Possible Educational Paths – Part I

Parochial School and Seven Sisters

My wife is an accomplished executive in the male-dominated commercial real estate business. She recently was designated nationally as one of its “Women of Influence,” and also nominated locally as the “Industry Leader of the Year.” That got me to thinking – what was it in her educational background that contributed to this success? Further, are there any common elements in the educations of other high-achieving professionals that might be useful for me to share as an educational consultant? I will focus on that second question in the second part of this blog to be published at a later date. Right now, let me talk some more about my wife.

She attended parochial co-ed schools up until college. I believe that, like secular independent schools, parochial schools can be helpful in building a foundation of solid habits and character values, more so than public schools for some, but not all. My wife herself attributes her effective management style to what and how she was taught in parochial school. That style includes an exemplary work ethic – frequently she is the first one in the office in the morning as well as the last to leave in the evening– and a “moral compass” to guide her when faced with tough decisions.

When it came time for college, my wife chose one of what at the time was referred to as a “Seven Sister” – Mount Holyoke. Ever since I met her a few years after she graduated, I have been impressed not only by the careers of her classmates, but also by the tight friendships they maintain with each other. Among her close friends are an Associate Dean at MIT, an internationally renowned consultant on third world economic development, the clinical director of a program for children with special needs and a private equities investment advisor who was able to retire in her early forties. Along with my wife, they all cite their college experience at Mount Holyoke as being instrumental in instilling in them that sense of confidence and competence they needed to become the leaders they did in fact become. Part of that was learning how to communicate openly and honestly, and using that skill to form and maintain positive relationships with others to whom they could look for advice and support.

All-women’s colleges like Mount Holyoke, Smith, Wellesley and Bryn Mawr remain an option worthy of consideration despite the lingering misconception that students there do not receive the requisite experience to take on and compete with men in their careers. As evidenced by my wife and her fellow Mount Holyoke alumnae, however, an education at a woman’s college actually often makes their graduates better prepared for that competition due to the confidence, communication skills and network of supportive female peers they gain.

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