Despite the progress that has been made in women’s rights and gender equality there are still so many gender stereotypes that flood our culture and nation. They are so woven into our country’s history and cultural expectations that it is hard for us to even see them clearly.
As I write this I am a stay-at-home mom, by choice, for the time being. I have leaned into that role, but I am also working to create and grow a small business that will allow me to be home with my son until I want to go back to work. Knowing this about me may or may not be relevant to you.
I have never called or considered myself a feminist, but I think that came from a place of fear of what others would think of me if I took a stand. Then I read (listened to the audiobook) Lean In Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, By Sheryl Sandberg. She did a lot of research and presented a lot of statistics, which I won’t attempt to summarize for you. Her message and thoughts made me rethink my stance or lack thereof.
What I realized is that the inequality that I knew existed is far greater than I ever imagined. It made me want to take a stand for equality. Women should have opportunities in a variety of careers, with welcoming mentors and possibilities to be promoted to leadership roles. Currently, this is not always the case.
Teaching and Gender Stereotypes
As teachers, we constantly hear statics about girls’ interest and involvement in coding, STEAM, and math. There are special programs and organizations to encourage girls to pursue these areas of study.
What we don’t hear about often are the gender stereotypes that are so ingrained in our culture and society that it makes it extremely challenging for girls to stay involved in these studies that can lead to even greater opportunities.
The issue of girls deciding to dislike math, STEAM, and coding is deeper than we know. There are expectations about what girls should like and be good at from a young age. They hear these messages as small children and understand them. It stays with them for a long time.
It’s hard for a salmon to swim upstream and it’s hard for young girls to go against society’s culture and expectations.
Fliping the Message
We may not be able to change the toy aisles, the tv show messages, or lyrics to songs, but we can try to flip the message.
I think it’s important for girls to learn about women who came before them who broke expectations and changed the world. Learning the stories of these women can provide today’s students with role models.
If we prioritize Women’s History in the classroom, even for a week, it will send a clear message to our students that it is important. It will show them that everyone deserves equal opportunities. It will teach them that women have done every career successfully. It will model for them that dreams can be reached when they are pursued with passion and perseverance.
For the Boys
This is an equally important message for boys to hear. Men are still favored in their workplaces and make more money than women. Men are still more likely to be promoted. Men still hold more power in the workforce and they need to be part of the solution by learning about the problems.
They too will fall into rank doing as men did before them unless they know better. They need to learn that women have made extremely valuable contributions. They need to encourage and value their female classmates so they are prepared to encourage and value their female coworkers. Once they know and understand what is happening in regards to gender equality they can make small changes in their lives that will help society move towards equality.
What Can Teachers Do?
If you have not already made Women’s History a priority in your classroom for even a week this month, this school year I urge you to do. Women’s History Month is a great time of year to work this into the curriculum, but it is relevant any time of year. Be part of flipping the message of gender stereotypes your students receive on a daily basis.
Starting to incorporate Women’s History into the curriculum can be a big undertaking. If it’s something you want to do but are not sure where to start you can take a look at these other articles.
Two Approaches to Bring Women’s History into the Classroom
Best Way to Observe Women’s History Month in the Classrooms
If you need some easy to implement lessons I have them ready to go for you here. There are three options in my TpT store.
Women Around the World
Women’s History Biography Timeline Project
Women’s History Biography Research Project
US Women’s Rights