Leaving a college or university, especially with an advanced degree in hand, can be empowering.
But for women interested in pursuing a path to leadership in the corporate world, gender barriers, experts say, still exist.
Rather than sending women into the world with a mixture of hope and hesitation, many in higher education continue to advocate for women's issues.
Loyola University has Gannon Center for Women and Leadership,Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management has the Center for Executive Women and in June Benedictine University celebrated its first year of the Women's Institute for Global Learning, to name a few.
While they all have different missions and approaches they share a common goal: empowering women.
"The general thrust has always been to focus on how the center can empower women to be leaders in every sector of society, from positions in the classroom to positions in the board room," says Janet Sisler, director of the Gannon Center at Loyola University.
Why just women?
These centers are not women in a clubhouse with a "no men allowed" sign on the door.
"We're not excluding men," explains Tanesha Pittman, executive director of Benedictine's Women's Institute for Global Learning. "We're not about excluding men or competing with men. It's about empowering women."
"We need to lift other women as we climb," Pittman says.
While women have come far in the workforce, Pittman says there is work still to be done. Statistics show women make up only 16.6 percent of government leadership roles, 11 percent of corporate leadership roles and while 60 percent of the academic classroom positions are held by women only 23 percent are in academic leadership.
While these numbers may be surprising, Pittman says more important is what people are willing to do about it.
"If it was an even playing field you might see more institutes for men," says Michael "Mick" Carroll, dean of Moser College at Benedictine University, where the institute is housed. "Women are under served in the corporate world."
He says research has shown that women are different in the way they understand, perceive and collaborate and the institute will help women capitalize on that.
Sisler says it may be surprising to some how many men support the Gannon Center.
"They see us as a positive change center in the world," Sisler says. "They value what we provide for their wives, daughters, their sisters. They value having the culture be changed by the radical realization that women are important."
What do they do?
While the centers are based at the university level there is a great deal of collaboration with the professional world and often programs and opportunities are available to the community at large.
In addition to a Master of Science in Leadership degree, Benedictine's institute offers non academic professional development programs..
"This fits very consistently with being a resource and benefit to the community," Carroll says.