Women's Colleges & Universities in A Global Context

By De Souza, Trina | Canadian Woman Studies, Fall-Winter 2016 | Go to article overview

Women's Colleges & Universities in A Global Context


De Souza, Trina, Canadian Woman Studies


WOMEN'S COLLEGES & UNIVERSITIES IN A GLOBAL CONTEXT

Kristen A. Renn

Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014

Women's education is a complex and urgent matter as it relates to global gender equity and is necessary for improving societies, argues Kristen A. Renn, in her book, Women's Colleges & Universities in a Global Context. Renn investigates the role that women's colleges and universities play in the twenty-first century, using on-site studies of thirteen schools in ten countries worldwide including Australia, Canada, China, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. In her analysis, Renn identifies five roles that women's colleges and universities play contemporarily. They are (1) providing access, (2) campus climate, (3) leadership development, (4) gender empowerment, and (5) symbolism and paradox.

Renn utilizes a vertical case study, in which she compiles data from all levels of the institution and provides a variety of methodological approaches including interviews and focus groups with students, faculty, and administration; data such as documents and websites; and informal observations of and participation in campus life. By utilizing this approach, Renn paints a rich picture of women's colleges and universities globally, engaging in a productive discussion of the commonalities and differences of each role/theme across institutions. In clear and accessible chapters on each role/theme, Renn success fully makes the claim of the importance of women's colleges and universities, as well as the complexities and contradictions that emerge in these spaces. First, she argues that these spaces provide access to women who may not otherwise have a chance to attend school and also provide financial and academic access to certain types of education, for example in fields not typically dominated by women, such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Secondly, womens colleges and universities provide welcoming campus climates where students are taken seriously by their teachers, potentially have more space to speak up, and are not minorities in traditionally male-dominated disciplines. In the third role, these spaces provide students with more opportunities for leadership on campus in student governments, publications, sports, and public services in ways that some women may not have access to in co-educational institutions. Renn also argues that womens colleges and universities make intellectual, cultural, and activist contributions to womens movements, which contribute to women's empowerment globally. …

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