Girls’ Schools: Reducing Polarization by Increasing Civic Engagement


Girls’ schools are more relevant today than ever before as they prepare girls to become the influential contributors and leaders our world needs.

For generations of young women, girls’ schools have provided inspiring environments that encourage the safe and healthy exchange of ideas. As our world becomes more polarized, we need leaders who have been exposed to diverse points of view, educated in civil discourse, and engaged in real world projects from a young age. By actively involving girls in their communities and educating them to be global citizens, girls’ schools are creating leaders who will work to bridge the divides in today’s world.

At girls’ schools, students are encouraged and expected to express themselves freely and frequently. In this era of divisive rhetoric, girls’ schools ensure all student voices are incorporated into discussions and provide an environment where differences can be understood. A national survey found girls’ school students, when compared to coed school peers, experience learning environments that are more welcoming to the open and safe exchange of ideas. Nearly 87% of girls’ school students said their opinions are respected compared to 58% of girls at coed schools. This greater sense of respect girls and young women experience with peers and faculty at all-girls schools enables them to better develop and exercise their voices, first in safe spaces like the classroom, science lab, athletic field, student government, and then beyond. During a critical stage of their development, girls’ school students are able to explore their voice to express ideas while learning to respect differences.

According to an analysis of data from UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute (HERI), which appears in a report slated for public release in December, girls’ school graduates report higher levels of cultural competency over their coed peers when asked about their ability to work and live in a diverse society. Alumnae of all-girls schools are more likely to help promote racial understanding. They also rate themselves more tolerant of others with different beliefs and more able to work cooperatively with diverse people.

We are living in a time of increased connectedness between countries, cultures, and individuals. Girls’ schools play a critical role in empowering students to understand and respectfully navigate our rapidly changing world with an informed global perspective. When compared to their coed peers, girls’ school alumnae are more likely to aspire to understand other countries and cultures.

Graduates of girls’ schools are also more engaged in social and political issues. When young women experience an all-girls education, they are 10% more likely than their peers from coed schools to have a political discussion with friends. They also use their voice more frequently to communicate publicly about a cause and are more likely to plan to vote in local, state or national elections, notes the HERI data being released in December. This tendency toward greater political engagement is evident in the halls of the U.S. Congress, where one out of every five female representatives and senators attended an all-girls school.

These distinct benefits of an all-girls education—valuing cultural competency, developing global citizenship, and fostering political engagement—are essential skills needed to understand and navigate an increasingly complex and polarized world.

With these strengths, girls’ schools are producing the next generation of leaders who can and will change the world.

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

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