Simmons President Helen Drinan explains why women's education is still important
John Simmons founded Simmons College at a time when women were vulnerable to the decisions of others, with very little capability to fend for themselves or seek protections for their own rights under the law.
The woman's role was in the home and most women worked only because they had to, not because they wanted to. As a result, women's representation in the workforce was small (10 to 15%) and the conditions were harsh. They received unequal pay, menial wages, and meaningless work.
"I believe it is not a big stretch to think that John Simmons was well aware of these realities for women when he decided to endow the College," says President Helen Drinan in her 2011 Convocation speech.
One hundred years later, we've seen major advancements in women's rights, but in spite of all these gains, President Drinan says women have still not achieved their full potential in the U.S. economy.
"As the White House Report on the Status of Women tells us, it is clearly the case that women are now outperforming men in educational attainment... however, that progress certainly has not translated into gender equity in leadership roles anywhere, including most female dominated professions."
Today, women comprise nearly half the workforce, but only 15% of senior management roles in all industries are women. In addition, women earn about 35% less than their male counterparts.
Many will argue that the need for single-sex education is over, and that it creates a sense of isolation and a lack of real world experience. However, in order for women to advance in the workplace, they must continue to be educated for their own empowerment and leadership positions. President Drinan says women's education is now more important than ever.
"Are we not missing the opportunity to empower women and girls, and to prepare them for leadership at a much earlier age, when the effects will have a lifelong impact? Should we not look to our educational institutions, from early to higher education, to embrace this responsibility?"
You can read President Helen Drinan's full speech on her website.