How to pick a women-friendly college

“Hometown Values & Vision” coverage is made possible by the Kurt Pearson Social Concerns Fund and the Wilson Social Justice Fund of First Unitarian Foundation.

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?