Jane Fried, Dean of Admissions, and Jess Frye ‘09 cast light into gender dynamics on campus, with discussions about the stigmas of women’s colleges, female leadership at Andover and gender dynamics in the classroom at Women’s Forum (WoFo) on Tuesday.
Fried, who wrote her Master’s thesis on women in leadership, and Frye, a student at Wellesley College, a women’s liberal arts college, shared their insight on the role of women in education.
In the 1999- 2000 academic year, Fried conducted a survey and held interviews with a group of female Andover students about their experiences in leadership positions. Fried said that in the late 1990s, very few girls had high profile leadership positions on campus.
Tia Baheri ’12, Co-Head of WoFo, said, “We saw Ms. Fried’s research as an opportunity to cover a lot of things we want to talk about.”
Fried highlighted her studies to the forum attendees. According to Fried, women held many leadership positions on campus, though the elected positions, such as Student Council President, tended to be held males.
“[The research showed that] girls dominated the merit based positions on campus, while the boys dominated elected positions,” said Fried.
“Girls come to the school in ninth grade and begin planning how to rise to a particular leadership area, while the boys generally do not think of it until later, when they can make a spontaneous decision to run for a position.”
Attendees at the forum noted that many female students often do not hold elected positions because the candidate pool is mostly male.
According to Fried, the female focus group found elections at Andover “intimidating.” Girls reported to Fried that they felt they could not be funny enough, or did not want to burden their friends during the campaign process.
Frye added that she has noticed that the intimidation factor is also present in a classroom setting. Frye was one of five girls in her economics class at Andover, but she dropped the class after the first term because she felt intimidated by the male students who often dominated the class discussion.
Frye now majors in Economics at Wellesley College.
“The change in setting made a huge difference. You don’t realize the impact of a women’s education until you have it,” said Frye.
“I think that in the end women need to make that change [to a women’s university] for themselves and support each other.”
Nearly every female in the focus group that enrolled in Economics also told Fried that they felt Economics was a male dominated course during the course of her studies, Fried shared.
Abigail Burman ’12, member of WoFo, said, “Now it is the responsibility of everyone in the community to help make everyone feel comfortable taking any class and running for any position.”
Kate Chaviano ’12 Co-Head of WoFo, felt that her gender has inhibited her from participating in certain courses.
“This has been a part of my education, and I have actively avoided things because of gendered elements. I would hate to see someone who is smart and qualified not take something just because they think they wouldn’t be as good as someone else,” she said.
Attendees felt the speakers’ experiences helped inform the discussions and clarify students’ thoughts.
Chaviano said, “I thought it was a fantastic discussion. I think there are a lot of experiences that people have been going over in their own minds for a while, and getting it out in the open definitely helps.”
“We’re always interested to have someone bring in their own research and their own perspective. I think it was really good to hear from Jess [Frye] and Mrs. Fried and to get some of these issues out in the open,” she continued.