Gardner (2006) has identified several factors that aid in mind changing. One of these factors relates to the affective component of the idea to be learned and alludes to the way that something is taught and may be strategically leveraged in the educator-student and parent-child relationship.
Teacher educators and caregivers need to be intentional about presenting positive role models of women in leadership and other traditionally male-dominated positions and explicitly explain that they are doing so and why. Encouraging and supporting female student interest in STEM jobs from a very young age for example creates expectations and possibilities in the minds of young people who seek to be like those they admire. The role models can come in the form of human relationships or in literature that depicts those narrative potentials.
Teacher educators can model intentional group formation and choice of student leaders and be explicit that they are doing so and why. Who leads student teams makes a statement about who can be a leader.
Linking social issues to the lack of women’s voices in power structures in church and government makes evident the gender imbalance that shapes our global culture. Consider poverty, racism, access to health care, family leave and healthy family life, human trafficking, sexual assault and domestic violence and how they are influenced by gender imbalance.
Internalized misogyny is also at issue and can be challenged by teacher educators. Wathen (2018) defines it as “the pattern by which women come to accept and believe the broader cultural messages about the lesser worth of women”(p.27).
Through these and other ways of teaching we are informing the social imaginaries of students. We teach what we value whether we are explicit about it or not. We are always teaching and transmitting into a way of imagining the world and how to interact. Teachers have an immense responsibility as contributors to the social imaginaries of our students (Castellon, 2019).
The following suggestions are adapted from: Shafer, L. (2018).
- Check your own biases. Be mindful of the language you use, the way you treat people of different genders, and even the perspectives you hold on your own abilities and traits.
- Have open discussions about the way chores are divided up. Set expectations that both kids and adults are expected to have a turn at everything: cooking, cleaning, yardwork, and taking out the trash.
- Ask children for their feedback about these family practices. Do they think boys and girls are being held to the same expectations? Are parents dividing work up equally — and if not, do kids understand why?
- Provide children of both genders with books and movies that feature nontraditional gender roles. Talk about female politicians, athletes, and scientists, and male teachers, dancers, and homemakers.
- Encourage kids to try all types of extracurricular activities, and talk about why they might feel more comfortable in some pastimes than in others. Help them distinguish whether they enjoy an activity because they’re surrounded by people like them, or because of the activity itself.
- Show children how biases and gender expectations have changed over time. Share times when you felt you were treated unfairly. Invite them to interview a grandparent or older person of a different generation. Ask kids to think: Has our country changed its expectations of men and women? What challenges do women still face today?
- Talk to kids about the stereotypes they encounter at school, on television, or while shopping. When you both see or hear something degrading, ask kids to interpret it. Do they find it harmful? Unsurprising? Explain to kids how stereotypes can be so ingrained in our society that we don’t always notice them.
- Explain the importance of listening to and appreciating both genders as matter of basic decency. Ask kids to think about what might be challenging about being a person of another gender, or a person who is transgender. Work on developing empathy.
- Intervene immediately when you hear demeaning comments about girls or boys. Explain why some common words and phrases used to describe girls are offensive.
- Help boys understand that it is their responsibility to stand up for girls and counteract stereotypes, and brainstorm strategies for them to use when they hear a friend make a degrading comment.
- Encourage boys to talk about their feelings and worries, and praise them for expressing empathy and care.
- Make it clear to girls that they can and should be leaders — in the classroom, in clubs and sports, and in their careers. Offer opportunities for them to practice public speaking, give and receive feedback, make decisions for themselves, and collaborate with diverse groups.
- Familiarize girls with female leaders in politics, business, and STEM fields.
- Support girls’ involvement in activities that can build their confidence. Ensure that they have multiple sources of self-worth that don’t involve their physical appearance. Remind them that they deserve respect from those around them.
Gardner, H. (2006). Changing minds: The art and science of changing our own and other people’s minds. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School.
Shafer, L. (2018). Preventing Gender Bias. Usable knowledge: Relevant research for today’s educators. Retrieved from: https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/18/11/preventing-gender-bias
Wathen, E. (2018). Resist and Persist: Faith and the Fight for Equality. Louisville, Kentucky; Westminster John Knox Press.