Women make up 57 percent of the nation's postsecondary population, but there are still disparities in both the male-to-female ratio in top-level positions and in pay rates in the workforce. There is much incentive for scholarship providers to lessen these gaps.
In an attempt to provide more career opportunities, numerous scholarship providers have created options specifically for women. Many of these programs have clear goals in mind, such as encouraging enrollment in doctoral programs, propelling women into male-dominated fields such as science and math, and preparing them for leadership positions after completion.
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Here are some of the offerings:
The Society of Women Engineers Scholarship Program provides financial assistance to women admitted to accredited United States undergraduate or graduate programs, in preparation for careers in engineering, engineering technology, and computer science. They also award individual scholarships for freshmen through graduate students on an annual basis. Scholarships range from $1,000 to $20,000 each. The graduate application is open now and available through February 2012, and the freshman application will become available in March 2012.
[See U.S. News's rankings of the best undergraduate engineering programs.]
The Margaret McNamara Memorial Fund provides grants to women from developing countries. These grants are designed to help further their education at an accredited U.S. or Canadian college or university, and to strengthen their leadership skills so they can help improve the lives of women and children. The grants are approximately $12,000 each, and the recipients are usually invited to Washington, D.C., to participate in a three-day awards program in their honor. This opportunity is open to non-U.S. residents and will be taking applications for the 2012-2013 school year through Jan. 1, 2012.
For women seeking bachelor's degrees after some time away from school, the Nancy Talbot Scholarship Award, administered through the Talbots Scholarship Program, generously offers 17 scholarships of $10,000 and one $30,000 scholarship for an exemplary finalist who demonstrates courage, conviction, and an insatiable entrepreneurial spirit. This program serves to empower women and encourage degree achievement later in life. Applicants must be women residing in the United States who have completed high school or received their GED on or before September 2002. Applications for the 2012-2013 school year will be accepted through Jan. 3, 2012.
The Jane M. Klausman Women in Business Scholarship program helps women pursue undergraduate and master's degrees in business management, and overcome gender barriers from the classroom to the boardroom. Since the program started in 1988, 237 scholarships have been awarded to women from 37 countries; these scholarships range from $1,000 locally to $5,000 internationally. They are awarded annually and may be used for tuition, books, or living expenses at any university, college, or institution offering accredited business courses and degrees. Any woman pursuing a business or business-related degree who demonstrates outstanding potential in the field is eligible, as are online students.
[Find sources of scholarships for international students.]
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program recognizes outstanding female students and encourages independent graduate level research in oceanography, marine biology, and maritime archaeology. This provides huge incentive for women studying these fields: a 12-month stipend of $30,000 for each student and an annual cost-of-education allowance of up to $12,000. In addition, master's students can be supported for up to two years and Doctoral students for up to four. Four scholarships are awarded each year, and applications will be accepted through Feb. 10, 2012.
Mackenzie Owens joined Scholarship America in the spring of 2011 and is an alumna of Columbia College. She was also the recipient of numerous scholarships.