Did you know female enrollment in higher education has tripled globally between 1995 and 2018?
While this is promising news, equal access to education has not led to an equal outcome in leadership and academic positions. This includes a major under-representation of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Unfortunately, this does not come as a surprise given the alarming pay disparity between men and women. In fact, U.S. women in full-time positions are paid as little as 80 cents to every dollar earned by their male counterparts.
Despite the surmounting interest in gender equality in education, little attention has been given to the high school and college students as a potential point for intervention.
According to a 2020 Australian report, gender inequalities begin in high school and turn bright, young girls into anxious young women who have already experienced being treated differently than their male peers.
In this day and age, gender equality in high school and college must become part of a student’s daily life. Learn more about how students can promote gender equality in education.
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What Is Gender Equality?
Whether you’re in college or high school, it’s important to understand that gender equality is needed urgently. But what is it and why is it important?
Gender equality is when people of all genders have equal rights, responsibilities, and opportunities. It also works to prevent:
- Violence against women
- Unfair pay disparities
- Keeping girls in school
- Early or forced marriage
And above all, gender quality is a basic human right.
On the other hand, gender inequality is a form of discrimination and comes in many shapes and sizes. But for students, it usually occurs when you are treated differently because of your gender identity. For example, gendered remarks made that position boys better at math than girls.
But, achieving gender equality is no easy feat. If it were, you wouldn’t be reading this article. But there are steps you can take to ensure you and your peers are treated with dignity, respect, and fairness.
Everyone has a role to play.
Why Is Gender Equality Important in Education?
Promoting gender equality in college, as well as high school, is the first step towards ensuring all students are free to pursue an education without fear of discrimination because of their gender.
The education of girls and women can lead to a wide range of benefits, including:
- Women’s empowerment
- Ability to exercise rights
- Equal access to unlimited potential
- Women’s political participation
- Work and economic security
- Safety and freedom from gender-based violence
Without gender equality in university and high school, students graduate feeling less positive about their future. And, are left believing that their gender is their biggest barrier to success.
Why Has Progress Toward Gender Equality at School Slowed?
According to a recent study in the U.S., progress has slowed toward gender equality.
Despite dramatic progress toward gender equality between 1970 and 2018, recent decades suggest further progress requires substantial change.
So, why aren’t we making more progress?
The same study suggests that gender fatigue is part of the issue. Gender fatigue refers to people acknowledging that gender bias exists, but losing interest or the will to do anything about it in their own everyday life.
Does this point to the little attention that gender equality in education has been given?
Or, is it a lack of understanding of gender quality and an insufficient Gender Equality Plan? Maybe. It might just be that the perception of gender equality work is not required.
Unfortunately, due to this lackluster approach to gender equality, young women are falling through the cracks.
If the education system is failing students, who can we turn to?
Students, of course – YOU!
Reasons to Promote a Women-Empowered School
Empowering girls in education is key to economic growth and social transformation. An educated young woman can achieve more than she ever dreamed possible. With a good job, a higher income, and improved wellbeing, she can take on the world.
Let’s check out the top reasons to promote a women-empowered school.
Decreases Women’s Poverty
Poverty is one of the most important factors in whether a girl can attend and complete her education.
Many factors stand in the way of a young girl’s access to education, including:
- Low family income
- Remote location
But, education is a well-known path toward gender equality. Everyone has the right to gain access to quality education, no matter their gender, and lessen their chance of poverty.
Three ways education prevents poverty:
- Income and economic growth
- Empowers women and girls
In developing nations, educated young women develop important skills and abilities that can give them better jobs with better incomes. The more income they have, the more goods they purchase. The higher demand for goods leads to the creation of more jobs.
All this works to help the economy grow.
As a student, you can play a major role in the success of yourself and your fellow peer’s educational success. A collaborative working environment increases motivation and helps students take responsibility for their own and their peers’ learning.
Gives Women More Employment Opportunities
In the past, education was more commonly associated with boys and men. In fact, women were admitted to high schools and universities long after their male counterparts.
Nowadays, it is common to see women in schools. However, this doesn’t make future employment any easier.
Education for women equips them with certain skills and knowledge they wouldn’t have learned otherwise. As a result, women are more qualified for better jobs.
It also promotes the acceptance of women enrolled in male-dominated college degrees. For example, engineering and STEM. And, it gives women the opportunity to study abroad and promote gender equality in other countries.
As a college student, you can take action against those who discourage women from pursuing male-dominated study areas.
For high school students, you can promote gender equality by taking an interest in STEM or supporting others who do.
Leads to Fewer Unintended Pregnancies and Delayed Marriage
It is well-known that educated women in developing countries are more likely to delay marriage and pregnancy. This is because educated women are deciding to enter the workforce first.
When they do decide to have children, these women are better equipped with the skills to bring strong and healthy children into the world.
However, education is costly. It is also one of the reasons women cannot afford to attend. In Kenya, one study found that reducing the cost of school uniforms reduced dropout rates, as well as marriage and childbearing.
However, this isn’t only happening in developing countries. Developed nations such as the U.S., the U.K., and Australia determine that education has a positive effect on women and delayed childbirth.
There are many social and economic benefits of an educated woman’s ability to delay marriage and children. For this to happen though, gender bias within schools must stop.
Instead, students and teachers should encourage and support students and their educational pursuits.
Improves Women’s Health
Education provides access to more employment opportunities. This provides key benefits:
- Job security
- Financial stability
These benefits form a positive relationship between education and well-being. This leads to increased happiness and improved self-confidence.
Educated young women also exhibit healthier life choices. For example, choosing to avoid cigarettes and drug activity. Instead, they are exercising more and committing to healthy eating choices.
This extends to better relationships with family members and extended relatives. Friendships are also more likely to become longer-lasting.
Students in high school and college benefit from knowing that their education can increase a country’s productivity, as well as their own.
Plus, they can improve their ability to make informed decisions after graduation. This includes decisions regarding sexual relations, contraceptive use, and reproductive health.
Increases Women’s Political Participation
Education has an influence on different types of skills and knowledge that enable women to take part in a political landscape. This leads to stronger attention to women’s issues.
It also facilitates women’s engagement in public decision-making, an area generally dominated by men.
Some suggest that women’s participation in politics also leads to great investments in education. This is a positive step toward gender equality.
Women in politics inspire young students to consider a political career or some kind of role in activism.
UN Women is an organization that aims to promote women’s participation and leadership in:
- Humanitarian response
- Recovery and reconstruction
They also promote leadership programs aimed at young women to encourage them to play effective roles as political activists. As well as improving gender equality at a local and national level.
Invites Girls to Voice Their Thoughts and Feelings
Education gives students a voice. Without education, students’ experiences and struggles may remain silent.
In most co-ed high schools, boys tend to dominate classroom participation. They raise their hands more often, contribute to class discussion, and read aloud during class texts.
Teachers often rely on male students to volunteer as class leaders due to this class domination. Young women are called upon less and less and choose to remain silent as a result.
More often than not, young women are entering their formative schooling years less confident than ever due to this.
To elevate a young woman’s voice, it’s important that they have the chance to voice their opinions in a safe environment. Allowing young women to participate in debates and encouraging them to explore and develop their ideas is an effective strategy towards gender equality.
Because a woman’s voice is a powerful tool.
Makes Schools Safer
Gender equality in education benefits every child. It creates a safe environment for children of all genders to have access to quality education.
Schools that challenge gender stereotypes and promote gender equality help build respectful relationships between students. They also prevent gender-based violence. A key concern that begins during those formative years.
Taking a whole-school approach to promoting gender equality leads to long-term prosperity for young women as they transition from high school to college.
With a greater demand for gender equality in schools, drop-out rates for young women are falling considerably. This suggests schools are trying to make changes in order to create a safer educational environment for young women.
Tips on How to Empower Women at School
Many guides focus on how teachers and educators can empower women at school. But what about you, the student? What can you do?
Check out these top tips on how students can empower their peers at school and in everyday life.
Challenge Gender Stereotypes
Challenging gender stereotypes can go a long way towards promoting gender equality. Stereotyped ideas about what’s suitable for boys and girls can limit our opportunities to learn and develop.
Here are a few things you can do to help create an environment that challenges gender stereotypes:
- Be vigilant
- Create a safe space
- Watch your language
- Speak up
- Don’t label
- Change your mindset
These are tools that you can use not only in the classroom but in everyday life too.
You can also enlist the help of your male peers. They have just as much a part in promoting gender equality as you do. Don’t be afraid to engage in meaningful conversation and exchange ideas on how best to challenge stereotypes.
Remember, knowledge is power! Don’t forget to learn, speak up, and react!
Create Equal Opportunities
Education is the most important tool for promoting equal opportunities. If students have equal opportunities to gain education and skills, it goes a long way to promoting equal opportunities in the workforce.
Creating equal opportunities in education can be problematic. Some schools in wealthier areas tend to be more successful as they have the resources. Those who attend poorer schools have to work much harder to achieve the same successes.
And even then, that’s not going to cut it.
For example, an employer is more likely to hire a Harvard alum compared to a recent community college graduate.
In a perfect world, the government would allocate money to poorer schools, increase teacher salaries, and update learning curriculums. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to the issue.
Foster an Inclusive Environment
Inclusion is good for all students.
Research shows that those who are happier at school perform better. By fostering an inclusive environment, students are more likely to continue their education long-term.
Teachers have a huge role in creating this environment. However, students also have the ability to foster an inclusive environment.
Let’s explore some helpful and actionable ways you can foster a sense of community in your school:
- Create opportunities to be involved
- Create opportunities for dialogue
- Share successes, celebrate others’ successes
- Celebrate diversity
- Encourage interaction
- Educate yourself
- Have a positive attitude
For many years female students have felt left out. Nowadays, teachers and students are armed with the understanding and technology to make a change. With simple steps, you can promote gender equality and improve life for everyone.
Consider a Graduate Degree
Higher education is important for women. Of course, it isn’t necessary. Many women without a graduate degree go on to become very successful individuals.
However, women who decide to pursue a graduate degree can enjoy many benefits. These include:
- Gaining important skills
- Accelerating your career
- Increasing employment opportunities
- Earning more money
- Forming new connections
Beyond the employment benefits of higher education, graduates gain a global perspective on gender equality. This is especially true if you choose to complete some of your studies abroad.
In the UK, women gain the greatest financial benefits after achieving a graduate degree, despite their pay levels still dragging behind those of men.
Completing a graduate degree can be a life-changing experience. Most importantly, you’re giving yourself the best possible chance of success.
Be a Positive Role Model
Positive female role models are key to gender equality. They are an important way to promote gender equality among younger and older women alike. This is especially true when it comes to tackling gender inequality in careers.
But as we know, the battle for gender equality starts young. By the time children reach high school, they have already formed stereotyped ideas about what jobs are “acceptable” for their gender.
If children are exposed to positive role models early on in their development, there’s a greater chance they may pursue careers outside of their gender. This is particularly true for young women interested in STEM.
How can I be a positive female role model?
- Teach young women to speak confidently
- Encourage girls to own their successes
- Inspire girls to go for it
- Celebrate female leaders
- Teach girls tools to navigate conflict
There’s no shortage of female talent and playing a positive part in their life may just give them the confidence they need.
Use Gender-Neutral Language
Language powerfully reflects and influences attitudes, behaviors, and perceptions. The purpose of gender-neutral language is to avoid particular word choices that may be interpreted as discriminatory.
It is an important means of showing respect to those that don’t identify as female or male. It is also a powerful way to promote gender equality. Small tweaks to your language usage can make a huge difference in the way you communicate with others.
Here are some easy tips to remember when using gender-neutral language:
- Refrain from defaulting to “man” (i.e. postman)
- Use “they” instead of “him” or “her”
- Use “partner”, “sibling” and “child”
- Use “Latinx” instead of “Latino” or “Latina”
- Hold those around you accountable
Most schools and colleges don’t teach you how to use gender-neutral language. Consider teaching yourself through communication with others in an inclusive and safe environment. Power is knowledge.
The more you use your voice to include others, the more you promote gender equality. And that ain’t a bad thing!
Don’t Distance Yourself From the Opposite Gender
Gender equality is when people of all genders have equal rights, responsibilities, and opportunities. It is a human right. This means it doesn’t refer to women only.
People of all genders are affected by gender inequality. That’s why it’s important not to distance yourself from other genders.
Globally, women have fewer opportunities for economic participation than men. However, so do members of the LGBTQIA+ communities. Engaging effectively with diverse groups in school can create more student engagement, better performance, and higher satisfaction.
Because diversity and inclusion mean that all students can access and fully participate in learning alongside their peers. This is what true empowerment means. You can only feel truly empowered when everyone around you feels empowered too.
This is the true cornerstone for achieving gender equality and universal access to all.
Wrapping Up: Gender Equality in Education
As the gap widens, bright, young women fall behind. It is up to you to take part in promoting gender equality in education and closing the gap.
Let’s work to shine a light on the opportunities that can improve gender equality in high school and college environments.
And not just in the U.S., but across the globe. Women are powerful, some just don’t know it yet.
By working together, students can promote gender equality across a number of areas. These include leadership, empowerment, safety and freedom, and health and wellbeing.
Gender equality prevents violence against women, unfair pay disparities, and early marriage and childbearing. It also keeps girls in school which is key to the success of gender equality.
It’s time to intervene and empower strong women to realize their full potential. Remember, gender inequality affects everyone.