In my opinion, one needs both weapons and non weapons training.
In my dojo our sensei teaches one day a week of weapons (out of 4 trainings). Any student can come, even new ones. I learned an important thing in weapons-
A lot of the techniques we do empty handed are based on weapons work. So if a person will work with weapons, he/she will have a better understanding of how the technique should be done without weapons. Why the hands are here and not there etc...
I don't think that aikido is an MA that can give women the ability for self defnce in a short time. I think it takes years before one is at a level they might be able to use what they know to actually protect themselves in real life. Maybe Karate or MA's like "Krav- Maga" have certain techniques that can be used soon after being learned. But the important thing is not only knowing a technique that can work in a real situation, but being mentaly ready in such a case, and that is achived with years of training and not just by learning the techniques (IMO).
I cant say I don't learn aikido for self defence, in a way, but that's not the main reason. I think the important things I have achived up till now are being more relaxed, more acceptive and tolerant and I believe that these things will help me more in life than any technique.
Just my thoughts,