Saint Mary's College Releases Report on "The Status of Girls in Indiana"

Gwen O’Brien
Director of Media Relations
Saint Mary’s College
(574) 284-4579 (desk)

September 19, 2013 (Notre Dame, Ind.)—Today Saint Mary’s College, a Catholic, women’s liberal arts college in Notre Dame, Indiana, proudly releases The Status of Girls in Indiana 2013 (SGI). A team of faculty and students compiled the 60-page report, which draws together publicly available statistics on Hoosier girls ages 10 to 19. The SGI report is topically arranged and covers demographics (income, race, housing, etc.), education (attendance, standardized test performance, graduation rates, etc.), and health (physical activity, diet, substance use, mental health, abuse, etc.). From all indications, it’s the first comprehensive study on the health and well-being of Indiana girls.

“What better place than a women’s college to consider the status of girls in our state?” reasoned Saint Mary’s College President Carol Ann Mooney. “At Saint Mary's College, we empower women to make a difference in the world. Thanks to those who worked tirelessly on this report, policy and state decision makers have an additional tool to make informed decisions regarding girls in Indiana.”

Saint Mary’s College is releasing the state report at news conferences in Indianapolis and on campus today. Representatives of agencies and organizations in Indiana, who served as expert reviewers of the report, will share their impressions with the media.

The Status of Girls in Indiana report confirms much that we know about girls, that many are receiving great educations and moving toward productive lives that include higher education and work,” said Kathryn Schneider, executive director of St. Margaret’s House, a day center in South Bend for women and children. “Yet it also exposes that too many girls suffer from low self-esteem, are victims of sexual and physical abuse and struggle with poverty.”

Kristin Garvey, executive director of the Indiana Commission for Women, noted, “by providing a current snapshot of girls in Indiana, this report provides statistics for individuals, organizations, and agencies that need the information to offer recommendations for future programming efforts or policy considerations.”

Vincent Caponi, executive chairman of the board of St. Vincent Health in Indianapolis, said, “this report identifies areas of opportunity that have healthcare implications such as depression, substance abuse, obesity and physical activity. As healthcare providers, it is our responsibility to not only read and analyze this data, but also put plans and initiatives in place to ensure we are addressing the issues.” Caponi is a former trustee on the Saint Mary’s College Board of Trustees.

Over two years ago Mooney challenged the College’s Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership (CWIL) to lead the way for an Indiana report after learning about similar studies done by women’s colleges in three other states and the District of Columbia.

“CWIL supports programming and research on women’s leadership and connects students and faculty with community leaders that serve girls and women for mutually beneficial collaboration,” said Elaine Meyer-Lee, CWIL’s director. “We were delighted to mobilize faculty and students and we applaud their work, which takes seriously the intersection of gender, race, and socioeconomic class affecting girls in Indiana.”

Led by five Saint Mary’s faculty, 60 students in four courses collected the data and edited the copy for the SGI report. Leading the project were Kristin Jehring Kuter, assistant professor of mathematics, and Gina Deom of Evansville, who graduated in May with a degree in statistics and actuarial mathematics.

“The students put into practice the skills that they learned in class,” Kuter said. “The statistics students applied skills of exploratory data analysis; education students utilized various types of technology; and journalism students edited copy.”

Deom devoted her senior comprehensive project to the education section of the SGI report. She was struck by data showing that girls’ performance in math and science wanes somewhere between grade school and high school. “Why are girls performing similarly in math and science on the ISTEP compared to boys, but significantly falling behind on AP, SAT, and ACT testing regarding math and science?” Deom considered.

The report can leave the reader with much to contemplate. Kuter was surprised by the mental health and body image data. “I didn’t realize that the figures of girls affected by depression and suicide were as high as they are, and that girls in the eighth grade seem to struggle the most with these issues.” Mooney shared similar observations. “Depression, inactivity, and obesity were significantly higher in Indiana than in the rest of the nation. Suicide rates were also statistically higher,” she noted.

Linda Baechle, president and CEO of the YWCA of North Central Indiana, concluded, “any meaningful steps to address building strong girls must be based on a careful analysis of available statistical information such as that compiled in this report.”

To download a copy of The Status of Girls in Indiana report, go to:

About Saint Mary’s College: Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Ind., is a four-year, Catholic, residential, women’s liberal arts college offering five bachelor’s degrees and more than 30 major areas of study, such as business, nursing, art, chemistry, and social work. The College’s single-gender environment has been proven, in study after study, to foster confidence, ethical leadership, and strong academic success. Saint Mary's College ranks 76 among the 248 “Best National Liberal Arts Colleges” for 2014 published by U.S. News and World Report. Founded in 1844 by the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Saint Mary’s College’s mission is to educate women and prepare them for postgraduate success whether it’s a first job, graduate school, or postgraduate service.