The Top 5 Women's Colleges With The Best STEM Programs
These schools have excellent STEM programs that consistently produce standout talent.
Despite receiving 57% of the bachelor’s degrees awarded by U.S. institutions, female graduates still lag behind men when it comes to STEM degrees. Women make up 36% of Bachelor’s degrees in STEM, and that percentage drops even lower for degrees like computer and information sciences and engineering. After graduation, women fill 47% of all U.S. jobs, but hold only 24% of STEM positions, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
As job opportunities in STEM fields continue to grow, it’s more important than ever that women feel supported in their education and confident in pursuing a future STEM career. Women’s colleges are in a unique position to increase the amount of women in STEM fields and can be a great resource for companies recruiting STEM talent for their entry-level roles.
At a women’s college, students experience a supportive and safe environment they may not find at a traditional college, in addition to access to research opportunities, mentoring, and other resources. Though there are only 35 women’s colleges remaining in the U.S., this kind of distinct environment should not go unnoticed. Women’s colleges often graduate well above the national average of female STEM students, making them an invaluable resource for companies to incorporate into their recruiting strategy. While all women’s colleges can be a great resource for campus recruiting teams, these 5 schools stand out as having excellent STEM programs that consistently produce top talent.
Location: Bryn Mawr, PA
Size of undergraduate student body: 1,371
Type of school: Private
Bryn Mawr has such a strong dedication to STEM education, that it was the only women’s college named as one of the top 25 schools responsible for the greatest advancements in science. Every summer, over 50% of Bryn Mawr science students conduct summer research projects supported by the university. While doing their research, students are also able to participate in professional development workshops and receive mentorship from faculty. Since 2012, Bryn Mawr has participated in “The Posse Foundation” program that seeks out 10 students each year who are interested in pursuing STEM to receive full tuition scholarships. This program is in place to find students that are otherwise overlooked in the college application process, mostly from underrepresented communities. With such a strong dedication to STEM, it’s no surprise that Bryn Mawr has graduated many accomplished mathematicians and scientists. Some alumnae who have made strides in STEM include Mina Bissell, a biologist focused on breast cancer research, Joan Slonczewski, a prominent microbiologist and science fiction writer, and Katharine Burr Blodgett, a famous physicist who worked for General Electric.
Location: New York, NY
Size of undergraduate student body: 2,631
Type of school: Private
Barnard ranks 22nd in the U.S. News and World Report’s top liberal arts colleges, and provides extensive resources for all of their students in STEM departments. They offer special advisors, help rooms, funds for summer research, and numerous student orgs. They also now have an option for students interested in engineering to complete two degrees in just five years by spending three years at Barnard getting a B.A. and two years at Columbia getting their B.S. in engineering. Barnard also gives students opportunities to connect with alum, like their careers and coffee series, where students can learn more about different career paths and receive professional advice. Some of their notable alumnae include Jacqueline K. Barton, a pioneer in the study of DNA structure, and Linda Laubenstein, an HIV/AIDS physician and researcher.
Location: Wellesley, MA
Size of undergraduate student body: 2,519
Type of school: Private
Wellesley is rated 4th in the top national liberal arts colleges by the U.S. News and World Report and has a renowned STEM program. Many of their most popular majors are in the STEM fields such as biology, research and experimental psychology, information science, and neuroscience. They also have a partnership with MIT if students want to pursue both a B.A. degree from Wellesley and an S.B. (B.S.) degree from MIT. In order to help students who had limited lab experience in high school feel prepared, Wellesley offers a program called “BioChem Boot Camp”. During the boot camp, students are able to participate in hands-on research with grad students from Harvard Medical School and develop lab skills. They also have initiatives in place to support their STEM students from underrepresented communities. Students are supported through first-year seminars, laboratory apprenticeships, and an early research program for sophomores. Some of Wellesley’s notable alumnae include Pamela Melroy, a NASA astronaut, Annie Jump Cannon, an astronomer, Nergis Mavalvala, a prominent astrophysicist, and Erna Schneider Hoover, an inventor, scientist, and engineer.
Location: Atlanta, GA
Size of undergraduate student body: 2,120
School type: Private
Spelman places a strong focus on supporting its STEM students. On average, 34% of their students pursue a degree in a STEM major. It’s also notable that their staff is made up of 83% racial minorities and 52% women. As a Historically Black College and University, Spelman offers a uniquely supportive and encouraging atmosphere to help Black women succeed. They also offer a program, G-STEM, to give students the opportunity to get real-world research experience while living in a different country. In this program, students are paired with a mentor and placed into a research lab or field experience and come back as more competitive candidates for their job search. Spelman also helps students get ahead for their future with the RISE program, which gives underrepresented students the opportunity to participate in biomedical research training. This program, funded by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of General Medical Sciences, helps students strengthen their applications and stand out to top-tier PhD programs. Some notable STEM alumnae of Spelman College include Evelynn Hammonds, the Chair of the Department of the History of Science at Harvard, Janet Bragg, the first African-American woman to hold a commercial pilot license, and Audrey Manley, the first Black woman to serve as acting Surgeon General of the United States.
Location: Northampton, MA
Size of undergraduate student body: 2,500
Type of school: Private
Smith has been impressively ranked #15 overall for liberal arts schools in the country by U.S News. At Smith, 40% of students major in a STEM program, and 50% of STEM professors are women. They have a state-of-the-art science facility, housing 18 different departments and equipped with five research centers. In 2007, they launched the AEMES program to help recruit students from historically underrepresented backgrounds and first generation students into their STEM programs. Through this program, students can receive peer mentoring, attend a summer bridge program, and experience leadership opportunities. Smith also has an advising center focused on helping STEM students prepare for their career goals and collect the skills they need to achieve them. Some of their notable alumnae include Pearl Yau Toy, a physician and professor of laboratory medicine, Ng'endo Mwangi, Kenya’s first woman physician, and Victoria Chan-Palay, neurobiologist.
These schools are helping to increase the number of highly-qualified women in STEM, and can also serve as a great resource for employers. By including these colleges in your recruiting strategy, you can establish a direct source of high-caliber entry-level STEM talent and ensure you have a gender-balanced candidate pipeline.