Women are admitted at a rate 12 points lower than men under the College of William and Mary’s current acceptance policies. In 2013, women constituted 63.7 percent of applicants, but only 28.8 percent were accepted. In comparison, 40.8 percent of 5,150 male applicants were accepted — or 36.7 percent of the applicant pool. With the future class of 2019 working on their application essays and taking the SATs one last time, the College should take a critical look at these acceptance trends and consider what they are saying to female high school and college students.
Yes, men and women are reviewed by more than their genders — they have leadership positions, SAT scores, GPAs and entrance essays that need to be analyzed, measured and ranked. But if women are being denied entrance into the College solely because of their gender — a gender that, while moving steadily toward equality, is still a historically marginalized group — it raises more than a little concern.
Some argue that women are moving ahead in their careers and are reaching for equality in the workplace, whether that has to do with pay, positions or parenting. There are books (such as “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg) and university and company programs dedicated to helping women maximize their potential and reach the same levels of success as men. The College has similar programs, especially within the Cohen Career Center, including the upcoming Jeffries Women on Wall Street event and last year’s discussion of the arguments in “Lean In” by Deloitte-employed alumni. In addition, while female salaries continue to fall short of male salaries across the board, they are improving. Pew Research found that young women make 93 percent of what young men make — compared to the overall 16 point divide between male and female salaries across the U.S. Young women are working to narrow the gender pay gap as they begin their careers.
While we are moving toward a more equal workplace for men and women in the U.S., millennial women beginning their careers recognize that they will most likely receive lower salaries and will find it harder to serve in top executive positions as their careers progress, according to a December 2013 study by Pew Research.
If it is understood that a gender divide exists in the workplace, why is the College perpetuating gender inequality through its acceptance process? What does it say to women looking toward their college years — and only four years away from entering their careers — that gender discrimination hits them before they sign their first contract, let alone send in their intention to attend a university?
In comparison, Harvard, Princeton, Johns Hopkins and Duke admit men and women at equal rates, according to a Washington Post study. These are notable institutions and, while their higher place on the biblical US News and World Report rankings cannot be directly attributed to accepting both genders at equal rates, there is nothing to say that there is no correlation.
With these comparisons in mind, would it really hurt the College to match Harvard and Duke’s admissions policies and accept women at the same rate as men? Yes, pushing closer to the dreaded 60/40 gender divide is a dangerous thing, but women make up 57 percent of college students in the U.S. Why deny qualified women the privilege of attending school in Williamsburg solely because of their gender? If more women want to attend the College — as numbers indicate — and they are more qualified to do so than some of their male applicants, why deny them? Admitting men and women at equal rates may even result in raising the College’s rankings.
In continuing its current admissions policies, the College is reinforcing the gender divide and denying women deserved seats in a classroom at the College and, in doing so, harming their career potential. Wrongly denied women lose the alumni network, resources, educational opportunities and campus community that they deserve. The College is falling into the sway of national trends rather than taking a stand and saying ‘to hell’ to those who fear a female-dominated community.
In the end, if attracting the best and the brightest is the College’s goal, accepting the best and brightest should be as well — regardless of gender.
Email Meredith Ramey at firstname.lastname@example.org.