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International Women’s Day is Today!

Why do women need their own day? Historically, women have had fewer advantages than men. When you learn about history, what names usually pop up more frequently? Quick, name an inventor—did a man’s name or a woman’s name come to mind?


image credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture

We don’t learn very much about women in history, not because they didn’t make valuable contributions, but because of an ingrained sexism keeps women’s voices from being heard, published, and shared, voices that were talking about women’s contributions. Also, women have typically been barred from the places where great discoveries and decisions were taking place, such as colleges, laboratories, corporate boardrooms, and the military. The world has rarely valued women the same as men.

What about today’s world? Are women treated as equal to men? Well, here in the United States, women who work full time are paid an average of only 80 percent of what men are paid. That’s called the wage gap. Depending on the color of your skin and the state you live in, that gap can increase significantly.

Women are a minority in our federal government. In the House of Representatives, women hold 19.1 percent of the seats. In the Senate, they hold 21 percent of the seats. How do you think this influences the decisions made by the federal government? Who is making the majority of the decisions that affect the entire population of the country, even though slightly more than half of the population is female?

What about on the business front? In 2015, 14.2 of the top five leadership positions at the companies at S&P 500 were women.

In the STEM careers, the numbers don’t get much better. While women make up about half of the college-educated workforce in the United States, they are only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce. Check out these numbers from the National Girls Collaborative Project:

    • 35.2 percent of chemists are women;
    • 11.1 percent of physicists and astronomers are women;
    • 33.8 percent of environmental engineers are women;
    • 22.7 percent of chemical engineers are women;
    • 17.5 percent of civil, architectural, and sanitary engineers are women;
    • 17.1 percent of industrial engineers are women;
    • 10.7 percent of electrical or computer hardware engineers are women; and
    • 7.9 percent of mechanical engineers are women.

Why does all of this matter? The decisions that affect women’s health, economical security, well-being, and personhood are being made mostly by men. That doesn’t seem fair, does it?

The classroom can be a fun, safe place to explore the implications of gender inequality and what it means for students. An open, respectful discussion can go a long way to a better future! Try these questions as jumping off points for conversations.

  • Why do men make more money than women, on average?
  • Why is equality important?
  • Why do fewer women work as scientists?
  • What are some of the ways women are discouraged from jobs of power, such as those in government or big businesses?
  • What are some examples of women who have succeeded in science and business fields? What did they do to achieve success?
  • What does gender equality look like in the classroom?
  • What does gender equality look like outside the classroom?

For more information on International Women’s Day, check out this website.


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