Just the Facts, Ma’am: The Value of Research for Girls’ Schools

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On March 9, the No Ceilings initiative of the Clinton Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation released The Full Participation Report, a compilation of data collected from more than 190 countries over the last 20 years. The report highlights the gains girls and women have made since the 1995 U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women and the gaps that remain on the road to full participation.

Statistics such as the 850,000 data points included in the report and its corresponding website are vital to supporting the work we do in girls’ schools. The 1991 founding of the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools (NCGS) was actually prompted by two different, yet related, studies conducted for the Coalition of Girls’ Boarding Schools and the Coalition of Girls’ Day Schools.

By coming together to research and promote girls’ schools, the two coalitions became leaders in the national dialogue on girls’ and women’s issues. Strengthened by their new data, they realized there was great power in collective action so ultimately merged to form the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools.

Nearly 25 years later, NCGS continues to conduct research on the unique benefits of girls’ schools like the recent report, Steeped in Learning: The Student Experience at All-Girls Schools, as well as cull existing studies on issues relating to girls and education conducted by external organizations.

Research findings can give our schools important talking points for advocacy outreach and marketing literature. More importantly, data allows us to situate the value of girls’ schools upon a theoretical and pedagogical base, which helps families better appreciate the positive outcomes of an all-girls education.

What The Full Participation Report shows us, as stated by Hillary Rodham Clinton at the report’s launch event, is “There are real gains to celebrate, including more laws protecting the rights of women, more girls going to primary school, and more mothers getting access to services that can keep them healthy. Yet despite this progress, significant gaps remain around the world, including in the United States, especially in the areas of security, economic opportunity, and leadership. The evidence is clear: When it comes to gender equality, we’re just not there yet.”

Highlights of the report include:

  • Female students are much less likely to graduate from college with a STEM degree than their male counterparts.

We know, however, that girls’ schools lead the way in graduating women who become our nation’s scientists, doctors, engineers, designers, and inventors. Research shows that girls’ school graduates 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.

  • Women remain underrepresented in leadership roles (political office, senior management positions).

Girls’ schools empower students to become bold leaders. Our students are more likely to take healthy risks than girls in coed settings. We know a girl’s environment plays an important role in explaining why she chooses not to compete, and girls from single-sex schools behave more competitively than girls at coed schools. Over 90% of girls’ school grads say they were offered greater leadership opportunities than peers at coed schools and 80% have held leadership positions since graduating from high school.

“We are taking a collective stand that full participation for women and girls anywhere and everywhere remains the unfinished business of the 21st century,” said Chelsea Clinton. “By knowing the facts and what has worked and hasn’t worked to advance gender equality, we can accelerate the pace of change for women and girls — both at home and around the world.”

At NCGS, we, too, believe there is much more work to be done to achieve gender equality. Yet, we are optimistic because of the potential we see everyday in our students. Our schools foster and develop girls’ talents, passions, and dreams, therefore playing a critical role toward advancing gender equality. We graduate confident, competent young women who are exceptionally well equipped to assume leadership roles that will chart the course to full participation for girls and women in the 21st century.

Megan Murphy, Executive Director, National Coalition of Girls’ Schools

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  1. Janis Martinson

    It’s very powerful to see “The Full Participation Report” done by the No Ceilings initiative — and the gains and gaps in girls’ and women’s full participation — juxtaposed with strong data on how decisively girls’ schools are contributing to the gain side of the equation. All of us who care about girls and girls’ schools should be sharing this information and the story it tells far and wide.