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Bending toward equality

How—and when—the proportion of women in Yale College reached 50 percent.

Chart: Mark Zurolo ’01MFA

Chart: Mark Zurolo ’01MFA

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When the first women were admitted to Yale College, in 1969, they didn’t supplant any men: the Class of 1973 included the usual 1,000 men (1,025, actually) plus 230 women. This was consistent with President Brewster’s promise that Yale would continue to produce “a thousand male leaders” per year.

But Yale’s fiscal and physical capacity to expand was limited, and it wasn’t long before the college began admitting women in larger numbers—while keeping the size of the entering class the same. In 1972, the Yale Corporation (Yale’s board of trustees) voted to admit more women to the Class of 1977 and directed the admissions office to select students “on their merits without setting numerical quotas for the number of men and women.” After that, the proportion of women who were admitted was roughly the same as the proportion of women who applied. The Class of 1999 was the first in which more women than men applied; it was also the first class that included more women than men. Since then, the proportion of women in entering classes has fluctuated from year to year within a range of 48 and 52 percent.

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