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International Women's Day: A Day to Reflect on the Contributions of and Obstacles for Women in Education

Today marks International Women's Day, a day that "celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women." The day will also include peaceful marches and strikes across the nation. Like January's Women's March, protest organizers for "A Day Without A Woman" hope to bring awareness to gender-based inequalities in rights and pay. The planned strikes have made quite an impact in certain parts of the country as a number of school districts have preemptively decided to close. 

Organizers are encouraging women to skip work and to avoid spending money, unless they're shopping at businesses owned by women or minorities. Women who are unable to participate are asked to wear red to show solidarity for the cause. The objective of the protests is to show the entire world how much of an economic and social impact they have.

The protest has trickled down to school districts in NY, VA, NC and more states who have been forced to close for the day. 

"According to the most recent data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics, women made up 87 percent of U.S. elementary school teachers in 2014," according to NBC News.

Alexandria, VA schools released a statement and revealed that the number of staff members who requested the day off was over 300. The significant number of absences meant that there wouldn't be enough staff for adequate classroom coverage. The school cancellation serves as a powerful demonstration of how essential women are to Alexandria's education system. 

Providing High-Quality Educational Opportunities for Students of Color

In other parts of the world, women are struggling to acquire proper education and, in some cases, gain the right to an education. In the U.S. women and girls of color in economically challenged districts are fighting to receive the same educational access as those in prospering communities. Nikki Bowen knows all too well of the struggle women of color in low-income communities have in gaining access to a quality education.

Bowen, who was profiled in People, recounts her mother's insistence on ensuring that her children received a quality education even if it required sending them to "a public school on the other side of Brooklyn." This experience made Bowen "realize how unfair it is that our country has really low expectations for kids who come from low-income communities” and inspired her to work towards making high-quality education accessible to disadvantaged students. 

Bowen serves as the principal at a K-8 public school in Brooklyn "where 98 percent of the students are either African American or Hispanic and 78 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch," according to People. Her school's curricular mission is "to educate a new generation of female leaders by instilling confidence and providing role models who students can relate to." The curriculum is already yielding improvements in student academic performance.

Closing the Gender Gap

Girls are also being encouraged to get more involved with STEM fields as a way to bridge the career gap to their male counterparts, who make up the majority of the STEM workforce. 

Meanwhile, female teachers are working to receive the pay they deserve. The overall gender pay gap is staggering with women receiving 79 cents on every dollar that male counterparts earn. Female administrators, for one, especially struggle with a gender pay gap according to The Intelligencer. Female higher education administrators are reportedly earning 10 percent less than males. 

As these statistics show, the issue of equal compensation for equal work plagues the education community as it does other fields.

 

Article by Navindra Persaud, Education World Contributor.

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