A History of Women: Exhibition at Sciences Po

In honour of Women's History Month, the Gender Equality Pole of Sciences Po, in collaboration with the Sciences Po Archives (DRIS), Sylvaine Detchemendy and the historian Marie Scot, are featuring a travelling photography exhibit on all Sciences Po campuses, sharing the history of women at Sciences Po.

From the first female student in 1919 to an active policy of equality today, how have things changed for women at Sciences Po? Discover the 5 key dates of women’s history at Sciences Po.

1919: The First Female Students

47 years after its creation (1872), the École libre des sciences politiques, or Free School of Political Science, (today Sciences Po), finally opens its doors for the first time to female students - though timidly at first. To be admitted, women must have obtained their baccalaureate degree, a condition that does not apply to men. In February 1920, six women  were students in the school: "two are Serbian, one Danish, one Palestinian, one French and one Canadian" notes the director of the time, Eugène d'Eichthal. The first graduate, Miriam Jaffé, in 1920, is Polish. She obtained the highest honours on her degree, a remarkable mention "Très Bien".

1931: The Same Conditions For All

It was not until 1931 that the baccalaureate would become a condition imposed on men. Nevertheless, the proportion of women in the student body stagnated at 10% during the interwar period. However, in 1941, the school council established a special entrance exam to "react against the invasion of young girls". As far as female instructors are concerned, the results are still very meager. The first (1941) and only (until 1968) female lecturer at Sciences Po is Suzanne Bastid, professor at the Faculty of Law and specialist in international law. In 1945, women and men are again subject to the same entrance exam, but women remain a minority in the more prestigious tracks, "Public Service" and "Economics and Finance". They are confined to the General Track for so-called "disinterested" students who are concerned with "general culture", as well as the International track.

1960s: Battles and Revolutions

The 1960s helped shift the lines of gender equality. The two research centers of Sciences Po, - the Centre for International Research (CERI) and the Centre for Political Research (CEVIPOF) - begin to welcome many women researchers, like Janine Mossuz-Lavau at the CEVIPOF and Hélène Carrère d’Encausse at the CERI, to name just two.

The student mobilizations of 1968 question the condition of female students and the place of women at Sciences Po: a commission of the Student Council, elected in May, is created to address the “grievances of female students”. Women actively participate in the "revolution" by filing motions and participating in debates. But the student council remains very masculine. For the first time, the new student council established in 1969 includes student members, but only a few female students: from 1969 to 1970, they make up only 18 out of 167 students elected.

1999: 51% women

In 1975, women still represent only 30% of the student body, a figure that increases slowly but surely in the 1980s and 1990s. The Class of 1999-2000 marks a turning point: for the first time, the number of female students (51%) surpasses that of male students. A majority that will be renewed and increased in the following years.

2010 - Today: The Time of Equality?

Since 2010, an active policy is in place to promote gender equality within Sciences Po. In 2010, the first research programme dedicated to gender, PRESAGE, is created. In 2013, Frédéric Mion is appointed the new Director of Sciences Po, and appoints women to strategic positions (Research Department, General Secretary, etc.) A Gender Equality Officer position is created, along with the establishment of a Sexual Harassment Monitoring Unit. Finally, on March 8th, 2018, two lecture halls on the Paris campus are renamed after two female alumni: Simone Veil and Jeannie de Clarens.

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