On Tuesday, Claremont McKenna College’s Forum posted a story entitled “Don’t Like the Gender Gap? Don’t Encourage It.” Responding to a guest column in The Huffington Post, the article challenged the notion that women’s colleges foster development for women better than traditional colleges do. As the article exploded on Facebook and debate raged on in the comments section, the argument boiled down to a question for further consideration: What promotes greater gender equality—competing with men for leadership positions to prepare for the reality of the business world, or having all-female leadership groups to prepare as many women as possible for the future?
Just days earlier, the Pomona-Pitzer Athletics celebrated National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD), a yearly event encouraging young girls to become involved in athletics.
“We bring junior high students to campus, have them meet and talk to college student-athletes, and encourage them to think about going to college,” said P-P Athletics Senior Woman Administrator Lisa Beckett. Beckett, along with several of the P-P coaches, organizes the annual event.
When the young women come to campus, they participate in clinics run by various student athletes. This year, they went through a warmup and stretching exercise and then into volleyball, basketball, and soccer clinics.
“We expose them to different sports and physical activities and encourage them to find some sort of physical activity that they like and then pursue it for a lifetime,” Beckett said.
NGWSD in Claremont, like similar events nationwide, identifies a societal need—improved gender equality through expression in physical activity—and seeks to address it. By introducing young women in the community to collegiate athletes and athletic activities, the event helps them engage in a healthy, active lifestyle that also provides opportunities for leadership and intellectual development.
In a way, this event seeks to fill the same space that some feel Scripps College does. On a smaller scale, it’s a fully female, inclusive opportunity to explore a leadership experience that can prepare young women for a future of fighting society’s intrinsic inequality and pushing to increase their own well-being. It’s not just the young women that benefit from this experience, either.
“This day is an opportunity [for our student-athletes] to give back and to share their love of sports and hopefully inspire young girls,” said women’s soccer coach Jenn Scanlon, one of many coaches to help with the event.
The day gives current female student-athletes the chance to pursue leadership opportunities and event planning on campus—opportunities which, students have argued, are limited at traditional co-educational schools.
“Female student-athletes are involved from the very beginning to the very end,” Beckett said. “They learn about organizing an event and all that is involved.”
In “Don’t Like the Gender Gap? Don’t Encourage It,” the author argues that colleges like Scripps do not exemplify real-world experiences and are inherently less effective than traditional institutions. There is merit to the realization that the world may not be like it is here in our Claremont bubble. After graduation, students, and not just women, may face trials different than those that they face here on campus.
However, as educational institutions, it’s incredibly important to offer opportunities in leadership and development that might otherwise be denied to students. Preparing women from the community and women at Scripps to become future leaders and continue to fight gender inequality is as important as any other mission of these colleges.
To that end, events like NGWSD are not only beneficial, but they are also absolutely necessary in our community and should be celebrated.