Getting the Facts on Single-Sex Spaces

By Liz Peters, Editorial Intern
Photo © Kara Delahunt, 2012

Isn’t it funny that one of the most popular places where girls and boys are definitely separate is the bathroom?? Truth is, it’s a space where girls really open up with each other. When girls are placed in single-sex spaces, whether in bathrooms, schools, or extra-curricular activities, they are more likely to explore themselves as individuals and gain comfort in their own skin; girls in single-sex spaces are more likely to take healthy risks and to try new things that they might not in a coed environment, such as taking up leadership roles and using tools new to them.  In sum, girls have different experiences in girls-only spaces than they would if boys were around.

Did you know that girls who are enrolled in single-sex schools are more likely than girls at coed schools to join a competitive sports team, including ones that society tends to associate with boys such as football and basketball. Not only is it healthy to keep an active lifestyle, but girls who join competitive sports are more apt to take up leadership roles and avoid teen pregnancy. The world we live in needs more female leaders! President, anyone?

Young women attending girls-only schools also open a variety of academic windows—for example, they are more likely to speak up in class and to feel competent in and to study subjects such as computer science and technology. The National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, an organization committed to the powerful potential of all-girls’ schools, reports that 36 percent of graduates from all-girls schools consider themselves strongly skilled in computers, compared to 26 percent of their peers at coed schools. In addition, 48 percent of these graduates consider themselves “great” at math, while only 37 percent of girls in coed schools say the same. Bringing new minds to the math and science industries helps everyone by allowing for development in ways never before considered. Girls can bring a fresh perspective to science and society, hopefully changing it for the better.

Teen Voices is a single-sex space as well—no boys allowed! High school girls from different Boston neighborhoods and backgrounds have the chance to work with college-age young women on articles for our online and print magazine, and to explore what it’s like to be a teen today. Girls are able to share their thoughts and feelings in a safe place, which often leads to in-depth discussions that they might not otherwise have at all. Overall, girls who spend time in environments such as that of Teen Voices tend to feel more comfortable to be themselves.

“It’s a great place to go where you know you’ll never be judged,” said Talia, a teen in the editorial mentoring program. “It’s easier to be open [without boys around] and everyone you talk to is going through the same stuff.”

Adriana and Wendy, also in the program, like the break from an environment influenced by boys. “You get enough of being around [boys] at school,” said Adriana. “There’s less drama [in an all-girls’ space], because [the drama] usually circulates around boys, and [here], we’re free to say what we want,” Wendy said.   

There are many famous women who are vocal about what they gained from attending a single-sex school:  Hilary Clinton, Gabby Giffords, and Madeleine Albright, to name a few. Journalist Katie Couric, politician and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a leader of the women’s movement, were educated at all-girls schools as well.

A single-sex space allows a girl to explore new possibilities, learn about herself and others in a less pressured environment, and apply those discoveries into action! Maybe a girl will learn she likes and excels in science, and end up curing cancer. A young woman might join a basketball team and go on to play in the Olympics. In the right space, anything is possible!

For more information on girls’ schools, visit the National Coalition for Girls’ Schools at or the National Association for Single Sex Public Education at:

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