But the data is hard to ignore, and the statistics are just as concerning for women entering the political arena. Indeed, the funnel of female candidates going into politics is just as meager as it is for STEM sector jobs. The recent NCGS article, “Helping Girls Find Their Political Voice
” shared statistics from IGNITE
: women make up 51% of the U.S. population, but hold only 22% of the 500,000 elected offices. That’s only 12% of our nation’s governors, 18% of mayors, 19% of congress, and 24% of state legislators. In order to have equal representation at every level of government, we need 140,000 more women in office. And, as the world knows well, the United States has yet to elect a women to the highest office in our country’s 240-year history.
To compound the issue, girls’ schools today are faced with even greater competition from coed and for-profit institutions as we are continually asked to explain what makes our schools not only unique but also relevant. Yet, when looking at the research about girls’ school graduates’ attitudes toward STEM and politics, this relevance is irrefutable:
- Girls’ school grads are six times more likely to consider majoring in math, science, and technology and three times more likely to consider engineering careers compared to girls who attend coed schools.
- Girls’ school grads are also 12% more likely than their peers from coed schools to have a political discussion with friends. They also find it essential to keep current with the political scene.
So how, armed with this data, can we measure the value proposition of girls’ schools?
At Miss Hall's School it comes down to mission. Founded in 1898, when young men were much more likely to have access to college preparatory education, Miss Mira Hall did something radical: she founded a school dedicated to ensuring girls would receive the same high-quality education as their male peers. Even when her school burned to the ground in 1923, she believed so strongly in her mission to educate girls that she raised the school from the ashes.
Those of us who work at girls’ schools live that mission every day. Through the Miss Hall’s core competencies of voice, vision, gumption, and interpersonal efficacy, we can frame conversations with students in ways that provide them with skills not only for their years at Miss Hall’s, but also to sustain them throughout their lives. Language about the core competencies is embedded both in admission and advancement materials, and more specifically, these principles guide all that we do—in syllabi, assessments, advising, grade level meetings, and graduation requirements. Using these principles to ground students in specific actions, we put language around the metrics of leadership and provide the critical tools toward empowerment.
Although in 1898 Mira Hall could not have imagined Hillary Clinton running for President of the United States, I am guessing she would agree with Clinton that “women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world.” As Michelle Obama stated in her speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, her daughters “now live in a world where it is taken for granted that a woman could be President.” We did not see the first woman President elected this fall, but our mission has never been more important to ensure our students see this in their lifetime.
There are 161 million women and girls in the United States and 3.52 billion across the globe. Students at Miss Hall’s and girls’ schools around the world are part of this group, often dancing at morning meetings or assemblies to celebrate themselves and their potential to be agents of change in the world. Guided by our mission to educate future female leaders, we encourage girls to approach learning with courage, to invite them to become members of this missing million, to empower them to run for office, and to imagine and achieve what the world has never seen.