There is no denying that in our country we have come a long way in terms of fighting gender inequality, but equally there is still a way to go. The simple fact that we are still rallying for equal pay for men and women, education for all girls throughout the world and that unwanted sexual attention and harassment is still a daily occurrence tells us there is still a lot that needs to be done.
When it comes to parity in pay for men and women there is still work to do. In a recent study conducted by the World Economic Forum, they found that within health, education, economy and politics in 144 countries, men were still being paid more than women. However, some sectors are performing better than others when it comes to achieving parity - education has managed to close the pay gap by 95%, and health by 96%. They claim that the global gender gap “could be closed in 83 years across the 107 countries covered since the inception of the Report’, and given the current trends in terms of the pay gap, the education-specific gender gap could achieve parity within the next 10 years.
Despite us seeing improvements with regards to the pay gap in education over recent years, it must be brought to our attention that currently, the workforce within education is dominated by 80% women. The fact that such a vast majority of a profession are still ten years away from achieving equal pay with the remaining 20% of males begs the question, ‘Why?’. We could assume that this is because Senior Leadership positions within education are held predominantly by men with only 36% of secondary school headteacher positions being held by women. This raises concerns over the career progression for women within this industry and the struggle and gender bias they must face when it comes to securing more senior roles. Organisations such as #WomenEd help to bring to our attention not only this inequality but also the underrepresentation of BME leadership. Women make up half of the world’s population and this should be reflected in leadership and teaching positions not only within education but in all industries.
STEM subjects are fundamental to our future and we need to ensure that just as many girls and boys are studying these subjects, and just as importantly, that the number of women in STEM occupations is equivalent to men. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics have been stereotyped as male jobs and this is reflected in the number of girls studying these subjects at A-Levels and the number of women working in STEM jobs.
We are doing well to raise awareness of STEM subjects to female students which is seen in recent GCSE results. Last year, more girls than boys took Biology, Maths and Additional Science and the number of boys and girls studying Physics, Chemistry, Science and Additional Science is essentially equivalent. Engineering is still a predominantly male subject but we did see an increase of 24% more girls taking this subject in 2016 than in 2015.
Not only this but girls are outperforming boys in almost all STEM subjects - 71.3% of girls achieved A*-C grades in 2016 compared to 62.6% of boys and a higher proportion of girls than boys achieved A*-C grades in Science, Additional Science, Further Additional Science, Biology, Chemistry, Computing, Engineering, Design Technology, ICT, Additional Maths, Statistics. Physics saw that the grade achievement for both girls and boys was the same.
However, despite girls outperforming boys at GCSE in many areas, the number of girls choosing to take Physics A-Level has dropped by 2.7%, which will have a direct impact on women taking up STEM careers, especially in Engineering as this is a core requirement for such jobs. This is reflected in the current workforce with only 6% of the UK’s engineering workforce being female. On a whole there has been an increase in the number of women working in STEM occupations by 13,000, although in spite of this, the percentage has decreased overall from 22% to 21% meaning that there are not as many women coming into the STEM field as there are jobs available.
This suggests there is a still a gender bias when it comes to STEM jobs which was made apparent by a recent survey by Accenture which found that over half of parents and teachers admitted to having male subconscious gender stereotypes when it came to STEM. In order to address this we need to educate female students from a younger age on the importance of STEM subjects and introduce them to more STEM female orientated clubs such as STEMettes. For more information on how you can do this in your school read our article on Getting Girls into Tech.
Teaching Gender Equality
In order to fully address gender inequality we need to be raising awareness of this in our schools and one way we can tackle this head on is by teaching our students about gender bias, exposing them to positive male and female role models and providing comprehensive sex education.
Looking at the stats above in relation to STEM subjects being completed at A-Level and also the proportion of women in the STEM workplace, as well as the number of female teachers there are in comparison to male - we can assume that there are still job roles that are seen as ‘male’ and ‘female'. As educators, it is our responsibility to do the best we can to put a stop to these perceptions so as to ensure both girls and boys aren’t deterred from a career because it’s seen as ‘manly’ or ‘girly’. We can do this by encouraging students to continue with subjects they are good at and enjoy throughout their school career and using an equal proportion of male and female champions in these industries.
A further aspect of education we need to focus our attention on in order to achieve gender equality is sex education. The recent news that sex education will be compulsory in all secondary schools and will focus on the modern aspects of sexual relationships including sexting and online abuse will help us to educate students on the risks that are posed in the digital world as well as ensuring that consent and normal sexual relationships are at the forefront of the mind from a young age. This will help to ensure that when students enter into sexual relationships that they will be able to sustain a healthy relationship but will also work at reducing the number of sex crimes we see in later life.
The benefits of living in a digital world mean that we all have a voice in which we can rally against sexual violence but it does also pose risks, such as the online abuse and sexting mentioned earlier. According to the Rape Crisis England & Wales website, 1 in 5 women aged between 16 and 59 have experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16 and only 15% of those who have experienced sexual violence choose to report such crimes to the police. As well as this, around 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales every year. We hope that raising the profile of sexual assault and consent at an early age can help to have a positive impact on reducing these numbers in years to come.
Admittedly, it is hard for us as educators to teach our students about the implications of sexual assault and harassment when we are continually exposed to high profile media stars whose achievements post-allegations are still championed. This has been most recently apparent following on from the Oscars. Casey Affleck who in 2010 was sued for sexual harassment by two female employees, was awarded best actor in his performance in Manchester by the Sea, and Mel Gibson,who has a string of offences against his name, including being abusive to his ex girlfriend, was nominated for a number of awards for directing Hacksaw Ridge.
This is why it is even more important for us to expose students and young people to positive role models, those who rally for equal rights for men and women and who support those who have been subject to abuse of mistreatment.
We cannot, as already mentioned, deny that as a global community we are working at ensuring equal rights for men and women and days such as today cement that, but there is still a long way to go to achieve this on a global scale. This is why we support International Women’s Day and will continue to raise awareness of inequality issues, rally for teachers to receive equal opportunities as well as our students and also for educating our students so they can go on to have healthy relationships and shape the future into a world that does not discriminate based on gender.
In celebration of today, we also wanted to celebrate those in our community who are advocates for women both in general and within education: