04.12.138:37 AM ET

Preppy Sexism

Could it be? Elite boarding-school girls say Andover not meritocratic.

Phillips Academy at Andover hasn’t always had the best track record when it comes to girls—the school didn’t even admit them until 1973, and at the time many alumni worried that girls would take over the school (thanks, George Bush). Now there are roughly more girls than boys enrolled in the school, but the girls are reporting that the school has held them back in leadership positions. In the 40 years since girls were first admitted, only 4 have been elected president, and only 9 have been editor in chief of the newspaper. It’s not that the school is overtly sexist, the girls say, it’s that the attitude against girls still exists. The school claims to be a meritocracy, but as senior Maia Hirschler says, “Right off the bat, it’s not a meritocracy for girls. They’re starting behind because we don’t associate leadership qualities from them.”

Case in point, the students say, is the recent presidential election. In an attempt to get a girl elected president, the school instituted a system of co-presidents this year. There were no teams made up of two girls, but there were teams made up of two boys and a girl and a boy. The two boys who won reported that they felt like they were attacked in the race for being boys. And for Junius Onome Williams, 16, one of the winners, the race had another personal aspect: he’s African-American, and the school has had only three African-American presidents since blacks were first admitted in 1865.

But the disappointment in the presidential race hasn’t stopped the girls. As senior M.J. Engel told The New York Times, “to use Sheryl Sandberg’s words, we’re going to lean in. For us, that means push in.”