think of that, along with all the other valid reasons to choose a women’s college is…alarming.

      1. Expelliarmus*

        I mean, OP probably thinks that being safer at a women’s college is “being coddled” because you can’t expect that in the “real world” or some BS

        1. TechWorker*

          My uncle has the same view about gender segregated schools – but yes I went through puberty without having boys ping my bra strap or having to deal with sexual jokes in the classroom and you know, I’m ok with that? School or college isn’t your whole life, you’ll still interact with men…

          1. Kayem*

            It certainly would have eased the torment I suffered in elementary through high school if the boys were taken out of the equation. Granted, there’s always the chance girls could be just as terrible, but it wasn’t girls making gross comments about my body all day every day while I was just trying to do my trig test.

        2. LittleDoctor*

          Also like. If it’s the choice you make and how you decide to structure your life (which might mean some sacrifices and prioritizing, but I mean, such is life) you absolutely can expect that in the real world by simply living in a female only community. There are many active female separatist communities in most western countries. I’ve lived in one and it slaps. I’m working towards founding a new one where I live now.

        3. ADidgeridooForYou*

          Yup. It has very strong “kids are too soft with their safe spaces nowadays” vibes.

        4. Observer*

          I mean, OP probably thinks that being safer at a women’s college is “being coddled” because you can’t expect that in the “real world” or some BS

          That was my thought too. It makes me sad. Because as much as I like to be right, the world would be a better place if we were all wrong.

        5. yala*

          Ok, I just…I REALLY need to know exactly what “coddling” these woman would have received at their colleges that they may expect now. I mean I would like OP to SPECIFICALLY give an example of the sort of “coddling” and “entitlement” that she feels could result from going to a women’s college.

          Because the only things I can think of are…not being as willing to put up with sexism or harassment in the workplace? Potentially?

          I am legit at sea to imagine just what attitudes OP imagines these women would be predisposed to having that would be so objectionable. Does she have any examples? Even hypotheticals?

          Just…what sort of coddling?

    2. Lance*

      ‘you don’t come across as wanting to change so much as you want someone to tell you that it’s OK to feel how you feel.’

      Honestly, basically this. The question isn’t even ‘how do I rethink any of this’, the question is ‘how can I keep people from noticing these opinions’. That is… an issue, and as Alison says, OP really needs to rethink this strange stance of hers.

      1. marvin*

        She’s applied a thin veneer of language about bias on top of a huge pile of justifications for why her bias is actually correct.

        1. whingedrinking*

          Yeah, I noticed that too. The big ol’ list actually begins with “Here are my reasons”, which is typically how you’d argue for why your position is right – not for admitting it’s irrational. Absolutely nowhere does she say “I know this is wrong and I shouldn’t believe it” or “I now realize these ideas were incorrect”; the second-to-last line is even “I genuinely believe this shows poor judgement”!

    3. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Yeah, I didn’t get that much (eh, you know, relatively) harassment in high school, but when it was time to go off to college, I got all the anti-rape advice from my aunt, my mom, and then the college intro session itself. The blue light emergency phones. The statistics of how often women are assaulted, and how few report. The horrific frat gang-rape that happened off campus while I attended there. I can see wanting to skip all that.

      Honestly, it never occurred to me as a teen, but if I had it to do over now (as a woman in my 40s), I might choose a women’s college.

    4. The New Wanderer*

      It would have been a pretty different letter if the LW had just started and ended with “I have this irrational bias, how can I overcome it to be a good manager to any employee?”

      Have to say, my first thought is if the LW is so obvious in her dislike of a new hire (for any reason) that her boss noticed right away, LW might not be well-suited to be a manager. Because you really can’t be a good* manager when there’s a qualifier: *except of people who are ___.

    5. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      I wonder if they feel the same way about all female high schools?
      I sometimes wish I had had the opportunity in the 80s to attend a private female high school. Perhaps I would’ve been encouraged to go into science or engineering instead of being told girls could only be secretaries.

  11. Sam I Am*

    The misogyny is calling from inside the house!

    It’s great that you know about your bias, OP, and Alison has given you great suggestions on how to overcome it. I wish you great luck with this project, it isn’t easy to overcome biases.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yes, I say this with kindness, but I suspect OP has a lot of internal misogyny to work through that probably appears in different ways, and this is just the most visible manifestation currently. I am still finding so many ways that the call is coming from inside my own house as I enter middle age, and I always have to re-center on supporting and uplifting fellow women who are trying to make positive changes.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        Misogyny or Envy – one of the two.

        I see envy here – perhaps I’m reading into it, but someone who is so biased usually has a personal axe to grind, and the focus on perceptions of wealth, entitlement, etc. etc. leads me to believe that there is some jealousy/envy at play here.

      2. Sam I Am*

        Yes, I find the same thing in myself, which is why I hoped to cheer the OP on to follow Alison’s advice. If it’s a sincere letter, then Alison has outlined great steps to take to counter the bias. We all should be encouraged to improve ourselves when we see something (or have our boss point out something) that is harmful to ourselves and others. It’s hard work and I applaud you for your revelations, and am confident I will continue to find my own. It’s a sexist society, it takes work to dig out from under it. First you have to notice that something is holding you down, then you have to figure out what it is and where it came from.

    2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I am glad they recognize the bias, but the tone of the letter shows a genuine desire to receive affirmation and justification to resist actually overcoming the bias.

      1. Sam I Am*

        It honestly struck me as a possible fake, because who is OP writing to? Alison handles potential “gotchas” so deftly that it’s a terrible place to mine for anti-man content, did the OP just google for work advice and land here?

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Fair point! I feel like anyone who is really familiar with this blog would expect this response, and yet this LW writes as if they expect a highly unrealistic response. Then again, we have seen some others like this and even occasionally get updates (though even those usually do not show much advancement on the LW’s part).

          1. JustaTech*

            Eh, we’ve had letters before where Alison and the commentariate firmly sided against the LW (the one that comes to mind is the manager who wanted language for reprimanding an employee who quit because she wasn’t allowed to take a single day off for her college graduation after overcoming tremendous obstacles).

            Some people are so certain that they’re right that they write to advice columns for confirmation rather than actual advice.

    3. Baby's going to Mount Holyoke in the fall*

      There’s a LOT of internal work to be done here in order for this LW to actually combat her biases. I wonder if she could get involved with lifting up other women/people of marginalized genders (through women’s community/electoral organizing, Big Sisters, Girl Scouts, or women’s shelters) as a way to learn about the positives of gender-affiliated spaces. LW, if your concern is that women’s college grads aren’t combating sexism the “right way,” how are you personally working on that?

  12. AvonLady Barksdale*

    So… the money used to fund women’s education doesn’t uplift women? Does not compute.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Also there are bunch on non-women’s colleges with much larger endowments, I’m sure! Why do they get a pass on how they spend that money? But of course only the women’s colleges are held to a sky-high standard!

    2. Smith grad who feels great about her decision*

      What’s especially stupid is that in some of these colleges the endowments are used to help students from low income backgrounds attend so…

      1. Snow Globe*

        That was my thought—LW assumes people are specifically choosing an all women school because they are wealthy, but maybe that’s the best financial aid package they got?

        1. ADidgeridooForYou*

          Also, lots of kids who go to Ivy League schools are wealthy. Would LW automatically reject everyone who went to one? I assume not.

      2. HoHumDrum*

        Smith College has a whole program dedicated to helping older women who had their degree interrupted finish out college. They have dorms designed for families and offer help with childcare so those women can finally complete the degree they started before life got in their way. Truly an amazing way to uplift women and their families.

        (I’m sure you know this, Smith grad, but just a fun fact to share with others)

        1. Sam Yao*

          And some of those students live in the regular dorms! The Ada Comstock Scholar in my first year dorm was fantastic and it was great to have her perspective as part of student life.

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          My nana did this at a women’s college in NJ or PA (for the life of me can’t remember which one – I need to ask my mom) back in the 80s! She never got to finish HS because she was 2nd oldest and a girl so at 65 she got her GED and did a degree in library sciences.

        3. rebecca*

          Smithie class of 02 here. I didn’t graduate for medical reasons and have long thought about going back as an Ada to finish my degree. However I have a mortgage and live outside Seattle, so it hasn’t been workable.

    3. Lemon It's Wednesday*

      I went to a private coed college and I constantly had to deal with unwanted attention that made me feel unsafe even in the classroom. I wish I’d had an opportunity to go to a college where I didn’t have to constantly navigate that.

      Example- I was outside my classroom studying for a bio final (my major). A guy who I had been in class with all semester sat down at my table and I thought he would just quietly study near me. Instead he decided it was the appropriate time to tell me he liked how I look and had been referring to me as the ‘Badonkadonk Girl’ to everyone in class since I had such a nice butt.
      I quietly said uhm ok and ran out of the building. I was highly uncomfortable the whole time I took the final an hour later knowing he was in the room. I was embarrassed and grossed out that multiple people in my class had spoken about me like this. This was a VERY small school and pretty much the same group of students was in all of my major classes.
      If anything I am jealous of women who went to women’s only colleges and didn’t have to deal with this while trying to get an education. And I will NEVER fault them for not wanting to go to a coed school.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      Right? Like, I could see making an argument for how colleges aren’t accessible/equitable and that money should go toward something else entirely, but if we’re talking specifically about college funding wouldn’t a women’s college uplift women’s education an equal or greater amount than a coed one?

    5. Charles Shaw*

      Agreed – the whole bias seems irrational but the endowment argument in particular holds zero water.

  13. Msspel*

    To add: we don’t have total control over which university we go to, in that it depends on where we’re accepted.

    I applied to six colleges, five co-ed and one woman’s college. I was rejected by all but two, my co-ed safety option and the woman’s college. I didn’t particularly want a single-sex education, but I couldn’t ignore that the academics were better there than at my safety so that’s where I went. (It turned out to be great education, for what it’s worth).

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      This. I’ve attended three universities (BA/MA/PhD) and in all three cases, I went to the one that took me. None of them were women’s colleges, but my MA is at Brandeis, and I’m Jewish, though that was a total coincidence.

    2. DataGirl*

      I chose a women’s college for my undergrad because I could get a much better education- higher rate of professors with PhDs, smaller class sizes, better academic standing- for a much lower cost than any other college/university with similar academic offerings.

    3. Constance Lloyd*

      I nearly attended a women’s college because the scholarships were so great. Notably, they also partnered with several other colleges in the area to ensure students had access to more courses, and men from the other colleges were present in nearly every class.

    4. Avery*

      Not only where we’re accepted, but where we get funding to make actually attending school possible.
      I applied to ten colleges and got accepted at nine (ironically, the one was a women’s college, though it’s possible my lack of acceptance was due to an application error rather than just not being good enough), but some of those gave me nothing in the way of scholarships, and even those that offered scholarships varied wildly in the way of what I’d actually pay after taking them into account.
      Reasonable pricing options narrowed it down to a safety school and the liberal arts school I ended up attending. (Both co-ed, though I did apply to a couple women’s colleges at the time.)

    5. Sam Yao*

      I visited my coed top choice after I was accepted, discovered I really didn’t like the student culture, and went to my second choice, the women’s college my mother attended. There are so many factors that go into choosing a school!

    6. Grilledcheeser*

      Adding also, is this the college closest to where you have free/lowcost room/board? Lots of people make a choice because of housing & lack of transportation too.

      1. Kayem*

        When I first attempted undergrad and had to transfer to a different school, I had a choice between $27k a year (in 1990s dollars) as an out of state resident or $3k a year as an in-state resident. Didn’t take much work to pick which one.

      2. B.S. Engineering*

        Poverty is real. I made this choice, as did many of my friends. We graduated with minimal-to-no student loans.

      3. Le Sigh*

        This is such a big factor. Out of state wasn’t even on my radar because how was that going to work? But I was fortunate in that I lived somewhere with a strong state school system. I managed to get accepted to my first choice AND I got a ton of need-based aid. It was a lucky combination that I greatly benefited from — but if I had lived somewhere else, I don’t know that I would have had that option.

    7. silly little public health worker*

      i also was in this boat! i am a women’s college alum (and i got lucky that i am!) but the decision was based primarily on getting a very much greater amount of financial aid from my institution. it was also the most academically competitive school i got into, and as a person who strongly suspected they were gay at 17 and who came from a very religious community, i’m glad that my very progressive school ended up being where i landed. my life would have been very different – and likely, less full – if i ended up at my out-of-financial-reach first choice school.

    8. I'm just here for the cats!*

      It also depends on the program you want and your location. If you are a non-traditional student or need accommodations. The school I went to had an amazing student support program for non trad students and those who are first gen students or who have learning disabilities. And up until the 80’s was a all women school,

    9. Sara without an H*

      It also depends on funding. I recently retired from higher education — students and families have grown much more cost-conscious about higher education.

    10. EchoGirl*

      Also, financial aid can be a huge factor. I had to turn down my two favorite schools because they didn’t offer me enough financial aid. I didn’t apply to any women’s-only colleges (largely because my process was parent-directed and none of those schools were on their radar) but if I had and one had offered me a good package (or a significant merit scholarship or what have you) and I otherwise liked the school, I might well have taken it.

    11. Barnard Bear 2010*

      I wasn’t looking for a women’s college.

      I got rejected from my early decision school, and I applied to 6 others, one of which was a women’s college (and another, formerly so). I got into 4 and was wait-listed at 1. Of the 4:

      1 was throwing scholarship money at me – I would have had NO debt. But they were the local state school, and I did not want to be surrounded by my high school peers. I wanted a new experience. Stupid, I know, but I was 17 and didn’t love high school.

      2 were extremely expensive and offer some but not enough aid. One of the 2 had ranked in the top 10 of most expensive colleges in the US, that year. As much as I liked them both, it simply wasn’t feasible. I didn’t have a college fund, and my parents basically lived check-to-check. I needed to go somewhere that I could afford through some combination of scholarships, grants, and loans in my name and my parents’ names – and, sadly, these were too expensive even with what they did offer.

      1 offered me a scholarship covering the full tuition (though I had to pay housing myself), was in the city where I wanted to be, had a strong reputation and an affiliation with an Ivy League institution that amounted to co-enrollment. It also happened to be a women’s college – a fact I, in my infinite young adult knowledge, deeply resented at first, and grew to appreciate immensely only in retrospect.

      My point is, I didn’t seek out a women’s college, but I ended up at one. And I have no regrets about it. Even – frankly – misogynists like the LW can’t strip me of my pride and satisfaction with the education and opportunities I was given.

  14. ZSD*

    It’s worth noting that at least some women’s colleges do admit men, just as HBCUs admit White students. For example, I knew a man who had attended Sarah Lawrence.

    1. Caramel and Cheddar*

      Came here to say this and was wondering how they’d react to an applicant who attended Sarah Lawrence and was also a man!

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Sarah Lawrence is co-ed and has been for quite a while. Same with Vassar and Goucher and several others that used to be women-only.

      1. ZSD*

        Right, they’re co-ed, but don’t you think the OP would still think of them as “women’s colleges”?

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I doubt it, since the main issue is that women would choose to be educated only with women, and there are plenty of men at these schools.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            I seriously doubt OP has bothered to look past the end of her nose here, since she says that men-only colleges don’t exist when they, in fact, do.

          2. Gerry Keay*

            Sure, but OP seems to be so grossly misinformed about women’s colleges, I wouldn’t be surprised if her blacklist wasn’t up to date.

        2. Brainstorming*

          Honestly, I had the same thought reading this letter. I am a Sarah Lawrence grad and I assume that the OP would probably find that distasteful, despite the fact that Sarah Lawrence has been co-ed since before I was born.

    3. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

      My daughter’s women’s college allowed men at the graduate but not undergrad level.

    4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Right? A lot both historically men’s and women’s colleges have gone co-ed or have agreements to allow students, including men, from other institutions to attend classes. Scripps is the women’s college of The Claremont Colleges—a consortium comprising Pomona, Scripps, Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, and Pitzer Colleges—and they share academic programs, common areas of campus such as the library or campus store, etc.; the women are not cloistered away.

        1. JustaTech*

          I specifically didn’t take a class at Scripps because I knew I didn’t have the time for one of their classes (very reading heavy), but one of my friends moved his major from Mudd to Scripps and got a BS in history.

          (Scripps is also literally in the middle of the Claremont Colleges campus; you have to cross it to get to Mudd from the other schools. Also the location of the best on campus coffee shop.)

          1. Kevin Sours*

            Fun Music wasn’t exactly the most challenging course they offered there (Fundamentals of Music AKA Music Theory 0 for the uninitiated). Don’t recall the coffee shop but I mostly hung out at Mudd (fond memories of the Claremont Tea Company down in the Village though)

    5. ADidgeridooForYou*

      Yup! They just don’t apply nearly as often. I know I’m probably generalizing here, but in my experience a lot of men see women-centered places and subjects as “not being relevant to them,” so they just don’t participate even though they could benefit. I remember taking a class on Russian film that was about 1/2 guys and 1/2 girls on the first day. The professor explained that the class would actually focus on women in Russian cinema, and I kid you not, every man except for one dropped it. Because anything that centers women can’t possibly apply to them.

  15. allornone*

    The school I got my Master’s at is a Christian university. I am not Christian. But they had the degree I wanted (very specialized, with few to no alternatives), an online format that fit my current life, at a price I could handle. Christianity rarely came up during coursework (and was usually brought up by other students; the professors remained neutral). I went there because it was the best option for me considering the path I wanted to take with my life. I wasn’t being precious; I was being pragmatic.

    1. allornone*

      And oh, I work for a non-profit that primarily serves at-risk minority youth. We work with our area’s own only HBCU fairly extensively to help these pave the same roads as their more-privileged peers. The HBCU is more equipped to understand the realities of these marginalized populations.

    2. Sarra N. Dipity*

      Similar situation here – if I wanted to get a Masters’ in my field, there’s one local option, a private Lutheran university (moving for school is off the table). I’m most decidedly not Lutheran…

  16. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    The women I know who went to women’s colleges are all bad-asses.

    They wanted to learn without the mansplaining and weird competition, and they wanted a place without the bro-culture of 18-22 year olds. They are then prepared and ready to hit the ground running after graduation, where of course there will be men.

    Those schools are not finishing schools for rich girls waiting for marriage or little fluffy worlds of softness.

    LW — please listen openly to the responses on this post and let your mind be changed.

    1. Jack Straw from Wichita*


      –co-signed, a women in grad school program made up of 75% women yet the 25% of men still dominate the class discussions

      1. Kayem*

        I saw this in action when I was working on my second graduate degree. Originally men only, started admitting women 100ish years ago, but their STEM programs still dominated by men. I was in one of the few programs that were majority women students. There were maybe two or three men for every class of 24 students, but the men were the ones dominating the classroom discussion boards. It got so bad, most students just stopped doing anything beyond the bare minimum required because they took over the boards every week. Even the instructors and TAs (mostly women) would get sick of those students explaining the course material to them.

        If it was just one or two classes, I would have chalked it up to a couple of asshat outliers, but it was every. single. class. After a few weeks into each course, I gave up trying to engage in discussion organically. I didn’t have the spoons for that in 2020.

      2. anonagoose*

        I’m a teacher coming out of an undergrad polisci program, and I’ve started warning my female students who want to go into polisci: “You’ll have to deal with a lot mansplaining, talking over you, they’ll dominate discussions even when it’s mostly women in the class…” I don’t want to be pessimistic but it was such a feature of my undergrad degree and when I know some of my students are weighing applying to women’s colleges, I feel like I have an obligation to prepare them. The experience they have will likely not be equitable. My school was particularly bad but I’m familiar with a number of the places they’re applying and it’s not that much better at most of them.

        They’re still excited and while we’ve talked a lot about strategies I and my peers found useful to manage that problem, it still feels shitty to send them off to programs I know are going to just be dominated by teenage boys who just want to hear themselves speak and male professors who think that’s the way things should be.

        1. FridayFriyay*

          I was a policsci major at a women’s college and definitely recommend that experience for your students who might be interested. It was a wonderful experience and prepared me so well for my career in a related field (where, sadly, I’m not able to completely avoid cisgender men.)

    2. Anonymous in support of womens colleges*

      Agree. There’s an all-women HBCU in my area that emphasizes leadership skills as part of the curriculum. Their graduates are bad ass!

      The college also offer some generous scholarships for economically disadvantaged women. For people coming out of high school without the advantages that the uppper middle class take for granted (i.e. tutoring, robust extra curriculars, academic summer camps), this is life changing. Why wouldn’t someone want to learn in a supportive environment that holds them to high standards?

    3. Dollars to Donuts*

      I second this! When I was 22, I learned so much from my bad-ass friend who graduated from a women’s college. She was so much wiser than I was, and part of this was because of the focus, self-awareness, directness and leadership that she learned at Smith. In hindsight, I can see that she was being herself and advocating for herself, while I was still self-moderating to be as pleasing as possible to other people (men).

    4. Wednesday*

      I went to a women’s college that only allowed men in the theatre program and gen ed classes needed for that major. Lo and behold, the men in my sci-fi/fantasy creative writing class (taught by a male prof) were somehow all marvelous writers and barely got any negative critiques. One of our assigned readings still haunts me nearly 30 years later because it was basically SA torture p*rn. I never really thought about it until now, because I was so used to that sort of thing after co-ed high school, but now I’m all mad about it. Grr.

    5. Allonge*

      I am not going to look for it now but there is also some scienctific evidence that girls in general do better in girls-only high schools than they do in mixed ones, while boys perform better in mixed schools than in boys-only ones.

      I am sure this is not an individual-level truth, but I am also sure that this difference does not go away upon graduation from high school. We are educating boys at the expense of girls in a lot of cases if there is any truth in this.

      So, yes, and definitely something for OP to consider.

        1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

          The following article mentions a study from Utrecht University. (link to follow)

          1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*


            “But single-gender education versus co-ed schooling has attracted a lot of attention, with parents wondering if it’s better to have boys and girls in school together, or with their own gender. A new study from scientists at Utrecht University, published in the journal School Effectiveness & School Education, has shed new light on the argument — and their discoveries indicate that boys benefit educationally from having girls around. But does the practice of going co-ed help girls, too? “

    6. turquoisecow*

      I went to a women’s college for my first year (ended up transferring for financial reasons) and the women I know who graduated are all amazing bad asses also. They are successful rockstars in their fields and amazing, well-rounded people who work their butts off and are not even close to being “coddled” as the OP says. This letter got my blood boiling on their behalf.

    7. Sara without an H*

      Those schools are not finishing schools for rich girls waiting for marriage or little fluffy worlds of softness.

      Can confirm. I just retired from a small church-affiliated women’s college. Many of our students are the first in their families to go to university, and a substantial portion of the student body is eligible for Pell Grants. We have programs to support those of our students who are single parents and/or undocumented immigrants. They are, indeed, bad asses.

      LW, I know it’s going to be hard for you to read some of the comments here, but you need to know that your biases are rooted in ignorance. Please make the effort to change.

    8. Unaccountably*

      Well, that might be part of the problem, from the LW’s point of view. I’m sure everyone who’s been reading here for a while remembers the letter from the boss who was furious at the way her “too big for her britches” employee, whose paycheck hadn’t made it into her account *twice*, advocated for herself to HR and told them it couldn’t happen again.

      Some people just don’t want to see women get above themselves, and unfortunately a lot of those people are other women.

  17. Sotired*

    I am shocked anyone would say this. Glad I do not work for this person, and I did not attend a womens or HBCU college.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Me either, but I am similarly appalled at the attitude.

      I have friends who have navigated teaching in some of the larger universities in Canada – believe me when I say that if female FACULTY deal with sexism and misogyny, then you can expect these attitudes to filter down to the graduate and undergraduate levels.

      Heck, just from a safety standpoint – a major university in Canada recently had to institute training for all new students on what constitutes sexual harassment and consent. A friend’s son had to learn what the difference was between porn and real life in this training, because the school had such a problem with sexual assaults on campus. So safety is DEFINITELY a consideration when choosing a university.

  18. CharlieBrown*

    Sexual violence against women is, unfortunately, all too common on many college campuses. It must be nice to be able to walk back to your dorm from the library after an evening of studying and not have this be as much of a concern as it would be at other colleges.

      1. Daisy*

        The female-only floor of the college I went to back in the dark ages was definitely a target for harassment by some of the frats and the general a@#$%^& population. I was happy to be on a co-ed floor that alternated male and female rooms as the problem people avoided us.

      2. Chestnut Mare*

        Sure, but I went to a co-ed school and was harassed by men from town AND male students. No one is saying women-only schools eliminate harassment, but it does remove one source.

    1. deesse877*

      Sexual violence on college campuses is mostly perpetrated by acquaintances in social situations–i.e., by students, overwhelmingly men, who deliberately target fellow students for assault at moments where they can access plausible deniability]. It’s really not about safety on the street in the aggregate.

    2. Cat Tree*

      Yes, amazing that physical safety is considered “coddling”. I mean, I get that men still exist and visit the campus for various reasons, and also women could assault other women. So the risk isn’t zero, but it’s still reduced.

  19. Lacey*

    It’s wild to me that the OP would give this much weight to where someone went to college.

    Even if the OP’s assumptions about them were correct (though I agree with Alison that they are not) why would you hold a person’s decision about the college they went to against them?! They made that choice when they were 18 and were almost certainly influenced by their parents, scholarships, and the programs offered.

    Lots of people wouldn’t choose the college they went to if they had that choice to make again in their 30s, but they don’t!

    Stop being so concerned with where people went to school!

    1. Sloanicota*

      Right?? I applied to a few schools I had heard of if they had programs I was interested in, and went to the one that offered me the most money. It was not a decision that came from my deepest philosophy on education; I didn’t know enough of the world at 18 to have opinions on that kind of thing.

      1. ferrina*

        Truth. I went to the college that gave the best scholarship. It was the one I could afford to go to and still hope to own a home later.

      2. Just Another Zebra*

        I said the same below. I went to the school that cost me the least and wasn’t too far from home. I was 17 when I picked my college, and my parents had a huge say in where I went.

    2. ThatGirl*

      somewhat related: I graduated from college nearly 20 years ago (yikes). I went to a small liberal arts college with some prestige. At the end of 2020 I got laid off and was job searching, and got a call from a recruiter who wanted to talk to me all about my time at said SLAC. Like…my dude, my college experience is not relevant to this job! Talk to me about the 18 years of professional work experience I have instead!

    3. Argyle pirate*

      There are also parents that don’t just influence, but flat out require their children go to (or avoid) certain schools. While an 18-yr old can technically go wherever they like, I had classmates (male and female at two different co-ed colleges) whose parents would only pay if their kids went to their preferred school/major.

      1. Swiss Army Them*

        This! I didn’t get to pick my college because of my parents. They refused to cosign any loans unless I went to my mom’s alma mater. I would hate to be judged so harshly for something I was forced to do.

      2. Crop Tiger*

        I was shocked at the number of people I went to school with that their parents forced into specific majors. The only reason my parents paid for my first semesters tuition was that I was too young to sign a loan. But I had multiple classmates drop out because they didn’t want to do what their parents wanted them to do.

    4. RishaBree*

      I liked the college I attended – I wouldn’t have applied to it if I hadn’t, and it was also generally the best academically of all the ones I applied to – but I can’t pretend that a key factor wasn’t that it offered me substantially more in scholarships and grants than anyone else.

    5. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      YES. Unless it’s a for-profit school, it truly does not at all matter after you’ve had your first job. And I’d argue that it doesn’t even matter then.

      For the most part, if the school isn’t in my area of the country, I honestly don’t even know what type of reputation it has. The fact that the LW has a list of these school in her head is odd and intentional.

    6. The Person from the Resume*

      If this an entry level position, though, there may not be alot besides college and a college job or internship. Not that I’m defending the LW bias. But this also sounds irrational enough that she holds this against women for life.

    7. Forensic13*

      I applied my college ENTIRELY because the application was free and I was too poor to afford any more application fees. Then they were the only ones that accepted me, sooo

      But yes yes, please judge me on the specific college I went to ^_~

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        I had a similar experience. I was raised by a single mother with two kids who didn’t have much money, so I applied to colleges and universities that either agreed to waive my application fees or didn’t have them at all. Then, I chose my university based on location (in a city near my mom’s family) and that offered me the most money in financial aid/scholarships upfront (that ended up being a mistake because the school continued raising the price every term, so any cost savings I thought I was getting quickly evaporated).

    8. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I agree with everything you say. Don’t hold the administration against the students. The majority of students just want to get through college with good grades, classes, and extracurriculars. They’re not trying to support every part of what the college admin says, even if the administration is composed of complete loons.

    9. Guacamole Bob*

      Yes, this. OP, if you can’t get over your bias against women’s colleges, can you at least start putting the choice of college into a different bucket in your head? People have all sorts of reasons for ending up at certain schools, and the specific school choice doesn’t always reflect an entire worldview or value system. And even if it was a considered choice at the start, it doesn’t always reflect who a candidate is now.

      We’ve had letters here from graduates of religious schools, for-profit schools, online schools, schools no one has heard of, schools with scandals in the news, etc. People have talked about family, finances, location, specific degree programs, religion, and more as factors in how they ended up at those schools. There’s often a large degree of chance involved.

      Allison’s defense of women’s colleges on the merits is correct. But if you can’t quite get there, OP, please at least try to see that having gone to a women’s college doesn’t necessarily say that much about your employee as an individual.

      1. Observer*

        OP, if you can’t get over your bias against women’s colleges, can you at least start putting the choice of college into a different bucket in your head?

        Well, the OP says that she is NOT going to stop thinking about the woman’s college because “it’s not that easy”.

    10. Cascadia*

      Yes! I find all of the OPs objections absurd, but why all this focus on college choice? Are you similarly judging people who went to party schools? I have friends that chose colleges based on the weather and proximity to the beach. I have friends that chose colleges based on where their high school sweetheart went, and then promptly broke up. I have friends that chose colleges based on their athletics program, because they wanted to cheer for a really good football or basketball team. Not to mention all the other choices and reason someone might pick a school that other commentators have mentioned. Some people want big universities with tons of options and a club for every possible interest. Some people want small universities with small class sizes. Some people who want to go to college in a big city, some people want to go to college in a small rural area. None of these choices are good or bad, we have many different colleges for many different people. Finally, college is four years of your life, Usually from age 18 to 22. It does not and should not define someone for the rest of their life. It’s one choice out of many. I find it super strange that the OP is so fixated on this one aspect.

    11. Just Another Zebra*

      I’m wondering how far this bias extends. Like, is it just for new grads / younger employees? Or is OP seething about her coworker in her late 50s who went to a women’s college? That’s also something that should be examined, I think.

    12. t-vex*

      Yeah also like, how would she even know? I get that in this case it’s a new hire but I can probably count on one hand the number of my colleagues whose alma mater I have any idea about. Or honestly if they even have a degree. It’s completely irrelevant.

    13. Unaccountably*

      Maybe the LW didn’t go to college herself, or is the first person in her family to go to college, and she doesn’t really have an understanding of how it works. Or thinks it works differently than it does because her family had stereotypes of Those College People and she never bothered to examine them?

      I don’t know, I’m spitballing. If that were true, the only thing I’d change about Alison’s advice would be to advise the OP to start interrogating a lot of her assumptions, because if she holds one that’s this drastically wrong based on what the people around her believed when she was growing up, you can bet she holds a lot more.

    14. EchoGirl*

      I mentioned this elsewhere on the thread, but I ultimately chose my college based on location. I got it down to 2 based on preference, financial aid packages, and in one case because of some issues with the disability services center, but the final choice came down to “do I want to go to a Small School in a remote rural area, or do I want to go to Big State School in a medium-size city?” I actually liked Small School better in a vacuum, but when I say this area was remote, I mean it was 50 miles from the nearest decent-size city. I didn’t have a car, so going there would have meant basically being confined to a small town in the middle of nowhere and not being able to, like, visit my family unless I could arrange a ride with someone. In the end I decided that just didn’t seem like it would work so I went to Big State School. My friend who went to the same school I did made her choice because she got a huge merit scholarship. So many things go into these decisions that assuming you know why someone made that choice is already setting you up for failure.

  20. Jay*

    Daughter of a proud Vassar grad. I am a woman who went to Princeton less than ten years after they admitted women (which they did because they were losing market share among the best and brightest men). I know now that I made that choice in large part due to my own internalized misogyny and that in many ways I would have been better served at an all-women’s school. Agree with Alison that OP needs to really look at that long list of justifications and dismantle them – and the warning from her boss makes it clear that her career will suffer if she doesn’t.

  21. Sloanicota*

    The best way to overcome a bias, if you are genuine in that goal, is to deliberately get to know people and learn to see things from their perspective. You have a made-up image in your mind of what a graduate of a woman’s college is like, but once you know Cindy and Stacy as people, this image will fall away. It takes humility and a genuine spirit of curiosity to do this.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      That’s what I thought too. Get to know the new employee. Try not to make assumptions; then try harder because the LW has got some very deeply rooted biases. Learns she’s not what you imagine her to be based on her college choice.

    2. Catwoman*

      I came here to say this. I would encourage LW to visit a women’s college (if there’s one reasonably close to her) and read about their history. Look up personal accounts of women’s college alumni.

      I would also encourage her to ask her employee what their experience was like, “I see that you went to a women’s college from your resume. What was that like?” And listen! Just listen, don’t start an argument or try to convince the employee that it was an inferior experience. And ask in the same tone that would if you heard an employee has just returned from a vacation spot you were planning to visit later.

      We have biases because our brains like to create generalizations. Education is how you poke holes in that. If it helps LW to be more empathetic, think about biases others may have about you and how it feels to have those assumptions made.

    3. Jackalope*

      Years ago I learned about the Implicit Bias test (Google it if you aren’t familiar), and also learned that people who’d shown a significant implicit bias against a specific group (let’s say Black people) had better, less biased scores if they’d just been reading books written by or about members of that group (say Martin Luther King or Malcolm X). I took that and ran with it; I’ve worked really hard to invest time in reading books about and by minority groups; most specifically groups I don’t belong to, but even groups I do (because internalized -isms are a real thing). I’ve found it to be deeply helpful.

      So that would be a starting point in my recommendation on this. If you really want to change your biases in this area, look up books (or movies, etc.) about and by women who went to women’s colleges. I don’t mean specifically just nonfiction, either; a range of stuff can be very helpful. Sloanicota’s suggestion about getting to know women who went to women-only colleges is also good, but this is a way to wrestle with your biases that won’t accidentally harm your coworkers through you being a jerk to them. Which it sounds like you may be doing in one way or another even if you don’t recognize it, given the comments your boss made to you.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Ooh that is a great suggestion, because I didn’t want OP to use this employee as a test case or make her teach OP. Perhaps someone in the comments can suggest great biographies of recent women who attended women’s colleges – or film might work too, I just can’t think of any. I wouldn’t want it to be about the experience at women’s college because I think that’s just going to magnify the issue for OP.

        1. Aitch Arr*

          Wendy Wasserstein (playwright)
          Frances Perkins (first woman in the Cabinet; Secretary of the Dept of Labor)
          Lucy Stone (women’s rights activist)
          Chloe Zhao (film director)
          Elizabeth Marston (attorney and psychologist, one of the models for Wonder Woman)
          Esther Howland (artist who help popularize the Valentine)
          Jean Sammet (computer scientist)
          Virgina Apgar (ob-gyn, creator of the Apgar Scale)
          Ella Grasso (governor of CT, first female governor elected in her own right)
          Beverly Dean Tatum (educator and former president of Spelman College)

          … hell, there’s a Wikipedia page just for notable Mount Holyoke alums.

      2. Charles Shaw*

        Great idea – and for looking up books by or about women’s college alumnae, here’s a starter list (all fairly low on the coddling/ entitlement scale):
        Zora Neale Hurston – Alice Walker – Frances Perkins – Grace Hopper – Joan Rivers -Madeleine Albright – Jeane Kirkpatrick – Hillary Clinton – Gabby Giffords – Elaine Chao

  22. SJ (they/them)*

    hoooooooo boy.

    No comment!!!!!!

    Super grateful to Alison though for posting this and the response. Frustrating letter to read, but validating to see such a thorough and appropriate reply. Thank you Alison!

  23. Ann Lister’s Wife*

    So much internalized misogyny in this letter. The great thing about having access to choice is that one can *choose* whichever college is best for themselves.

  24. Smith grad who feels great about her decision*

    I’m a Smith College graduate and honestly this question justifies why we have women’s colleges still. And also is a good reminder that women are our own worst enemies.

    I am a STEM major and likely would not have been if I didn’t get to go through their excellent programs. Also, they offered phenomenal financial aid, which is only because they have a large endowment they can use to do that. Most women’s colleges are also great about bringing in lower income and minority students. They are also on average safer for many groups.

    Alison is absolutely correct that you don’t know anything about the achievements of women’s college graduates if you have this opinion. It’s irrational and it’s sexist. Stop it.

    1. Barr*

      I wish I had gone to smith so, so badly lol. Got accepted and a not-huge but generous scholarship but went to a coed in a big city instead. I still like to visit when I’m in the area.

    2. wellesley grad*

      As a recent Wellesley graduate working in biomedical science and planning to go on to get a PhD, I wholeheartedly agree. Women’s colleges are absolutely fantastic for STEM. The exclusion of men from women’s colleges doesn’t make their students unprepared—it allows them to focus solely on the success of women in fields dominated by men, particularly STEM. There’s a reason why, as Alison says, women’s college alums go on to earn medical and doctoral degrees at much higher rates than their co-ed counterparts.

      Wellesley is more than my alma mater, really. Its academics are tough (I’ve spoken to alums who said their first year of graduate school was a repeat of their senior year!), but it’s a community of women helping each other become the best people they can be, even past graduation. This is true of more women’s colleges than just Wellesley—women’s college alumni networks are some of the strongest out there. I won’t ever regret my choice to attend Wellesley. It’s made me who I am, not just as a scientist, but as a person, too.

  25. Anon for This*

    I’m male, but I’ve had several friends and relatives attend women-only colleges. If you think they are “precious” and “need coddling”, you should meet them and relate your views. Warning: you will not find the ensuing experience to be a tea party. These are some of the most forthright leaders I know (and yes, I chose the word leader because their experience gave them room to develop extraordinary leadership skills).

    1. NotRealAnonforThis*

      Kind of figured I’d provide popcorn for the situation when I got to “precious” and “need coddling” parts of the letter myself. (Now to go find my eyebrows. I believe they’ve vacated my face and are up above the ceiling tiles…)

        1. AnotherLadyGrey*

          Sorry to be off topic but you have possibly the GREATEST user name I have ever seen, if it’s the reference I think it is. I just heard & saw Danny Kaye saying this in my mind, and it delighted me. Thank you for the serotonin boost.

      1. M&Cs*

        You can’t say we want to be coddled when I’ve witnessed near duels over who gets the last bedtime cookie and carton of milk.

      2. Aitch Arr*

        Another fun fact: Mount Holyoke has a drinking song.

        In which we condescendingly refer to Smith’s tea hours.

  26. KatEnigma*

    Perhaps you should look into your company’s EAP and seek therapy if you’re serious about overcoming this prejudice that is so obvious that your boss felt a need to talk to you!

  27. anonarama*

    I attended a women’s college and have some thoughts. First, men attended my college. The graduate schools are fully coeducational, and men from local universities were allowed to and encouraged to attend classes. Similarly, I took many classes at other local universities with men. Second, men’s colleges absolutely still exist. There is less demand for men’s colleges because men don’t experience as much bias in higher education as women still do. Finally, endowments vary by institutions. Feel free to be mad about huge university endowments (I certainly am), but if you’re mad at small women’s colleges and not, like, Harvard about endowments, think about what that means in practice.

    I have more thoughts, but I would like to say I’m glad you recognize this bias. A lot of people are similarly biased against graduates of women’s colleges but haven’t identified that as the source of their feelings. Shout out to self-awareness

  28. insert pun here*

    OP, keep in mind that even if everything you think here is true (it’s not, as others have pointed out), not all 18 year olds actually get to choose where they go to school. Overprotective/conservative parents may insist upon a women’s college (or a religious school) — the alternative option for students in those cases is often “no college at all.”

    1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      Or they may have been offered a larger financial incentive to attend that school. Or they couldn’t afford housing so they had to attend a school close to home. The “you get to pick where you go to school” is a statement based in privilege.

    2. Mf*

      My undergrad degree is from a conservative Christian college. It was not my choice to go there—the decision was essentially forced on me by my religious parents, who refused to pay for any of my education if I did not go to one of the two Christian schools near home.

      I would’ve never been able to pay for my own education through scholarships and part-time work. The student loans would’ve been enormous. So I bit the bullet and went to a school I did not want to attend. Today, I’m not even religious; my association with this school in no way reflects my own beliefs or values.

      All this to say: can we please stop judging people by their college choice? You don’t know what factors they had to weight. It’s a complex decision and often an economic one too.

    3. Mitford*

      Or you have parents like mine who said my sister and I could go to state colleges. Period. End of discussion. They would have two of us in college at the same time. They weren’t going to pay for going out of state, and they sure as shooting weren’t going to pay for private schools. I’m fortunate that I’m from Virginia and was accepted to William & Mary, but I spent my entire freshman year there seething about it.

  29. Alex Rider*

    As a bryn mawr Grad I don’t have words. I chose my school because I wanted an education with all other women. My k-8 all female education probably contributed to that but I would be horrified if you were my boss.

    1. Zee*

      I went to Ursinus and whenever we’d have away games at Bryn Mawr we’d be like “wow these women all seem super happy and confident and I’m a little bit jealous.” (If I could do it all again, I’d seriously consider going to a women’s college, maybe even Bryn Mawr!)

      1. Witch of Dathomir*

        I loved my tiny private undergraduate school, so if I had it to do over again I’d still go there; but for grad school? Definitely a women’s college.

  30. heretoday*

    The first thing I do when reviewing applications is toss out the resumes from SEC schools. Irrational bias? Yes. Illegal? Nope.

    1. Uplifter of all*

      WTF Seriously…….

      You are doing a favor to all those who you reject. Please continue doing so.

    2. Charlie*

      What? I confess I’m not familiar with the SEC but upon googling it’s got a bunch of public schools in it. It seems misguided to penalize anyone from those states for picking their state school (much likely to be cheaper, right?).

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I would assume this is about football. Yes, sports rivalries can be a Very Big Deal but I have never in my life heard of anyone refuse to hire someone because they attended a rival school. That’s petty as hell– leave that ridiculousness at the tailgate, please.

        (I don’t believe heretoday is serious, fwiw.)

        1. CTT*

          I also assume it’s football-related, which is even more infuriating since I went to law school at an SEC school and game days were my hell and I never went to a game. Sorry I went somewhere affordable that also has a sports culture I don’t care about!

        2. Charlie*

          Oh gotcha! My Google also turned up some stuff with segregation in the SEC so I assumed it was a reaction to that but satirically saying “yeah I’ll reject anyone who went to my football rival” to illustrate the ridiculousness makes more sense as a response to this post, lol.

    3. Gracely*

      Wow. Way to dismiss people who often have almost no choice about where to go if they live in the south. Out of state tuition makes it all but impossible for many students to avoid an SEC school in a lot of states.

    4. CheesePlease*

      So you think this is ok?? WTF honestly. Hope you’re working on overcoming this irrational bias against decent candidates

    5. Tyto alba*

      If you recognize that it’s an irrational bias, then… why do you think there are grounds for you to keep doing this?

    6. Database Developer Dude*

      Why do you do this? What kind of jobs are you reviewing applications for that you could even think that this is any kind of okay?

  31. Pirhana Plant*

    Wait until you learn about Wabash College, Hampden-Sydney College, and Morehouse College. Morehouse especially is considered highly prestigious- certainly hope you don’t discriminate against men who attend.

  32. Alex (they/them)*

    In regards in point 4- not all women’s colleges have that level of money, and there are plenty of co-ed’s that do. This point really isn’t based in reality.

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      Srsly, I’ve taught at a state school and a Catholic school, both co-ed, with endowments in the billions. If we want to say “you could be spending that endowment on something that makes a difference” let’s start with tearing down my former Catholic workplace’s overreliance/emphasis on sports.

      1. mreasy*

        Gosh I think endowment money is well used funding an educational institution that enables women (ALL women) to learn and develop in a space without being belittled, talked over,