The Role of Women & Girls in Fostering Democracy in Schools
Volume 11 | October 2019
Despite periods of focus on women’s access and achievement within the educational arena, the field of education has yet to make central an inclusive study of the issues, challenges, and social gains (contemporary and historic) impacting the educational experience of women and girls. Feminist Studies have largely been isolated to disciplines such as Women’s Studies, Sociology, and Ethnic Studies. The advancement and achievement of women and girls will remain limited unless we are committed to educational transformation that is comprehensive and centers a multidisciplinary study of women and girls, both domestic and global.
Exposing the Inequities
What are the issues? What are the needs? If balance across fundamental social issues is critical to the publics’ perceived road to success, we must first seek balance in our education leadership. The superintendency in P-12 education is one of the most impactful positions in education, and while research suggests that educational preparation, professional mentorship, response to job demands, personal life status, and career trajectory for men and women is similar, “men are still four times more likely than women to serve in the most powerful position in education, and both women and men of color are still grossly underrepresented” (Robinson, Shakeshaft, Grogan & Newcomb, 2017, np). Furthermore, women make up an average of 75% of education professionals, but only 30% of the leadership positions in education are held by women (Morey, 2017).
Beyond issues concerning women in positions of educational leadership, we also wrestle with significant problems of school pushout among African American girls. In the 2012 report, Race, Gender and the School to Prison Pipeline: Expanding Our Discussion to include Black Girls, Monique Morris argues that the traditional framework of the “school to prison pipeline” has largely focused on the experiences and conditions affecting black males. We continue to find that adopting a one-dimensional gender lens to study and address important work on inequality, exclusion, and the pushing out of students away from schools and into systems of criminal justice invariably limits our full understanding of this phenomenon.
Moving beyond issues affecting specific populations, there are also broad challenges that impact all women in education:
- Diversifying the teaching profession, including how we address and respond to issues of race, culture, and gender;
- The dynamics of difference, which include explorations of women’s ways of knowing, cultural diversity among educators, the impact of economics on teachers, students, schools and communities, and social insecurity among students; and,
- Diving deeper into culturally relevant teaching & learning to explore changing ideologies and historic success models such as African American Colored Schools or Jewish Day Schools.
We know an either/or approach to social topics that impact a vastly diverse population, leaves our society largely uninformed. We are in need of information, from both research and practice, that helps us to understand all of the various issues that serve to sustain the continued oppression of women and girls. This must include the myriad ways that all of these issues intersect and impact the entire field of education. We are also in need of answers—stories of successes and gains toward resisting this oppression. Channeling our work on activism, how might movements like #MeTooand #YesAllWomendrive our efforts toward increased intervention and change for women and girls.
And beyond these movements, what other important efforts are happening across our nation?
We invite potential authors to submit articles that accomplish one of the following:
- Share insight and information on the issues impacting women and girls
- Tell stories of students and schools that help illuminate not only what the issues are, but how we live these issues
- Study and critique current or historic women’s social movements
- Take a multidisciplinary approach to help us understand the intersections of broader issues with education (such as healthcare and education).
Bach, N. (2018). Michelle Obama launches new initiative to empower girls through education, Fortune Magazine, Oct 11, 2018.
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Johnson, K. (2018). Political year of the woman? Been there, done that, Oregon says. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/02/us/politics/oregon-women-politics.html.
Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. 2003. Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Morey, C. (2017). Women Leaders in Education. Teaching Channel. https://www.teachingchannel.org/blog/2017/02/17/women-leaders-in-education
Morris, M. (2017). Push Out: The Criminalization of Black Girls in School, New York, NY
Reinharz, Shulamit. 1992. Feminist Methods in Social Research. New York and Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Robinson, K., Shakeshaft, C., Grogan, M., & Newcomb, W. S. (2017). Necessary but not sufficient: The continuing inequality between men and women in educational leadership, findings from the American Association of School Administrators Mid-Decade Survey. Frontiers in Education, 2(12), doi: 10.3389/feduc.2017.00012.
Zimmerman, E., Woolf, S. & Haley, A. (2015). Understanding the relationship between education and health: A review of the evidence and an examination of community perspectives. Content last reviewed September 2015. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/education/curriculum-tools/population-health/zimmerman.html
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