Why was the committee established?
The creation of the steering committee was inspired by discussions on campus -- including in the pages of The Daily Princetonian -- about whether women undergraduates are realizing their fullest academic potential and seeking opportunities for leadership at the same rate and in the same manner as their male colleagues. Since the beginning of coeducation, women undergraduates have succeeded and demonstrated leadership at the highest levels at Princeton, underscoring the University's commitment to preparing students to become society's future leaders. Over the past decade, however, presidents of the Undergraduate Student Government, the four undergraduate classes and the 10 eating clubs, as well as editors of The Daily Princetonian, have been predominantly male. Women students, at the same time, provide significant leadership in other posts in these organizations, as well as in the residential colleges, arts organizations and community service organizations.
In establishing the committee in December 2009, President Tilghman asked its members to consider the topic in its academic and extracurricular dimensions. The committee explored whether there are disparities in how undergraduate students perceive and pursue leadership opportunities and, if so, whether they stem from different choices men and women make or from obstacles that should be better understood. In the realm of academic achievement, the committee examined gender disparities among recipients of academic awards at Princeton, as well as among recipients of Rhodes and Marshall scholarships.
How has the committee defined leadership?
To guide its work, the committee defined leadership as the ability of students to "determine or clarify goals for a group of individuals and bring together the energies of members of that group to accomplish those goals." The committee recognized that opportunities for leadership for Princeton undergraduates arise in a variety of contexts, including being elected or appointed to office in one of many campus organizations, and serving more informal leadership roles in less visible contexts. Leadership, understood in its largest sense, also includes extraordinary academic achievement.
How did the committee go about its work?
The committee examined current and historic data on both academic leadership and extracurricular participation at Princeton; whenever possible, it made comparisons with peer institutions. The committee also consulted broadly with the student body -- as well as with alumnae/i, faculty and staff -- through workshops, focus groups and surveys.
Most of the work of the committee was carried out by subcommittees organized around: the first-year experience, academic and faculty issues, campus life and extracurricular activities, alumni/ae perspectives, and comparisons with other institutions. These groups met regularly between meetings of the full committee and undertook a variety of tasks.
What is the goal?
The subcommittees and full committee continued their work through the February 2011 and issued a report in March 2011. This document describes the committee's findings and provides recommendations for improving the opportunities for all students to excel at Princeton. In developing recommendations, the committee members were guided by President Tilghman's charge to "aim for remedies that will have sustained and broad impact at Princeton."