How to pick a women-friendly college

Thanks to Minneapolis Foundation for enabling us to continue deeper content and discussions about gender-based violence in 2024. Our gender-based violence stories and conversations won a 2023 community service leadership award from the Minnesota Newspaper Association. 

We polled several Minnesota college women’s centers for questions women should ask about prospective schools. Here are their suggestions: 

  • Women’s academic life
  • Do you integrate women’s issues into existing courses when appropriate? How? 
  • Is there a gender and women’s studies department/program/major on campus? Is it part of the academic program? (This can give students an idea of how seriously the campus takes women’s issues.) 
  • What is the percentage of full-time, tenured women faculty? In the future student’s department? In science and math fields? 
  • What percentage of the top administrators are women? Women of color? 
  • Women’s student life
  • Has a campus climate survey been conducted recently? (These can be useful in assessing how welcome people of various marginalized groups feel on campus.) 
  • Does your campus include women in public written statements about diversity and multiculturalism? 
  • Are there leadership programs for women students? For women staff and faculty members? 
  • What is the percentage of women in student government? Is there a program to train women to run for student government? 
  • Do you have an institutionally funded women’s resource center? What is its programming budget? (About $1.50 X total student population is considered healthy in 2014.) 
  • Women’s housing and residence life
  • Is all housing separated for men and women or is some for all genders? 
  • Do you provide a women’s-themed housing option or a women’s living-learning community program? 
  • Do you offer gender-neutral or single-occupancy restrooms in campus housing? In other campus buildings? 
  • Are child care services available on or near campus at affordable or subsidized rates? 
  • Are there private locations on campus for breastfeeding or lactation needs?

Women’s campus safety

  • Does your campus have a procedure for reporting sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking and other women-related bias incidents? (Ask to see the policy.) 
  • How many sexual assaults were reported last year? (Note that a low number may indicate under-reporting.) 
  • Do you provide training for public safety officers on violence against women and other marginalized groups? 
  • What kinds of services does campus safety provide? 

Women’s counseling and health

  • Do you provide training for health-center staff on the special health care needs of women? 
  • Do you actively distribute condoms and birth control information? 
  • Do you provide training for career counselors on implicit bias and advising for women’s equity? 

Women’s recruitment and retention efforts

  • Do your new student orientation programs include women’s equity; women and leadership; sexual harassment and assault reporting, and resources for lesbians, bi and trans-women? 
  • Do you do outreach to prospective women college students, especially in science and math fields and for women of color?