Dr. Laura Blankenship Named Founding Head of San Francisco Girls’ School
Pioneering Public-Private Initiative will Extend Reach to Girls Around the Country
SAN FRANCISCO – 12 December 2019 – The number of computer science graduates among college women in the U.S. declined from 37% in 1980 to 16% in 2016 and the percentage of women in tech is lower in San Francisco (21%) than the national average (25%)*. As an epicenter for innovation, San Francisco will benefit from recasting performance outcomes for girls in STEM and increasing female participation in the workforce as burgeoning fields within science, technology and engineering reshape economic development and social interaction in the 21st century.
San Francisco Girls’ School, a new all-girls independent high school with an outstanding STEM program will open its doors to students in August of 2021. Its curriculum will be built on extensive research showing that girls from single-sex high schools have superior academic achievement, greater participation in STEM, better social-emotional outcomes, stronger leadership skills and career results than their coed counterparts. The School also announced the appointment of Dr. Laura Blankenship as Founding Head of School effective July 1, 2020.
“Girls’ schools all across the country have given young women a powerful voice, a fearlessness and the leadership skills to make a huge impact on their environments. This includes the motivation to pursue excellence in coding, math and science that equips them to excel in STEM majors in tertiary education,” said Dr. Blankenship. According to a report by Goodman Research Group on behalf of the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, girls who attend single-sex schools are six times more likely to consider majoring in STEM, twice as likely to earn a doctoral degree and three times more likely to consider pursuing an engineering career than girls from coed high schools.
“Major cities like New York, Philadelphia, Dallas and Los Angeles are home to excellent secular all-girls high schools,” continued Dr. Blankenship. “Expanding the diversity of academic choices for girls in San Francisco couldn’t come at a better time – the pre-eminent industries in the Bay Area are poised to benefit from a stronger pipeline of talented women.”
Dr. Blankenship is a veteran educator: she is Assistant Head of School at The Baldwin School, a renowned PreK-12 girls’ school outside Philadelphia, and a pioneer in computer science teaching. While acquiring her PhD in English Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Arkansas, she relished hanging out in the computer lab with her computer scientist husband. It was there that she fell in love with coding. After seven years as an instructional technologist at Bryn Mawr College, she spent ten years at Baldwin where she designed and launched their Computer Science program, a first among top independent schools in the country. Dr. Blankenship is a former board member of the international Computer Science Teachers Association.
Beyond the city, San Francisco Girls’ School has a broader mission of serving as an incubator for cutting-edge STEM coursework, designed specifically for girls, through its Center of Excellence for Girls’ STEM Education, and delivering it on-line for free to a national consortium of public girls’ schools. The Center of Excellence will combine data analysis from this pioneering public-private initiative with current research to refine best practices and develop a foundational pedagogy for teaching girls STEM. San Francisco Girls’ School aims to reverse the declining number of girls nationwide pursuing university STEM degrees and, later, STEM careers.
Programming to ten public girls’ schools has already begun with a live-streamed, interactive speaker series, “Intro to STEM Careers,” that showcases women in Bay Area STEM jobs. Many of the professionals on the impressive roster of speakers are young women of color and founders of technology businesses – an inspiration to the hundreds of low-income, primarily Latina students in the audience.
Dr. Blankenship is unreserved about the importance of the task ahead: “By meeting a critical need in Bay Area education, and by addressing a national issue from the global hub of innovation, an all-girls STEM-focused high school has the potential to unleash immense creative energy among local industries in support of girls’ education and the development of a larger talent pool for coming years”.
*Source: National Science Board; National Center for Women & Information Technology
About San Francisco Girls’ School
San Francisco Girls’ School was founded by former college roommates from the University of Pennsylvania. Both are products of girls’ schools and mothers of daughters. Their careers have spanned the fields of biotechnology, venture capital, environmental economics, climate policy, and business development. The School has attracted a distinguished group of Trustees, Advisors and Education Advisors to guide and support Dr. Blankenship and her team.