Gender Equality in Schools: Specific Suggestions

Note – see also this important resources page to understand the issue better.

  • Know your subconscious biases; they are powerful. Observe each other’s interactions with a gender lens. Gender biases create a ‘hidden curriculum’ that instructs.
  • Never highlight gender unnecessarily; before you say “boys and girls” or refer to “the man behind the desk” in a photograph, ask yourself: “Does gender matter?” It almost never does.
  • Refrain from commenting on appearances, which are almost always gender-coded.
  • Avoid single-sex groupings. Never let gender be used as a means of separating or excluding without comment.
  • Don’t put yourself down in gender-defined ways.
  • Watch gendered micro-aggressions and gender-based bullying. Do not accept that children are just ‘being kids’ when they engage in gendered put-downs of each other.
  • Be aware of children’s speaking time, especially in student-organized groups. From an early age, boys have been socialized to interrupt and speak more, and girls to defer leadership. Plan how to address this. Equalize the air time.
  • School dress codes: gender-neutral only, please.
  • Do not tolerate disrespectful jokes or insensitive gender language (including terms such as ‘mompreneur,’ ‘manbun,’ etc.)
  • Help boys lose gracefully; encourage them to think through their actions.
  • Help girls speak up for themselves; encourage them to take acceptable risks.
  • Avoid romanticizing children’s friendships; confront other children or families who do that. Encourage mixed-gender friendships at all ages.
  • Watch for differences in behavioral expectations. (Do you act differently when boys and girls display negative emotions? Do you have different assumptions about girls and responsibility? Do you assume boys will need more ‘reminders?”)
  • Normalize conversations about both emotions and achievement. Normalize conversations with all children about feelings, empathy, responsibility, as well as achievement.
  • Model acceptance for boy behavior that is outside the ‘man box.’ Constantly introduce examples of male behavior that is outside the box (i.e. pursuing hobbies outside sports and video gaming, pursuing non-traditional careers, asking for and receiving help, resisting aggression and dominance to show emotion and resolve conflict, etc.)
  • Model acceptance of diverse gender expressions and identities.
  • Work with all children to develop ally-ship; help children role-play and practice behaviors to avoid boxing others into gender roles.
  • Seek out examples of people displaying diverse, non-stereotypical roles, not just careers. (For example, men taking direction from women, girls learning how to manage normal feelings of anger.)
  • Seek out examples of different family compositions, normalizing that.
  • Maintain close personal relationships with boys.
  • Normalize menstruation. Do not participate in the stigmatizing of this normal body function that affects 1/2 the population.
  • Do not assume household family roles (i.e. what the ‘mom’ or ‘dad’ does.)
  • Help children develop responses to address hurtful gender put-downs and explore their ideas about gender identity.
  • Consider lessons explicitly addressing gender equality themes in the context of respect.
  • Watch extra-curricular activities; make sure they are not gender segregated.
  • Refrain from offering a choice of stereotypical gender-coded free-choice activities: for example, outdoor soccer play or indoor basket-making.
  • Create gender-neutral restrooms.
  • Watch for biases in language and math curriculums in particular; for example, normalize and highlight girls working in math and science and boys reading fiction and writing poetry.
  • Normalize all children possessing innate abilities and working hard.
  • For older children, offer lessons addressing gender roles directly.
  • Find opportunities to educate families and caregivers; frame gender-neutral policies in terms of respect and self-determination.
  • Survey the formal curriculum for gender bias; normalize boys and girls reading works by diverse authors and about diverse themes.
  • Be prepared with responses when children display gendered put-downs or questions. Do not let these slide. There are many examples: using “gay” as a slur towards activities or individuals, using homo/queer/fag as an insult; slurs toward boys who have many girlfriends and vice versa; statements such as “her hair is so short; she looks like a boy,” “why does he wear pink so much?, “girls are better at art,” ‘you act like a girl [as an insult]” etc.
  • Resources are many – you are not alone in trying to figure this out!




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