We’re continuing our Making Her-Story Series and sharing stories of women making their mark and paving the way in the workforce. This week, we’ll take a look at a few women making a difference in the field education.
Think for a moment: Who was your favorite teacher in elementary school? What did he or she do that makes him/her stand out in your mind above all the others? The truth is without great educators, teachers and mentors, there would be far less community leaders, world peace scholars, accountants, artists, athletes, doctors, lawyers, firefighters, or other teachers for that matter. There wouldn’t be nearly as many leaders as we know them today, simply because without teachers, our sharing of knowledge and information would be limited.
Today, female teachers outnumber male teachers 3 to 1 in the in the classroom. But that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, until the 1800’s, women were not welcome in the classroom – not as students and certainly not as teachers. Parents and teachers are the foundation education. Yet, although there are more women in the classroom, teaching still remains one of the lowest paid professions – especially in public schools and universities.
Did You Know?
The National Women’s History Museum documentary of the History of Women in Education reveals these interesting facts about both the education of women and the history of women being accepted as teachers.
- Though women did receive some grade school education, they were taught basic reading and math skills along with sewing, cooking and etiquette – skills to manage the home not enter the work force.
- Until the 1800’s, college was for men only. Women were not even accepted as college students until 200 years after the first college opened in 1636.
- Because women were not allowed in the same classroom as men, women started “academies” and “seminaries” to teach themselves. This sparked the movement towards all girls schools in the early 1800’s by women such as Catherine Beecher, Mary Lyon and Emma Willard.
- It was not until the mid 1800’s that public schools allowed females and males to be educated at the same time in the same schools. It took a Women’s Rights Conference to bring about this change (see more on Seneca Falls women’s rights conference).
- Women who were allowed to teach were heavily discriminated against. They were often paid far less than men and were overlooked for higher paying jobs.
- Until the late 1900’s many states upheld Marriage Bars: Laws that prohibited married women from teaching in public schools.
- It wasn’t until the adoption of Title IX in 1972 that women and girls were required by law to receive equal education – at least in federally funded schools.
As you can see, his-tory hasn’t been too kind to women when it comes to education. Makes you appreciate the awesome opportunities women and girls have today to not only go to school but to also choose where they’ll go – right?
3 Women Making Her-Story in Education
Despite the challenges women have experienced in the classroom, there is much to be celebrated as a result of the contributions women have made in the field of education, thanks both men and women who have paved the way and opened doors for others. The following women are examples of the power and impact women have in becoming educated and educating the leaders of our future.
Wendy Kopp, Founder & CEO, Teach For America
Her-Story: Bridging the Education Gap for Children in Low-Income Communities
With over 10,000 teachers in the nationwide teaching corps, through Teach for America, over 750,000 children in lower income communities in the United States are receiving quality education. Kopp acted on the idea to bridge the inequality gap in education by making it the subject of her thesis while attending Princeton University. Even though she did not initially get the support and acknowledgement in the beginning, she decided to pursue the idea. Now it has become her career and the mission statement of her cause – to educate children in low-income neighborhoods across the United States. In a recent interview with Makers, Kopp has expanded the Teach for America (TFA) model into other countries as well. Through, Teach for All, Kopp leads the way to expand the success of TFA into lower-income areas in other countries.
Her-Story: Standing up for the education of girls all over the world
Because she stood up for her own right to be educated, Malala’s message is now heard all over the world as a champion for girls and the education of society. Malala has endured terrorist attacks (a member of the Taliban shot her in an attempt to silence her writing and speaking out for girls’ schools in Pakistan), hate mail and other obstacles in her pursuit of her own education. And while she could have quietly gone into silence, Yousafzai continued to advocate for the education of girls, not just in Pakistan, but all over the world. Her story is one that has impacted nations as Malala has received media coverage and several awards, including the International Children’s Peace Prize, Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize and the Nobel Peace Price for her courage and advocacy of the cause of gender equality in education.
The gender equality in education problem is indeed a global one. UNESCO’s statistics show that of the 57 million out-of-school primary children around the world, 31 million are girls, and the number is higher still for secondary. Similarly, two thirds or 493 million of the world’s adult illiterate population are women. Seeing these statistics emphasizes the fact that receiving quality education is a privilege that we should not take for granted. We can make a difference by showing our support. Just like Malala, we can take a stand and join together to fight against discrimination in education. Click here to learn more about UNESCO’s Better Life, Better Future global partnership for girls’ and women’s education ».
Teachers Everywhere Are Making a Difference In Education
Every year, the Council of Chief State School Officers sponsors the National Teacher of the Year awards. The teachers (men and women) on the list of previous recipients have made an incredible impact in the lives of their students. Click here to read their stories.
Who is your favorite teacher? Whether you were homeschooled, attended grade school or college, please don’t take your education for granted. Teachers often get overlooked for their contributions, but where would we be without them.
I’m grateful for the teachers who taught me textbook lessons as well as life lessons. Teachers like my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Carlyle, who saw to it that I was accepted into the Discovery (Gifted) program because she knew that the school had unfairly overlooked qualifications because of my race. And I’ll never forget Mrs. Benefield, my 5th grade math teacher who insisted we close our “0’s” and write legibly or else she would deduct 5 points!
Then there is Mrs. Springer, my sophomore year Cost Accounting instructor at Georgia State (Go Panthers!!) who somehow made cost accounting understandable – I still remember the COGS formula for Cost of Goods Sold. In fact, it has continued to served me quite well in my business as well as helped me serve clients better by understanding the real cost of offering a product or service. Now after reading this, some might call me a geek – and I would tend to agree – I proudly owe it to great teachers and leaders who cared enough to show me the way. Perhaps I knew then, even as a child, to value my education and not take it for granted.
So who is your favorite teacher? Come over to Facebook and Twitter and let me know. Let’s celebrate them!
- Education Fast Facts
- National Women’s History Month Women In Education History
- UNESCO Better Life, Better Future
- Photo of Malala Yousafzai (Russell Watkins, Dept. of Int’l Dev.)
- Photo of Wendy Kopp (World Economic Forum)