In the opinion of the first female president of Harvard it certainly is. You might think that as a person who is a scholar and works in university administration it is the most suitable answer, regardless of what she really believes. But the answer is not as evident, as you can understand from the podcast “The Harvard President Will See You Now” at Freakonomics radio.
In this podcast Drew Gilpin Faust talks about various topics ranging from Civil War and segregation to feminism and single sex education. She informs us on her stance about several subjects, drawing from her personal experience.
One recurrent topic in this podcast is the role of women in academia. She talks about her journey from a conservative family, where she was expected to marry and care for her husband and children to becoming a president of an ivy league university. From early on she opposed the constraints which were placed on her because of being female, such as demanding equal rights as her brothers. She was strongly opposed to segregation by race as well as by gender, even addressing a letter to the president of the United States urging him to support integration when she was nine years old.
She talks about the importance of having strong female role models for the success of young women, for her it was the example of her grandmothers as well as the professors and scholars she met at the Bryn Mawr college. To her, the impact of a single sex education was important in providing those role models, and contributing to her development of self-confidence. As an example of the importance of going to an all-female college in that time period, she also mentions that if she studied in Harvard, she would not even have been able to visit the library because it was open strictly to men.
To me, her speech showed the many obstacles women had to overcome in order to get to where we are now and to create an academic environment that does not segregate people based on their race, gender, or any other features. To me this shows an organic development of a big sphere of everybody’s life – education. Thus, no matter who you are – if you invest in education, it will more likely than not be worth it in the long run.