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Early Childhood Education and Minority Women

Starting at a very young age, female students that are within a minority are being put at a disadvantage when compared to other students. In 2019, these disadvantages or preconceived injustices are still occurring. It was found that preschool teachers preferred to teach a class of all minority boys over a class of all minority girls (Glock & Klapproth, 2017). This preference was established because minority girls were viewed as less able to achieve academically.

Placing such a negative label on minority girls at such a young at impressionable age, results in lifelong damages. A recent study completed in Germany of gender stereo types regarding minority women, found that minority girls were less likely to choose careers in a math or science field when preschool teachers perceived them to be less capable of academic achievement in these subject areas (Holder, K., & Kessels, 2017). Teacher judgement has played a significant role in determining minority women’s career outcomes.  Additionally, the soft skills needed to be successful later in life, especially in the workforce, are not able to be fully achieved and mastered because of the poor educational fundamentals and preconceived notions of lack of achievement capability, that is placed on minority girls.

It is common knowledge that the soft skills of communication, positive interactions, and basic self-reflection are taught during the early childhood years (Lippman, Ryberg, Carney, & Moore, 2015). When young minority girls are not able to fully engage, or meet the ‘standard’ of these actions, life-long consequences could result. In a 2018 study of Dutch teachers, it was found that  Early Childhood Education teachers were less likely to believe they could have positive interactions with minority girls than they were to girls who were not ethnically diverse (Geerlings, J., Thijs, J., & Verkuyten, 2018). This lack of positive interaction results in long term issues for minority girls as they grow and move into the career force.

Unfortunately, even once minority females have passed the age of schooling and start families of their own, there are still struggles to face. One of the common struggles for career women of color, is to find education for their own minority daughters that is quality, and will not cause the same inequalities that they went through as a child (Adams & Katz, 2015). Fortunately, in other countries, progress is being made.

There are numerous countries, educational systems, and teachers that see this injustice to young minority girls and desire to make a change. In China, some schools are embracing the cultural and ethnic differences of their students and making each student’s heritage an educational experience (Postiglione, 2017). By doing this, China has removed the stigmas or prejudice that the ‘unknown’ often causes. Many teachers have taken it upon themselves to teach without preconceived stereotypes in their classrooms. Some teachers have started teaching minority girls about careers that they could have that would traditionally be a ‘man’s job’ (Wong, 2015). Other teachers have also started teaching confidence courses to their minority girls because they have seen what a difference it can make, not only for the student themselves, but also with how they present themselves to others (Kerr & Gahm, 2018). Most importantly, schools and teachers are allowing students, especially minority females, to embrace their ethnicity instead of being punished for it or be made to feel less able to achieve academically (Walseth, 2015).  

By instilling confidence and the ability to embrace and be proud of their heritage, minority girls are beating the previous stigma of being put at a disadvantage from their rest of the lives. New recruitment efforts and initiatives have been started for young minority girls who love science. The programs provide future career opportunities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) related fields. In North America, a recent recruitment effort targeting minority girls, successfully enrolled girls into the field of engineering. This program was successful because it dispelled the common stereotypes of engineering being a field for males only, and provided opportunities for young minority girls to be academically successful in the subject areas of math and science.  (Burke, Mattis, & Elgar, 2007). Programs and opportunities like these, demonstrate that when provided with opportunity, young girls able to achieve the same successes if not more, than other students.

It is now our responsibility as early childhood educators, to erase the stigma and stereotypes surrounding young minority girls, and provide them with an equal opportunity to succeed.

Dr. Stacy Beharry / Assistant Professor
Ashford University / College of Education


Adams, G., & Katz, M. (2015). Balancing Quality Early Education and Parents' Workforce Success: Insights from the Urban Institute's Assessment of the Massachusetts Subsidized Child Care System. Research Report. Urban Institute.

Burke, R. J., Mattis, M. C., & Elgar, E. (2007). Women and minorities in STEM: A primer. Women and minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics: Upping the numbers, 1, 3-27.

Glock, S., & Klapproth, F. (2017). Bad boys, good girls? Implicit and explicit attitudes toward ethnic minority students among elementary and secondary school teachers. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 53, 77-86.

Geerlings, J., Thijs, J., & Verkuyten, M. (2018). Teaching in ethnically diverse classrooms: Examining individual differences in teacher self-efficacy. Journal of school psychology, 67, 134-147.

Holder, K., & Kessels, U. (2017). Gender and ethnic stereotypes in student teachers’ judgments: A new look from a shifting standards perspective. Social psychology of education, 20(3), 471-490.

Kerr, B. A., & Gahm, J. (2018). Developing talents in girls and young women.

Lippman, L. H., Ryberg, R., Carney, R., & Moore, K. A. (2015). Workforce Connections: Key “soft skills” that foster youth workforce success: toward a consensus across fields. Washington, DC: Child Trends.

Postiglione, G. A. (2017). The education of ethnic minority groups in China. In Education, ethnicity, society and global change in Asia , (pp. 69-81). Routledge. 

Walseth, K. (2015). Muslim girls' experiences in physical education in Norway: What role does religiosity play?. Sport, education and society, 20(3), 304-322.

Wong, B. (2015). Careers “From” but not “in” science: Why are aspirations to be a scientist challenging for minority ethnic students?. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 52(7), 979-1002.