Rhodes Scholarships were funded by a benefaction from the South African entrepreneur Cecil Rhodes to recognize exceptional students who demonstrate leadership ability and a dedication to service for the public good, encapsulated as “fighting the world’s fight”. Eighty-three Rhodes Scholars are selected each year from Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica and Commonwealth Caribbean, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, Southern Africa (including South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, and Swaziland), United States, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, with about a third from the US.
Rhodes Scholars have been argued to represent an “elite within an elite”. Well-known Rhodes Scholars include former US President Bill Clinton, former Google senior executive Shona Brown, South African constitutional court justice Edwin Cameron, Indian journalist Sagarika Ghose, Harlem Renaissance philosopher Alain LeRoy Locke, new media pundit Rachel Maddow, and John McCall MacBain, the man who has been dubbed the "second-generation founder." Through the McCall MacBain Foundation, he and his wife Marcy McCall MacBain made an unprecedented donation of £75 million to the Rhodes Trust in 2013.
Although the Rhodes scholarships were first awarded in 1903, women became eligible only in 1977 (a small number of Rhodes Visiting Fellowships were awarded to advanced women academics beginning in 1968).The credential it represents—its validation of academic attainment and leadership capacity, and the legacy established by the prominence of earlier Rhodes Scholars—makes it a potent passport for career success.
How have women Rhodes Scholars made use of that passport? Do women Rhodes Scholars follow the patterns of other high achieving and elite women? Or does the power of the Rhodes “brand” allow them to achieve more? Do they have, want, or need mentors or role models? And if they do, where do they find them? Do they have more fulfilling lives or do they too struggle with issues of work-life balance? What has been the collective experience of this group of pioneering women and, just as importantly, what can it tell us about society more broadly?
The Rhodes Project seeks to answer these questions.