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Magazine places U. among top colleges for women

Her Campus, an online magazine written by college students for college students, recently ranked the University among the top 10 colleges for women in the nation.

The top spot went to Wellesley College — alma mater to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — while the University placed seventh.

The University won this place for its Department of Women's and Gender Studies and large offerings of women centers, institutes, programs and organizations, according to the magazine.

Jacquelyn Litt, dean of the women's-only undergraduate Douglass Residential College (DRC), said this ranking does not surprise her.

"I think they're completely right and I was just thrilled that whoever did the research was so thorough. … It certainly continues to be true that we're a leader in women's education and scholarship in the nation," said Litt, who became dean last year.

Yana Rodgers, director of the Master's program for the Department of Women's and Gender Studies, said the department is successful in the nation because of its history. The program started about 40 years ago but became a department in 2001 and acquired a Ph.D program as well, Rodgers said.

"It's always dynamic, which is exciting about women's studies at Rutgers University," Rodgers said.

Both the department and the DRC are under an umbrella organization called the Institute for Women's Leadership (IWL), which has eight units of centers and programs to help the advancement of women in society and work.

"There's no other university that I'm aware of that has this number and this breadth of units associated with women's studies," Rodgers said.

Rodgers said since women are still discriminated against in society, the IWL and her department works to understand these issues from political, academic and theoretical points of view.

Some of the global problems that females face are domestic violence and inequalities in health care and education, she said.

"Studying those and informing policy is something that we do here at Rutgers University," Rodgers said.

The DRC, which any undergraduate female student in any college can be a member of, provides support, education and career advice and opportunities.

Litt believes that women-centered education provides University students with an intentional community that focuses completely on what women need.

"It gives women sort of a competitive edge in terms of opportunities for internships, scholarships and education," she said. "It gives them tools to reflect and understand how their lives are situated in this larger world, and it provides a that."

But Litt said participation in programming and events — which are open to men — is what the women make of it.

Eliza Simpson, a Mason Gross School of the Arts senior, joined DRC her first year to live in the French special interest housing, which was women only. Her sophomore year, she lived in the all-female Jameson residence hall on Douglass campus.

"I had a solid base. I had a group of women, even if we weren't best friends we all really got together," Simpson said.

She also took the Women Empowerment seminar her sophomore year.

"I really liked the class because I feel like it gave a lot of information about the women's movement that every girl should know," Simpson said.

The college also has a strong alumni base, which helps form community, offer scholarships and gives externship opportunities, she said. Simpson spent her required DRC externship in Cairo, shadowing a theater professor.

Simpson even brought her Cairo professor to the University to perform Thursday — all through the support of the Douglass deans.

"The Douglass faculty really got behind the idea and made it happen," she said.

Another unit in the IWL is the Center for Women and Work, led by interim director Terri Boyer.

"The Center for Women and Work basically works to do innovative research and programs to increase women's economic sustainability," Boyer said.

The center focuses on women from middle school to in the work place, helping them become more successful, she said.

Boyer said women have seen progress in the workforce. During the recession, the number of women in the workplace rose dramatically, more than men. But now, men are back above women, she said.

"Still it does demonstrate that women are contributing much more in the labor force in the United States," Boyer said.

But there is a pay gap. Men earn 77 to 81 cents more than women, Boyer said.

Though President Barack Obama's passing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act addressed this difference, there is still a big push for more legislation to equalize those numbers, she said.

One program the Center for Women and Work runs is Women Investing in and Guiding Students, Boyer said.

"It is a college-to-career mentoring program that matches students at Rutgers with women corporate partners in the state," she said, adding that these include Johnson and Johnson, Wells Fargo and Deloitte.

The students then have the opportunity to speak with successful professional women about what it is like in the work place and how to get a job, Boyer said.

Rodgers said one area the women's programs can improve is through increased collaboration.

"I think what we're looking to do is getting the leaders meeting more frequently and having ways to have increased collaboration," she said.

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