Which Colleges Are Great for Women?

Updated December 1, 2022

If you're a woman pursuing a career that requires a degree, you're living in a paradox. Nowadays, more women than men are attending college. However, women still contend with a significant gender-based pay gap throughout their careers. American society as a whole needs to manage vast amounts of inequality when it comes to getting women ...

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If you're a woman pursuing a career that requires a degree, you're living in a paradox. Nowadays, more women than men are attending college. However, women still contend with a significant gender-based pay gap throughout their careers. American society as a whole needs to manage vast amounts of inequality when it comes to getting women the right pay and the jobs they deserve. But one place where this is especially true is in college.

As institutions of learning and knowledge, colleges should be striving to educate their female students without bias. They should also be proactively challenging societal injustices and providing ways to readdress women's pay issues. Colleges can't do everything to fix the inequality that women face, but they can definitely play a part and be a key component in ensuring that the world is a more just place, in terms of pay equality.

Some colleges are already doing the things discussed above and have a proud history of advocating for female equality. Certain institutions can truly claim to educate women without prejudice. They are at the forefront of the fight for equality, not just for women, but also for minorities and anyone else who may face discrimination. But which colleges are these?

The things that make a college ideal for female students are wide-ranging. They need to have a non-sexist culture, a campus that feels safe for all, no history of sexism (or an attitude of fighting historical sexism,) accomplishments for women's rights, tenured female professors and a healthy network of successful female graduates. If you're wondering which colleges have all of the above, then this list will show you. The 30 selections below represent the best of the best when it comes to providing a great education for women. However, the selections will also demonstrate to you what you need to look for if none of the below are right for you. They'll show you what every college should be advocating and implementing. And you can use that to see if your college choices are doing anything similar.


Our list uses a range of different sources. We've ensured that our selections represent the most pro-women colleges in America by using lists that have different ranking criteria. For instance, Niche.com is powered by student reviews. Others factor in post-college earning stats, evidence of a safe campus and representation in classes where women have low enrollment nationally. And some focus on female-only campuses, while others look at ones that are mixed.

The sources are here:

Niche.com, 2018 Best Women's Colleges in America: https://www.niche.com/colleges/search/best-womens-colleges/

Huffington Post, The Top 50 Coed Colleges For Women: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-top-50-coed-colleges-for-women_us_581d0344e4b044f827a78cc6

Forbes, The 13 Most Important STEM Colleges For Women: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nataliesportelli/2016/03/29/13-best-value-stem-colleges-for-women/#83362e77686a

Fortune, These Are the Top 10 Universities for Female Entrepreneurs: http://fortune.com/2017/09/01/top-colleges-women-entrepreneurs/

College Magazine, Top 10 Colleges for Aspiring Women Leaders: https://www.collegemagazine.com/top-10-colleges-for-aspiring-women-leaders/

College Xpress, The Best Colleges for Women Athletes: https://www.collegexpress.com/lists/list/best-colleges-for-women-athletes/616/

The Street, The 10 U.S. Colleges With The Smartest Women: https://www.thestreet.com/story/12744333/1/the-10-us-colleges-with-the-smartest-women.html

Women's Choice Award, The Only College Guide for Women, by Women: https://www.womenschoiceaward.com/best-colleges/

Our final rankings combine the aggregated score of colleges on these lists and use our own research into the colleges themselves. This means that our list is the most definitive guide to female colleges that you can find on the internet and even comes with explanations as to why the college has made our list.

The results are here:

#1 Stanford University Stanford, CA
#2 Mount Holyoke College South Hadley, MA
#3 Harvard University Cambridge, MA
#4 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
#5 Duke University Durham, NC
#6 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD
#7 Wellesley College Wellesley, MA
#8 Rice University Houston, TX
#9 Cornell University Ithaca, NY
#10 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA

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  1. Stanford University

    Stanford, CA

    Stanford University features on six out of eight methodology lists. And each time that it's featured, it's in the top 20. Fortune considers it to be the best college in America for women entrepreneurs. College Xpress names it the best division 1 college for female athletes. The Street places it at second for the college with the most intelligent women. Forbes names it the eighth most important STEM college for women. Huffington Post considers it to be the ninth best coed college for women. And Women's Choice Award names it the 18th best college for women to attend in America. And exciting things are currently happening at the college which will make it even better for women than it already is. The tech industry company VMware recently gave the college's Center for Women's Leadership $15 million, which will transform the space into an innovation hub for creating evidence-based solutions for advancements in women's leadership.

  2. Mount Holyoke College

    South Hadley, MA

    This college tops two methodology lists.It's College Xpress's best schoolfor female athletes at women-only colleges. It also is The Street's college with the smartest women. Additionally, it ranks at sixth on Niche.com's list of the best women's colleges in America, second on College Magazine's list of best colleges for women leaders and 218th on Women's Choice Award's list of the best colleges for women. And its alumni are some of the most successful people of all time. They include poet Emily Dickinson, first-ever female cabinet appointee Frances Perkins, first-ever elected female governor Ella Tambussi Grasso, Tony Award, and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Wendy Wasserstein, documentary filmmaker Sonali Gulati and many more.

  3. Harvard University

    Cambridge, MA

    Harvard is fourth place on Huffington Post's list, second place on Fortune's list and fifth place on Women's Choice Award's list. And the college has come a long way in the last forty years. In the 1970s, increasing the attendance of women at the college was fiercely opposed. However, in 2007 the college had a 50:50 gender ratio for the first time ever. Some notable female alumni of Harvard include Linda B. Buck, the 2004 Nobel Prize in Medicine winner; Annette Lu, Vice President of the Republic of China; and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Caroline Elkins.

  4. University of Pennsylvania

    Philadelphia, PA

    This college places at second on Huffington Post's list.It ranks at ninth on Women's Choice Award's list. Lastly, it's the fourth best college for women entrepreneurs, according to Fortune's list. Women have studied at University of Pennsylvania since 1876 when two women enrolled into the college's scientific school. The college appointed its first female president in 1993, and she was the first woman to lead an Ivy League College in history. The college elected the second woman to this position in 2004. University of Pennsylvania's women's center is also a world-leading hub, which hosts leadership conferences, runs projects advocating for societal change and does many things to help women at the college and around the world.

  5. Duke University

    Durham, NC

    This College makes three top 10s on the methodology lists. Huffington Post places it at eighth for coed female colleges. Forbes names it the fifth most important women's STEM college. Lastly, Women's Choice Awards places it at sixth place for best colleges for women in America. One of the best ways that Duke helps women is through its alumni events. For instance, it hosts the Women's Weekend every year, which has discussions from 65 women alumni about succeeding in the workplace, career workshops, and networking opportunities.

  6. Johns Hopkins University

    Baltimore, MD

    Women's Choice Award places Johns Hopkins University at the very top of its best colleges for women list. Also, Forbes places it at third for most important colleges for women in STEM fields, and Huffington Post places it at 17th for top coed colleges for women. Johns Hopkins University is particularly proud of educating pioneering women in a range of fields. This includes the MacArthur Foundation grant recipient writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, geologist Dr. Florence Bascom and internationally renowned biochemist Dr. Bonnie Bassler.

  7. Wellesley College

    Wellesley, MA

    Wellesley is College Magazine's top college for females. It's also Niche.com's second-best women's college in America, with over 500 student reviews confirming this ranking. It manages to be placed at third on The Street, with an overall rating of 9.87 out of 10. However, on the Women's Choice Award, it places at 155th. Wellesley College is an entirely female college and is located just 12 miles from Boston. And it has some incredible means of helpings its students. For instance, over 70% of students participate in internships, and many of these students are given $3,000 stipends so that they can successfully see the internship through to its end. Also, its alumni network is considered to be the most powerful women's network in the world. Notable alumni include Madeleine Albright, Hilary Rodham Clinton, and Ophelia Dahl.

  8. Rice University

    Houston, TX

    Forbes states that Rice University is the seventh most important college for women in STEM fields. Other methodology lists place it high in their rankings. The Street considers the college to have the seventh most intelligent female student population. Huffington Post places it at 11th for best coed female colleges. Women's Choice Award ranks it at 36th for best national universities for women. To ensure that woman have great careers, Rice's student center offers a range of programs under the banner of Women LEAD, an acronym for Leading through Empowerment Affiliations and Development. Each program centers on a female speaker, who discusses leadership and networks with female students.

  9. Cornell University

    Ithaca, NY

    This New York based college is Forbes's second most important university for women in STEM fields. It also ranks at 5th place on Fortune, 15th place on Huffington Post and 21st place on Women's Choice Award. And the college is bringing its women's advocacy into online education. It now offers a Women in Leadership online program that lasts three months. This has been designed to help women overcome many of the barriers they face in the world of work. Additionally, the faculty who put this program together all work in Ivy League institutions, meaning that you're getting the best possible knowledge in a condensed time frame.

  10. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Cambridge, MA

    Huffington Post considers MIT to be the third-best college for women in America. Forbes names it the 13th most important STEM university for women. Fortune states that it is the seventh best college for women entrepreneurs. Lastly, Women's Choice Awards considers it to be the 16th best women's college overall. But there is good and bad with MIT's treatment of women. It has an almost equal ratio of men and women students, with 46% of students being female. Additionally, women get higher GPAs and experience higher graduation rates than men at the college. However, in the college's recent report, women still stated that the climate and opportunities for women students were not as good as for men.

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