If you're a woman pursuing a career that requires a degree, you're living in a paradox. Nowadays, more women than men are attending college. However, women still contend with a significant gender-based pay gap throughout their careers. American society as a whole needs to manage vast amounts of inequality when it comes to getting women the right pay and the jobs they deserve. But one place where this is especially true is in college.
As institutions of learning and knowledge, colleges should be striving to educate their female students without bias. They should also be proactively challenging societal injustices and providing ways to readdress women's pay issues. Colleges can't do everything to fix the inequality that women face, but they can definitely play a part and be a key component in ensuring that the world is a more just place, in terms of pay equality.
Some colleges are already doing the things discussed above and have a proud history of advocating for female equality. Certain institutions can truly claim to educate women without prejudice. They are at the forefront of the fight for equality, not just for women, but also for minorities and anyone else who may face discrimination. But which colleges are these?
The things that make a college ideal for female students are wide-ranging. They need to have a non-sexist culture, a campus that feels safe for all, no history of sexism (or an attitude of fighting historical sexism,) accomplishments for women's rights, tenured female professors and a healthy network of successful female graduates. If you're wondering which colleges have all of the above, then this list will show you. The 30 selections below represent the best of the best when it comes to providing a great education for women. However, the selections will also demonstrate to you what you need to look for if none of the below are right for you. They'll show you what every college should be advocating and implementing. And you can use that to see if your college choices are doing anything similar.
Our list uses a range of different sources. We've ensured that our selections represent the most pro-women colleges in America by using lists that have different ranking criteria. For instance, Niche.com is powered by student reviews. Others factor in post-college earning stats, evidence of a safe campus and representation in classes where women have low enrollment nationally. And some focus on female-only campuses, while others look at ones that are mixed.
The sources are here:
Niche.com, 2018 Best Women's Colleges in America: https://www.niche.com/colleges/search/best-womens-colleges/
Huffington Post, The Top 50 Coed Colleges For Women: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-top-50-coed-colleges-for-women_us_581d0344e4b044f827a78cc6
Forbes, The 13 Most Important STEM Colleges For Women: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nataliesportelli/2016/03/29/13-best-value-stem-colleges-for-women/#83362e77686a
Fortune, These Are the Top 10 Universities for Female Entrepreneurs: http://fortune.com/2017/09/01/top-colleges-women-entrepreneurs/
College Magazine, Top 10 Colleges for Aspiring Women Leaders: https://www.collegemagazine.com/top-10-colleges-for-aspiring-women-leaders/
College Xpress, The Best Colleges for Women Athletes: https://www.collegexpress.com/lists/list/best-colleges-for-women-athletes/616/
The Street, The 10 U.S. Colleges With The Smartest Women: https://www.thestreet.com/story/12744333/1/the-10-us-colleges-with-the-smartest-women.html
Women's Choice Award, The Only College Guide for Women, by Women: https://www.womenschoiceaward.com/best-colleges/
Our final rankings combine the aggregated score of colleges on these lists and use our own research into the colleges themselves. This means that our list is the most definitive guide to female colleges that you can find on the internet and even comes with explanations as to why the college has made our list.
The results are here:
30. University of Texas at Austin
Aerospace Engineering Program
College Xpress names the University of Texas at Austin the third best division 1 college for women athletes. Huffington Post places the college at 50th for coed colleges that are great for women. Women's Choice Award places it at 148th for best colleges for women nationally. The college has several programs that encourage women to enroll in degrees that historically have low female enrollment. One example is its engineering program. The engineering school's program for enrolling women began in 1992 and has boosted the enrollment of women in engineering degrees from 18.7% to 30.3% in the last 15 years (although 2017 saw a slight decline, to 29.2%.)
29. Colgate University
College Magazine considers Colgate University to be the ninth best college for aspiring women leaders. Huffington Post names it the 30th best coed college for women in America. Lastly, Women's Choice Award places it at 127th for best colleges for women. To ensure that women's voices are heard, the college's Center for Women's Studies hosts a lunchtime discussion every Tuesday, which includes feminist lectures and presentations on gender issues from guest speakers. Additionally, 55% of the college's student population are women.
28. College of William and Mary
Placing at fifth on The Street for smartest female students, 49th on Huffington Post for best coed female colleges and 57th on Women's Choice Award for best national female colleges is College of William and Mary. In 2018, the college celebrated 100 years of women attending the college. Back in 1918, only 24 women were enrolled. These initial female students went on to become doctors and teachers. Today, the college has over 55,000 female alumni and enrolls more female students than male students per year.
27. University of Virginia
The Street states that the University of Virginia is the college with the 10th smartest female student body. Huffington Post places it at 29th for best coed women's colleges. Lastly, Women's Choice Award names it the 50th best college for women. And the college has overcome historical sexism (the first ever female student passed her degree with distinction but was given a certificate instead of a diploma) to become a pillar of equality. It has had a women's center since 1987, which helps female students foster leadership skills. Also, this center was recently given a $3 million donation from a female alumnus, so that it can expand its activities.
26. Harvey Mudd College
Huffington Post goes as far as to place Harvey Mudd College at first place on its list of the best coeducational colleges for women. However, the only other list it features on is Women's Choice Award's, where it places at 216th. The college has definitely made some key advances in educating women in STEM fields in recent years. Now, over half of its computer science students are female. And overall, 50% of Harvey Mudd's STEM graduates are women, which is much higher than the national average of 18%.
25. Agnes Scott College
English Literature Program
Agnes Scott College makes two methodology lists' top 10s in rankings, but it isn't featured on any other list. Niche.com states that it is the seventh best women's college. The Street also names it the college with the eighth smartest women in America. This Atlanta based college is exclusively for women and has been in existence since 1889. Its distinguished alumni include Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright Marsha Norma, Grammy Award-winning musician Jennifer Nettles and architect Ila Burdette.
24. Case Western Reserve University
Systems and Control Engineering Program
Case Western Reserve University is Forbes's 11th most important STEM college for women. Additionally, it is placed at 28th on Huffington Post's best coed female colleges list and 53rd on Women's Choice Award's list. The college's WISER program is what has enabled it to become an incredible institution for educating STEM women. WISER stands for Women In Science & Engineering Roundtable. The program mentors women who are undertaking STEM degrees and gives them a range of assistance in ensuring that they get into the careers that they study for.
23. University of California, Los Angeles
UCLA is College Xpress's fifth-best division 1 college for female athletes. It also ranks at 27th on Huffington Post and 55th on Women's Choice Award. And UCLA's women's center does much more than just serve the women at the college. It recently won a grant to investigate and help the health and environment of homeless women in Los Angeles. Similarly, the women's center also gives out awards to students who are using their study to help society. For instance, this year, one award winner is Elizabeth Backwell, who studies how caregivers cope and adjust to stressful circumstances and looks for ways to improve the lives of people going through these situations.
22. Brown University
Electrical Engineering Program
Ranking at 10th on Fortune, 14th on Huffington Post and 20th on Women's Choice Award is this Rhode Island-based, Ivy League school. The first women to come to Brown University began their studies in 1891. Nowadays, more than half of the college's alumni are women. And many of these alumni assist current students and recent graduates through the women's leadership council. The women in this community mentor students, contribute money for facilities to help women students and do many more incredible things.
21. New York University
Ranking at eighth on Women's Choice Award, sixth on Fortune, and 42nd on Huffington Post is New York University. The college admitted its first female students in 1873, and today 57% of students are female. The college's League of Women was also founded in 1921 to help women through their degrees. But nowadays, NYU is doing much more for female empowerment. It has the NYU Women's Initiative, which is for female alumni and hosts year-round events encouraging collaborative success. On the other side of the college process, women's groups help prospective female students with enrolling at and feeling confident in attending the college.
20. Yale University
Film and Media Studies Program
Yale ranks at third place on Women's Choice Award. It's also Fortune's ninth-best college for women entrepreneurs. Lastly, it is considered by Huffington Post to be the 24th best coed college. Yale celebrates the strong role that women have played in college's history in a unique way. It has a tour that runs through the college campus, which details 49 points and the significance that women have played in that area. You can download an audio guide and take the tour in your own time, or look at a version of the tour presented in PDF form.
19. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
This college places at ninth on Forbes's most important stem colleges for women list. It also places at eighth on Fortune's female entrepreneur list, 32nd on Women's Choice Award's top national colleges for women list and 37th on Huffington Post's coed college list. And the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor's Center for Educating Women has existed since 1964 and established a scholarship program for returning women in 1969. In recent years, this center has received over $300,000 from the Ford Foundation to advance the economic security of low-income Michigan women, and it has also established another scholarship for students whose careers have been interrupted and for women who have minor dependents.
18. University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley is Fortune's third-best college for female entrepreneurs. It's also Huffington Post's sixth best coed college for women. Lastly, it ranks at 67th on the Women's Choice Award's list. The college is incredibly inclusive when it comes to admitting women into STEM-based degrees. In 2014, women outnumbered men in its computer science course. And the college also runs some very progressive clubs for women. For instance, it has the Women's Faculty Club, which is 99 years old and has been a pioneer of women's equality since its founding. Additionally, it has Berkeley Women in Business, which is open to all genders, as long as they are interested in supporting women in the workplace.
17. Smith College
Smith College is ranked fourth on Niche.com, fifth on College Magazine, ninth on The Street and 68th on Women's Choice Awards. Historically, Smith has been a women-only college, but it now admits men as graduate students. Still, that means the vast majority of students are female. The female students are given an education that allows them to quickly get ahead in the world of work. For instance, 70% of graduating students go straight into career specific jobs, while 25% go to graduate school.
16. Barnard College
The women who attend Barnard College are the most satisfied with their institution in America. This is because Barnard tops Niche.com's student review led list of the best women's colleges in America. It also places at seventh on College Magazine, third on College Xpress (in its section for women only colleges) but 235th on Women's Choice Award. Barnard College has been offering education to women since 1889, and it's the best option for women looking to study in New York City. Barnard has a range of firsts to its name. For instance, it earned the right to hire its own faculty in 1900, took part in protests in 1960 and began admitting transgender women in 2016.
15. University of California, Davis
Forbes considers the University of California, Davis to be the most important college for Women's STEM. Huffington Post names it the 43rd best coed college for women in America. College Xpress names it the best division 2 school for female athletes. Women's Choice Awards places it at 274th. University of California, Davis has had a women's center on campus ever since 1971. From 1972, it has hosted conferences such as the Ain't I a Woman Empowerment Conference every year. And for the last 13 years, the college has hosted a feminist film festival that celebrates both student and professional female filmmakers.
14. Washington University in St Louis
Forbes names this college as the fourth most important for women in STEM fields. Huffington Post names it the 25th best coed college for women. Lastly, Women's Choice Award names it the 15th best female-friendly college in America. The college's women's society has been an incredible base for women's empowerment for over 50 years. To date, it has awarded 51 full-tuition scholarships, presented 32 leadership awards to graduating students and provided over $500,000 to women-centered student projects in the last 30 years.
13. Princeton University
Visual Arts Program
This Ivy League college performs strongly across many methodology lists. Huffington Post names it the seventh best college for women. Forbes names it the sixth most important STEM college for women. College Xpress considers it to be the ninth best college for female athletes. And Women's Choice Award names it the 27th best women's college in America. While it took a lot longer to admit women than some other colleges on this list, with the first enrolling in the 1960s, it has made great strides ever since. For instance, in 2001, the college appointed its first female president.
12. University of Chicago
Public Policy Program
Women's Choice Award and The Street both place the University of Chicago at fourth place on their best female college lists. Additionally, Forbes states that it's the 10th most important college for women in STEM fields. And Huffington Post places it at 26th for top coed colleges for women. And this is one of several colleges whose focus on women is mostly geared towards business and alumni connections. It has the Chicago Women in Business student organization, which advances professional opportunities for women; The University of Chicago Women's Business Group college run organization, which hosts many career centered events and the Chicago Women's alliance, which is part of the college's alumni association.
11. Bryn Mawr College
Pennsylvania based Bryn Mawr is College Magazine's sixth-best college for aspiring women leaders. Similarly, it places at fifth on Niche.com's best women colleges list. Lastly, it places at sixth on the Women's Choice Award's list. Bryn Mawr is one of several colleges that have an exclusively female undergraduate population and a mixed postgraduate population. And this college was the first ever to offer women the opportunity to get Ph.Ds. It is currently renovating its science center and adding new buildings, such as a wellness center. It has raised over $212 million for this. This means that within a few years, the college will be one of the most modern in the world.
10. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Medical Engineering and Science Program
Huffington Post considers MIT to be the third-best college for women in America. Forbes names it the 13th most important STEM university for women. Fortune states that it is the seventh best college for women entrepreneurs. Lastly, Women's Choice Awards considers it to be the 16th best women's college overall. But there is good and bad with MIT's treatment of women. It has an almost equal ratio of men and women students, with 46% of students being female. Additionally, women get higher GPAs and experience higher graduation rates than men at the college. However, in the college's recent report, women still stated that the climate and opportunities for women students were not as good as for men.
9. Cornell University
Landscape Architecture Program
This New York based college is Forbes's second most important university for women in STEM fields. It also ranks at 5th place on Fortune, 15th place on Huffington Post and 21st place on Women's Choice Award. And the college is bringing its women's advocacy into online education. It now offers a Women in Leadership online program that lasts three months. This has been designed to help women overcome many of the barriers they face in the world of work. Additionally, the faculty who put this program together all work in Ivy League institutions, meaning that you're getting the best possible knowledge in a condensed time frame.
8. Rice University
African Studies Program
Forbes states that Rice University is the seventh most important college for women in STEM fields. Other methodology lists place it high in their rankings. The Street considers the college to have the seventh most intelligent female student population. Huffington Post places it at 11th for best coed female colleges. Women's Choice Award ranks it at 36th for best national universities for women. To ensure that woman have great careers, Rice's student center offers a range of programs under the banner of Women LEAD, an acronym for Leading through Empowerment Affiliations and Development. Each program centers on a female speaker, who discusses leadership and networks with female students.
7. Wellesley College
Medieval/Renaissance Studies Major
Wellesley is College Magazine's top college for females. It's also Niche.com's second-best women's college in America, with over 500 student reviews confirming this ranking. It manages to be placed at third on The Street, with an overall rating of 9.87 out of 10. However, on the Women's Choice Award, it places at 155th. Wellesley College is an entirely female college and is located just 12 miles from Boston. And it has some incredible means of helpings its students. For instance, over 70% of students participate in internships, and many of these students are given $3,000 stipends so that they can successfully see the internship through to its end. Also, its alumni network is considered to be the most powerful women's network in the world. Notable alumni include Madeleine Albright, Hilary Rodham Clinton, and Ophelia Dahl.
6. Johns Hopkins University
Cellular and Molecular Medicine Program
Women's Choice Award places Johns Hopkins University at the very top of its best colleges for women list. Also, Forbes places it at third for most important colleges for women in STEM fields, and Huffington Post places it at 17th for top coed colleges for women. Johns Hopkins University is particularly proud of educating pioneering women in a range of fields. This includes the MacArthur Foundation grant recipient writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, geologist Dr. Florence Bascom and internationally renowned biochemist Dr. Bonnie Bassler.
5. Duke University
This College makes three top 10s on the methodology lists. Huffington Post places it at eighth for coed female colleges. Forbes names it the fifth most important women's STEM college. Lastly, Women's Choice Awards places it at sixth place for best colleges for women in America. One of the best ways that Duke helps women is through its alumni events. For instance, it hosts the Women's Weekend every year, which has discussions from 65 women alumni about succeeding in the workplace, career workshops, and networking opportunities.
4. University of Pennsylvania
Bachelor of Applied Science Program
This college places at second on Huffington Post's list. It ranks at ninth on Women's Choice Award's list. Lastly, it's the fourth best college for women entrepreneurs, according to Fortune's list. Women have studied at University of Pennsylvania since 1876 when two women enrolled into the college's scientific school. The college appointed its first female president in 1993, and she was the first woman to lead an Ivy League College in history. The college elected the second woman to this position in 2004. University of Pennsylvania's women's center is also a world-leading hub, which hosts leadership conferences, runs projects advocating for societal change and does many things to help women at the college and around the world.
3. Harvard University
Harvard is fourth place on Huffington Post's list, second place on Fortune's list and fifth place on Women's Choice Award's list. And the college has come a long way in the last forty years. In the 1970s, increasing the attendance of women at the college was fiercely opposed. However, in 2007 the college had a 50:50 gender ratio for the first time ever. Some notable female alumni of Harvard include Linda B. Buck, the 2004 Nobel Prize in Medicine winner; Annette Lu, Vice President of the Republic of China; and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Caroline Elkins.
2. Mount Holyoke College
This college tops two methodology lists. It's College Xpress's best school for female athletes at women-only colleges. It also is The Street's college with the smartest women. Additionally, it ranks at sixth on Niche.com's list of the best women's colleges in America, second on College Magazine's list of best colleges for women leaders and 218th on Women's Choice Award's list of the best colleges for women. And its alumni are some of the most successful people of all time. They include poet Emily Dickinson, first-ever female cabinet appointee Frances Perkins, first-ever elected female governor Ella Tambussi Grasso, Tony Award, and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Wendy Wasserstein, documentary filmmaker Sonali Gulati and many more.
1. Stanford University
Science, Technology and Society Program
Stanford University features on six out of eight methodology lists. And each time that it's featured, it's in the top 20. Fortune considers it to be the best college in America for women entrepreneurs. College Xpress names it the best division 1 college for female athletes. The Street places it at second for the college with the most intelligent women. Forbes names it the eighth most important STEM college for women. Huffington Post considers it to be the ninth best coed college for women. And Women's Choice Award names it the 18th best college for women to attend in America. And exciting things are currently happening at the college which will make it even better for women than it already is. The tech industry company VMware recently gave the college's Center for Women's Leadership $15 million, which will transform the space into an innovation hub for creating evidence-based solutions for advancements in women's leadership.