Episode 70: A Female Education

Our students do come out of here quite confident…they have a sense of self, a sense of poise and confidence I don’t see coming out of many of the co-ed schools.
— Debora Spar
Photo by michaeljung/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by michaeljung/iStock / Getty Images
It was harder to figure out on my own how to apply this belief that my thoughts were important.
— Michelle Fan

In this show we look at the merits a single-sex education and how that affects you as you enter the workplace. The US was a pioneer in the world of female education: it used to have hundreds of women's colleges, many of them founded in the 19th century. Even today more than 40 survive, and plenty of them thrive.

I interview Debora Spar (left), the president of one of the most famous and popular, Barnard. We talk about her efforts to bring Barnard some male energy, the all-female classroom, and Spar's views on emoting at the office. We also hear from three Broad Experience listeners who attended women's colleges - Ashley Pope, Jamie Buck-Tomek and Michelle Fan. In their cases, the colleges were Barnard and Smith. So does being educated among other women mean you have a better or worse experience when you enter a workplace designed by men, for men?

If you're not the listening type you can read a transcript of the show.

This episode of the show is sponsored by Foreign Affairs - if you go to ForeignAffairs.com/broad you'll get an entire three-quarters off a year's subscription.

Further reading: Debora Spar is the author of several books including The Baby Business and Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection.

A liberal arts education doesn't come cheap. Barnard and Smith are among the most expensive colleges in the US - each has a price tag of around $45,000 per year. And that's for tuition alone. They're about the same price as a year at Harvard (but cheaper than a year at Columbia).

The Women's College Coalition has more information about America's remaining women's colleges.

This is the episode of Freakonomics I mentioned on the show where they interviewed Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust.