Raise your voice for gender equality in education

How can we ensure gender equality effectively translates from school to professional life?

Highlights on discussions, Day 8 (4 April 2012)

Most colleagues found that the transition process from school to professional life; or within professional life from teacher to head teacher; or from head teacher to ministry level leadership, appears to be particularly complex.

Mairead Dunne (Director, Centre for International Development, U.K) and Priscilla Otuo (Lecturer, Wisconsin International College, Ghana) agreed that social and cultural perceptions influence women’s identity as potential leaders. Priscilla Otuo expanded on this point further by suggesting that negative male perceptions related to women’s professional roles are compounded by many women’s own perception that their professional life is less important than their roles as mothers and wives. These social and cultural perceptions have been identified as self-limiting factors and were further discussed in IIEP’s research papers by Natalia Gheradi, Anna Obura, Kristy Kelly, and Tina Wallace and Helen Smith based on Argentina, Kenya, Viet Nam, and a comparative overview of three regions.

Based on their professional experience, Emily Echessa (Save the Children, U.K.) and Paul T. Temo (Educational Planner, Ministry of Secondary Education, Swaziland) mentioned some strategies that appeared to show positive effects particularly in the contexts of fragile states and less developed countries. These strategies not only cover schools or other workplaces, but also the homes in which girls and women live. It has been widely acknowledged that girls and women need different kinds of support in order to see themselves as leaders. For this reason, one strategy suggests sensitizing groups of mothers to create at least one strong male or female figure in a girl’s home. It is important that this person supports the girl’s efforts and helps her develop confidence and self-esteem. Another strategy aimed at the school level is the creation of peer social groups, school councils or clubs where female students can participate in debates and develop leadership skills. At the work place, an effective strategy was identified through the implementation of leadership training and mentoring, which appeared to result in a multiplier effect.

However, even if in some places these strategies appear to expand women’s opportunities in terms of educational options and leadership positions, Tina Wallace (Researcher, International Gender Studies, U.K.) claimed that at a global level women are seriously under-represented. It would appear that literature from different parts of the world suggests that many factors affect women’s access to senior positions, such as structural issues of work organizations, legislation as well as cultural and personal issues. In addition, James Anyan (Doctoral Student, University of Helsinki, Finland) suggested that another factor is that in some parts of the world there is a lack of laws protecting women suffering from sexual harassment at their place of work.

Claudia Peus (2007) analyzed factors such as self-reflection, continuous learning and personal values as helping  some women in the United States achieve their professional careers as women leaders. Perhaps it would be interesting to observe to what extent her suggestions could be applied in different social contexts.

To what extent would you find that the points raised by Claudia Peus are realistic in your country? 


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