Dear SPS Faculty,
March is recognized as Women’s History Month and it is a time for us to recognize and commemorate the achievements of women in U. S. history. One of the reasons this month of celebration was founded was to draw attention to the many accomplishments women have made over the years and by doing so, allows young girls to see the possibilities of what they can be and what they can do.
We create habits of mind based on the frames of reference we have in our lives and these are shaped by the influences of the world around us. When we see people who look like us doing remarkable things then we can implicitly imagine ourselves doing the very same thing. For many generations women did not see themselves reflected in positions of power outside the home and often not in the home either. In school, girls were told that they are not strong in math and science the same as boys are and were both overtly and covertly discouraged, not given equal opportunities, and often overlooked. One result of this is that over the years girls rarely went into the fields that required strong math and science.
Of course, there were always women in these fields, but the challenges they faced were far greater than today and even now it is still challenging in many places for girls to get ahead in STEM studies and professions. In interviewing more than 20 women with more than 25+ years in the STEM professions, it was so interesting to hear about the ways they were able to succeed. They could not expect to be successful on only being smart and talented alone. They needed to be very conscious of the uneven playing field they were in and all the ways in which they needed to make strategic adaptations so they were able to stay the course of advancement, not rock the boat (too much), and minimize backlash. They are incredible role models.
As gender is one manifestation of what we socially construct, as educators it is good for us to take a step back and see what we are doing, consciously and unconsciously, in the process of socially constructing our classes. In the way we present information, who are we favoring? In the types of assignments we create, in how we value participation, in the forms of knowledge we recognize as legitimate, who are we favoring? It is a good challenge to reflect on the ways in which we are providing opportunities and creating the context for all students to succeed. If we are not, then in what ways can we make adjustments so that there is a fairer playing field for all so that they may succeed?