news article on female education

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Girls' education, gender equality in education benefits every child..

A girl stoops over her lap, writing diligently in a pad of paper, and surrounded by colourful books.

  • Girls' education
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Investing in girls’ education transforms communities, countries and the entire world. Girls who receive an education are less likely to marry young and more likely to lead healthy, productive lives. They earn higher incomes, participate in the decisions that most affect them, and build better futures for themselves and their families.

Girls’ education strengthens economies and reduces inequality. It contributes to more stable, resilient societies that give all individuals – including boys and men – the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

But education for girls is about more than access to school. It’s also about girls feeling safe in classrooms and supported in the subjects and careers they choose to pursue – including those in which they are often under-represented.

When we invest in girls’ secondary education

  • The lifetime earnings of girls dramatically increase
  • National growth rates rise
  • Child marriage rates decline
  • Child mortality rates fall
  • Maternal mortality rates fall
  • Child stunting drops

Why are girls out of school?

Despite evidence demonstrating how central girls’ education is to development, gender disparities in education persist.

Around the world, 129 million girls are out of school, including 32 million of primary school age, 30 million of lower-secondary school age, and 67 million of upper-secondary school age. In countries affected by conflict, girls are more than twice as likely to be out of school than girls living in non-affected countries.

Worldwide, 129 million girls are out of school.

Only 49 per cent of countries have achieved gender parity in primary education. At the secondary level, the gap widens: 42 per cent of countries have achieved gender parity in lower secondary education, and 24 per cent in upper secondary education.

The reasons are many. Barriers to girls’ education – like poverty, child marriage and gender-based violence – vary among countries and communities. Poor families often favour boys when investing in education.

In some places, schools do not meet the safety, hygiene or sanitation needs of girls. In others, teaching practices are not gender-responsive and result in gender gaps in learning and skills development.

A young girl stands in front of a chalkboard facing her class to explain a math equation.

Gender equality in education

Gender-equitable education systems empower girls and boys and promote the development of life skills – like self-management, communication, negotiation and critical thinking – that young people need to succeed. They close skills gaps that perpetuate pay gaps, and build prosperity for entire countries.

Gender-equitable education systems can contribute to reductions in school-related gender-based violence and harmful practices, including child marriage and female genital mutilation .

Gender-equitable education systems help keep both girls and boys in school, building prosperity for entire countries.

An education free of negative gender norms has direct benefits for boys, too. In many countries, norms around masculinity can fuel disengagement from school, child labour, gang violence and recruitment into armed groups. The need or desire to earn an income also causes boys to drop out of secondary school, as many of them believe the curriculum is not relevant to work opportunities.

UNICEF’s work to promote girls’ education

UNICEF works with communities, Governments and partners to remove barriers to girls’ education and promote gender equality in education – even in the most challenging settings.

Because investing in girls’ secondary education is one of the most transformative development strategies, we prioritize efforts that enable all girls to complete secondary education and develop the knowledge and skills they need for life and work.

This will only be achieved when the most disadvantaged girls are supported to enter and complete pre-primary and primary education. Our work:

  • Tackles discriminatory gender norms and harmful practices that deny girls access to school and quality learning.
  • Supports Governments to ensure that budgets are gender-responsive and that national education plans and policies prioritize gender equality.
  • Helps schools and Governments use assessment data to eliminate gender gaps in learning.
  • Promotes social protection measures, including cash transfers, to improve girls’ transition to and retention in secondary school.
  • Focuses teacher training and professional development on gender-responsive pedagogies.
  • Removes gender stereotypes from learning materials.
  • Addresses other obstacles, like distance-related barriers to education, re-entry policies for young mothers, and menstrual hygiene management in schools.

More from UNICEF

Antigua and Barbuda. Children study

1 in 3 adolescent girls from the poorest households has never been to school

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Let’s shape tech to be transformative

Gender-responsive digital pedagogies: A guide for educators

Stories of suffering and hope: Afghanistan and Pakistan

Catherine Russell reflects on her first field visit as UNICEF's Executive Director

Three Malian girls pose outside the food distribution center in Mbera camp.

Where are the girls and why it matters as schools reopen?

School closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic risk reversing the massive gains to girls’ education

Advancing Girls' Education and Gender Equality through Digital Learning

This brief note highlights how UNICEF will advance inclusive and transformative digital technology to enhance girls’ learning and skills development for work and life.

Reimagining Girls' Education: Solutions to Keep Girls Learning in Emergencies

This resource presents an empirical overview of what works to support learning outcomes for girls in emergencies.

e-Toolkit on Gender Equality in Education

This course aims to strengthen the capacity of UNICEF's education staff globally in gender equality applied to education programming.

Fixing the Broken Promise of Education for All

This report draws on national studies to examine why millions of children continue to be denied the fundamental right to primary education.

GirlForce: Skills, Education and Training for Girls Now

This report discusses persistent barriers girls face in the transition from education to the workforce, and how gender gaps in employment outcomes persist despite girls’ gains in education.

UNICEF Gender Action Plan (2022-2025)

This plan specifies how UNICEF will promote gender equality across the organization’s work, in alignment with the UNICEF Strategic Plan.

Global Partnership for Education

This partnership site provides data and programming results for the only global fund solely dedicated to education in developing countries.

United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative

UNGEI promotes girls’ education and gender equality through policy advocacy and support to Governments and other development actors.

The Unique Challenges Facing Women in Education

  • Posted April 1, 2021
  • By Jill Anderson
  • Career and Lifelong Learning
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Jennie Weiner

The pandemic has exposed many of the challenges facing women working in education. Yet, Jennie Weiner , Ed.M.'03, Ed.D.'12, an expert who studies how to create a more inclusive and equitable education field, acknowledges that many of the gender disparities in the education profession have long existed. Across the sector, women make up a majority of the education workforce but occupy barely a quarter of top leadership positions. This is not by accident, she says, but by systemic design.

“We've had a highly feminized profession, but feminized means both that women do the work, but also that it's devalued because it is women's work,” Weiner says, pointing to many issues that exist in education, such as underpaid teachers, buildings in disrepair, and even an “inverted” pyramid where men hold far more leadership positions than women.

“Many people would rather believe that hard work and being really good at what you do could outperform bias, and that's a lie. No matter how good you are, if we live in discriminatory system, that discrimination will raise its head," she says.

In this episode the EdCast, Weiner, an associate professor at the University of Connecticut, breaks down the gender issues in the field and suggests ways to push toward equality.

Jill Anderson:    I'm Jill Anderson. This is the Harvard EdCast.

Jennie Weiner knows the pandemic has exposed gender inequities that don't often get talked about in education. It doesn't matter whether women work in early childhood, or higher education, or somewhere in between, these inequities play out similarly across the field. Jennie is an associate professor who studies how to make education more inclusive and equitable through educational leadership. Although females have long made up the bulk of the education workforce, they barely represent a quarter of top leadership roles. She says there's many reasons for how we've ended up with gender inequity in the field and society. I asked Jennie to tell me more about the unique challenges facing women in education.

Jennie Weiner:     There are a number of challenges facing women in leadership generally, and then within the context of K12 specifically. Some of these challenges exist outside of the role, which are really about how our society frames the role of women and socialize us to understand what women should and shouldn't be doing within the space. Right? So for example, the idea that we should be the primary caretakers for our young children, which, of course, then creates complications if you don't have paid family leave, or access to reliable, cheap, and effective care for your children, and are attempting to work full time. Which was true in our context of our society prior to the pandemic, but of course has been exacerbated by the pandemic. We also have issues around who becomes caretakers, even if you don't have children for elderly parents, or for other kind of tasks within the context of a family, or an extended family.

So you have all that external socialization. And then you also have, what I would say is role socialization in leadership specifically, which is the way leadership is constructed in our society, and in education specifically, still really focuses on this idea of a lone hero, or heroic person, and I would argue, a white man, with characteristics that are stereotyped as masculine characteristics. So being very strong, or ambitious, or innovative, or aggressive, right? And we see this through our political cycles and in other spaces. So what happens is women may not be considered the best candidates for these positions because they hold other kinds of stereotyped ideas, right? So if you are more communally oriented, which should be a stereotype female, you're softer, you're emotional, you may not be seen as having leadership potential, right? And there's a lack of female mentors and women who are in charge in the first place to tap people along the trajectory.

But also if you exhibit traditionally, or stereotypically male characteristics that are more aligned with leadership, let's say being quite aggressive, or being innovative, we know that women often get criticized for exhibiting those behaviors. So I talk a lot about this idea of a double bind. So you have these externalized pathway issues and things that keep women from having full access to leadership that exist because of, again, our societal structures, and who gets to do what roles, and why, and how we think about that. But then we also have these internalized structures about how we understand and perceive what leadership is, and hence, who should be able to do it, and be successful, and thrive in the role. So it's a lot to say the least.

Jill Anderson:     It is a lot. I think it's something that you can easily look at and see in K through 12.

Jennie Weiner:    Right.

Jill Anderson:    You look and you see a lot of females, predominantly females in education, but you don't often see them in roles of superintendency or principalship.

Jennie Weiner:     So right now about 83 to 86% range of teachers are women. About 54% of principals are women, predominantly in elementary schools, and that's not an accident because elementary schools don't have after-school activities to the same extent. There's also ideas about women and their ability to facilitate, let's say discipline for older boys, and what they can handle. Also, women's willingness to blend their life and home life with their work life. So if I am a mother, am I willing to bring my kids to a bunch of basketball games, or activities at school consistently? If I'm a man, am I willing to do that?

And then at the superintendent level, it's been around 23% since the last 15 or 20 years. So, if you inverse that it's even more bananas, right? So you have, what is that then? 16% or so of teachers are men, about 50% of them are principals, and about 74% are superintendents. So, it's jarring in either direction, but I sometimes ask people to think in the reverse, right? But you have this teeny tiny pool at the bottom of the pyramid for men who are situated in schools and they're overwhelmingly more than 75% of the superintendents, the people in charge.

Jill Anderson:    Right. And is it the same when you get into higher ed and you start looking at careers [crosstalk 00:05:16].

Jennie Weiner:    Yes.

Jill Anderson:     ... in academia, the same reflection.

Jennie Weiner:     Right. And I think what's important to remember too, is historically it was built this way on purpose, Michael Apple, a scholar who studies the history of the profession, talks a lot about the ways in which we had to fill these common schools with an available workforce, people who could read and didn't have a lot of other options, and that was primarily women. So we've had a highly feminized profession, but feminized means both that women do the work, but also that it's devalued because it is women's work.

So that helps to explain why we have, for example, still issues around teachers being substantively underpaid, why buildings are in disrepair, and why we say we value education, but we consistently underfund it, and do not treat teachers with the respect I think that they deserve. And I think it's partially because it's mostly women who do that work over time, but it's also why we've created elaborate evaluation techniques to watch these women who need to be controlled and evaluated and observed to ensure they're doing the right thing within the context of schools. But teaching itself has been really situated as primarily a profession of women, and also then around caretaking as a primary driver as opposed to let's say high skills, knowledge capabilities. And academia is the same way. So it was created primarily for men, and therefore not surprising that it's very hard to break in, or deconstruct those ways of thinking about the work.

Jill Anderson:    How has the pandemic really shifted this? Because this has been a long existing problem, but now we're hearing about it on so many levels and it's getting a lot of attention.

Jennie Weiner:     Yeah. We're looking at somewhere between 2.5 and 4 million women leaving the workforce between the beginning of the pandemic and February of this year. So just that number is just breathtaking. Now, why? And it's intricately related to the things that we're discussing, right? So if you have professions, and you have, let's say a heterosexual couple, one is a man and one is a woman, and they both were working prior to the pandemic, it is highly likely because of the way discrimination works that the woman was in a lower paid field, or if she was in the same field, she was in a position in which she made less money than her husband.

In addition, many of the caretaking responsibilities within the context of the home that are considered to be stereotype female work, childcare, cleaning, scheduling, cooking, are usually taken up by women. So then the school is closed, there's no caretaking, you have young children, somebody has to give up their work in order to make that happen. If this is the parameters under which we make decisions, who's more likely to leave? Clearly the spouse who makes less money is more comfortable, or has been socialized to take on those roles within the context of the house before. And we see that, right? In fact, we actually saw quite a few women who made more money, or had their own professions and jobs, even those women leaving in favor of staying home.

And then we also, of course, to talk about this without talking about races, not really appropriate because most of the women who lost their jobs are women of color who were also in service industries, primarily in work that was most risk for catching COVID, whether that be home health care, the service industries, restaurants, cleaning services. And now they're also home and are unable to work, or have to put themselves at risk to facilitate their child, and their family having enough money to survive. So it exposed, I think things that were already there, but that we just never talked about in the public space.

Jill Anderson:    There were mothers I know who were working in education, who were working as early childhood educators and decided to leave their jobs to be able to accommodate remote learning, or being home with their kids through this time. So definitely hearing that in my own world.

Jennie Weiner:     Yeah. I think what you're saying is really powerful too, which I think people don't talk about, which is, if you have a profession, both early childcare providers and let's say any kind of childcare provider, and educators who are not childcare providers, but children go to school, is predominantly female. We can imagine that many of them probably have young children themselves. And yet the rhetoric has really been to not discuss that as if these are separate identities. So we say, why aren't the teachers, or the childcare providers doing their job? They should be open, without paying any attention to, if I'm a teacher and I'm supposed to be attending to my class full time, and I have a three-year-old, who's taking care of my three-year-old?

Jill Anderson:     Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jennie Weiner:    And I just feel like in the public discourse around school opening, they're not opening the idea, or understanding that many of these are young women with families who are facing the same challenges that I'm facing is not discussed. And I would just put that to people about how that reinforces our lack of discussion about women's rights and gender equity within the context of our society when we do not attend to that as part of the problem of schools reopening.

Jill Anderson:    Well, since you've mentioned the, what you've just written about, which is your own experience, in a collection of essays being released looking at pandemic parenting, you talk about that experience of juggling the challenges of parenting while working in academia. So what has it been like for you?

Jennie Weiner:     Dislocating, discombobulating. So I have twin nine year old boys, both of whom have been home with me for over a year now, now they've had full-time learning, but not in person. I think one of the things that's been so terribly difficult is so much of the gymnastics that I've had to do over the course of my career to simply persist and thrive in a space that's not made for me. So to constantly be in spaces and having to make really tough choices about, should I go to a conference? And then when I get to the conference, people say, well, who is taking care of your kids? Or I'm missing something that's happening at home, and I'm feeling that's really difficult and hard. And I've made so many, what I perceive to be sacrifices in a system that is not made for working mothers, or for people from non-traditional backgrounds in that space. And then to be home all the time and feel like some of that is slipping away, my identity and my ability to thrive in my workspace just gone.

And even though I think externally there's a sense that everybody's going through it, and I should just not be so hard on myself, I don't believe that the system will actually excuse women who have taken this time. I think that I have a lot of fear that if I don't keep juggling and pretzeling, that's not something I'm ever going to be able to make up, because, again, I've had to fight so hard just to feel like I had a space at the table. It's difficult to lose something that you feel like you've fought so hard for.

Jill Anderson:    Yeah. You raised an interesting point because there have been some predictions made about how far this pandemic will definitely set women off course, and it's alarming. We're talking not just like, Oh, this is going to set women off by a couple of years, this is decades of setbacks from just this one year, year and a half, whatever it ends up being.

Jennie Weiner:     Yeah. Basically like 1970s or something, yeah.

Jill Anderson:    Which is crazy.

Jennie Weiner:    It is really crazy. I think it tells you how precarious everything was, and on whoms back the progress had it been made. So because there haven't been attention to, let's say structural and systemic changes to our policies, to issues a place like the ERA for example, the Equal Rights Amendment never passed. The fact that many black and brown women are in low wage jobs and we can't pass a decent minimum wage. The fact that we don't have universal childcare, or universal pre-K. So what happens? Well, women behind the scenes address all those issues behind the scenes. And so every success to a large degree has been on the backs of the people who have been discriminated against, we've elbowed, and we've worked, and we've suffered, and we've done what we needed to do, but individual hard work is not a way to fix systems of oppression, it helps, but you can see, right? Once that fell down and we didn't have any systems to support us, the marbles all fell out of the bag.

I only hope, perhaps, that people will remember and understand the veil is off, that depending on women to just do more is not a way to create a just society. And we have to fight for these kinds of systemic changes that are going to make things different regardless of what the future holds in terms of calamity, or change, or whatever the fact may be.

Jill Anderson:     We've heard a lot about the glass ceiling, especially even recently with Kamala Harris being elected, and a lot of us have heard of that term before, what is the glass cliff?

Jennie Weiner:    So the glass cliff was brought about by some research by Haslam and Ryan, and they're British researchers. And I read in the newspaper, there was an article about how the FTSE Index, their publicly traded companies, how women were in charge of all the ones that were doing poorly, and therefore women must be poor leaders. They did analysis, and basically what they found was that women were more likely to be leaders within the context of companies that were not doing well, but they were hired once they started to decline. So the idea is that women and people of color, people who are traditionally marginalized from those kinds of leadership opportunities, are given the opportunity to lead, but only when an organization is in decline. And now, of course, that comes with a bunch of other parameters, right? So usually that also means often that you have a highly activist board.

So women who end up taking these positions spend far more time catering and having to deal with activist board members than do men. Additionally, when women start to improve the organization, they're not given credit for that. Alternatively, if something that looks like it's doomed to fail, and then they take over fails, they're blamed, and most often a white man is put back into the position after them. I'm actually studying this within the context of education superintendents, but I noticed, for example, I work in Connecticut, there are very few black women principals in a place like Hartford, but when you look at where they're placed, they tend to be placed in most of the turnaround schools, which are the chronically underperforming schools. April Peter speaks about how they're positioned as cleanup women to come in and mop up and clean up the mistakes others have made, but instead of being lauded for that, even when they have success, they're vilified as being difficult, or hard to work with, or aggressive in ways that are not valued, even when they have success in addressing the problems of the organizations. So it's pretty tricky.

Jill Anderson:     What is the most important thing for a female in education leadership, whether it's K through 12, whether it's in academia?

Jennie Weiner:    I'm often in places with women leaders, I'm often asked to speak and I facilitate a women superintendents group for the state of Connecticut, I'm so proud and privileged to have that opportunity. I think one thing that often happens is people are upset by hearing these truths. At the same time, because we'd all rather believe, or many people would rather believe that hard work and being really good at what you do could outperform bias, and that's a lie. No matter how good you are, if we live in discriminatory system, that discrimination will raise its head. Now, of course, there's exceptions, there's always exceptions, but on average, across, right? Most women are not exceptions. So what's the benefit of doing it then?

Well, the other piece of this is, if you don't have language and understand that there is something systemic happening, then when someone says to you, you don't really have leadership capabilities, or you're not really leadership material, you might believe them. You may actually begin to feel that the problem is you, because you look around and you're not seeing that happening to other people, or nobody's talking about it. And you internalize those feelings of shame and ineffectiveness, and you lay the blame on yourself. And that is terrible. And it's going to get us to come together, it's not going to help facilitate change, it's not going to move us to press, and push, and fight for something better on the horizon for us and other generation of women leaders.

And so I think it's a misnomer to say that liberation comes without pain because facing her truths is painful. It is painful to see that I can't out run discrimination, but I cannot be free. I cannot be liberated if I don't see how the system operates, because individuals cannot by themselves change discriminatory systems, we need each other. And the only way we can find each other is if we own up and talk about these experiences and connect them to something larger than ourselves.

Jill Anderson:     But it doesn't feel like the conversation about gender bias happens as often, which is interesting in lieu of all of the information that we have about females in education.

Jennie Weiner:     I am concerned about the ways in which gender identity and other forms of identity have not been taken up as part of the larger conversation about DEI efforts, and I wonder how we can have an anti-racist society without addressing patriarchy and vice versa, because patriarchy and white supremacy are intricately linked and both need to be addressed simultaneously for justice to come forward. I do not place one above the other, but I do think we can do hard things and we should, and need to talk about them as intricately linked, and when we don't, we miss quite a bit of the conversation.

Jill Anderson:    To just backtrack on that, is that intersectional feminism?

Jennie Weiner:    Part of the critic of the feminist movement was that it was predominantly women like me, upper-middle-class white women, who did not attend to the fact that they have particular privileges regarding that status, right? I'm not a low wage earner. I have documentation, I have particular freedoms and abilities to assert myself in spaces without the same repercussions, and that needs to be owned and understood. So intersectionality is really, really linked with black feminist thought, critical thought, and legal work as well. But the idea is that we have to attend to multiple forms of identity at once, and how that discrimination manifests across the spectrum. So a really concrete example, I think that's useful to think about within the context of education is, we still have very low numbers, but only 6% of principals are black women, which is just crazy, and much of this is actually a result of what happened in the post-brown era when schools integrated and they fired in mass something like 40,000 black educators, because when they integrated schools, they shut down black schools and fired black teachers and administrators, and replaced them with white administrators and teachers, which many people don't talk about, but it's important to our legacy and why we are where we are.

So if I was somebody who was interested in trying to recruit more people of color and women into, let's say administrative ranks, the reasons why they are not accessing those historically are different. So if I try to just do it through a white lens, right? So I'm addressing gender, but if I only do it through a white lens, I may not be attending to the ways in which racial discrimination and this legacy is impacting black women's ability to access, feel successful, and how they're treated in the role, right? So the solutions may look different, and the ways in which I engage and think about them may look different because I understand that both of those things matter as do potentially other things that are the ways in which discrimination operates to allow them to have access and thrive in those positions. So I think the lack of attention to that is really, really problematic. And again, those are just a few, right? We could talk about LBGTQ. We know that immigration status, other things that bring about different ways of interacting with systemic oppression, and then, again, how we might attend to that and think about it if we really want things to change.

Jill Anderson:    So it feels so huge that it can almost feel like it's difficult to know how to take a step toward change. And so even in lieu of the pandemic, which is almost like this dark cloud lingering over it. So what about next steps?

Jennie Weiner:     On one hand you could say, I feel really overwhelmed because of all the things that you just said. On the other hand, you could say, wow, there's so much work to do, and there's so many different, based on my skills, capabilities, orientation, understandings, I could get involved at so many levels, right? I could get involved in my intimate relationship with my partner and discuss about the balance of work and why things are, and start begin to question that, and that would be, I think, a feminist action. There are ways to be engaged in sisterhood to support women in your place of work, for example, here's just a small one. You go to a meeting frequently and your female colleagues said something, and then five minutes later your male colleague says it and everyone says, Bill, that's a great idea. Thank you for sharing that. I think a lot of women, if they're listening to this, may have had that experience.

So you may be with women in your group and speak to them and say, whenever someone says something, we're going to amplify it. So now this time Jill says something wonderful, and then Bill says it, and Bill repeats it, and I said, yes, I loved it when Jill said it five minutes ago. These are small, but I think if we first name things as problematic and situated outside of ourselves, and two, come together around them, right? We can run for office, run for office, if you're listening, run for office, run for your school board, put that in your pocket, understand that issues around fair pay are feminist issues, issues around childcare are feminist issues. Access to healthcare is a feminist issue. Read, study, affiliate, fight.

I'm working really hard to try to imagine a future that doesn't look just like trying to get more women look like men, in the sense of, I don't want our future to have to be that women have to take on the attributes of men to feel successful and gain access. I want us to begin to think about a future that's not imagined, or created yet, but to do that, we have to talk to each other like we are now, and tell the truth about how we feel, and about what's hard about it, and that these things are happening to all of us, and that we're in solidarity, and I think that's where change starts to happen.

Jill Anderson:     Well, thank you so much, Jennie.

Jennie Weiner:     Thank you. It was so fun.

Jill Anderson:     Jennie Weiner, is an associate professor of educational leadership at the University of Connecticut. She authored an essay in the forthcoming book, Pandemic Parenting: The Collision of Schoolwork and Life at Home . She will also teach in the upcoming Women in Education Leadership Program as part of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, professional education. I'm Jill Anderson. This is the Harvard EdCast produced by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Thanks for listening.

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news article on female education

Education as the Pathway towards Gender Equality

About the author.

Amartya Sen, often referred to as the father of the concept of ‘human development’, reminds us of a quote by H.G. Wells, where he said that “human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe”. Sen maintains that “if we continue to leave vast sections of the people of the world outside the orbit of education, we make the world not only less just, but also less secure”. To Sen, the gender aspect of education is a direct link between illiteracy and women’s security.

Not being able to read or write is a significant barrier for underprivileged women, since this can lead to their failure to make use of even the rather limited rights they may legally have (to own land or other property, or to appeal against unfair judgment and unjust treatment). There are often legal rights in rule books that are not used because the aggrieved parties cannot read those rule books. Gaps in schooling can, therefore, directly lead to insecurity by distancing the deprived from the ways and means of fighting against that deprivation. 1

For Sen, illiteracy and innumeracy are forms of insecurity in themselves, “not to be able to read or write or count or communicate is a tremendous deprivation. The extreme case of insecurity is the certainty of deprivation, and the absence of any chance of avoiding that fate”. 2 The link between education and security underlines the importance of education as akin to a basic need in the twenty-first century of human development.


While a moral and political argument can continue to be made for the education of girls and women, some facts speak powerfully to the issue at hand. Girls accounted for 53 per cent of the 61 million children of primary school age who were out of school in 2010. Girls accounted for 49 per cent of the 57 million children out of school in 2013. In surveys of 30 countries with more than 100,000 out-of-school children, 28 per cent of girls were out of school on average compared to 25 per cent of boys. Completion of primary school is a particular problem for girls in sub-Saharan Africa and Western Asia. 3

Surveys in 55 developing countries reveal that girls are more likely to be out of school at a lower secondary age than boys, regardless of the wealth or location of the household. Almost two thirds of the world’s 775 million illiterate adults are women. In developing regions, there are 98 women per 100 men in tertiary education. There are significant inequalities in tertiary education in general, as well as in relation to areas of study, with women being over-represented in the humanities and social sciences and significantly under-represented in engineering, science and technology.

Gender-based violence in schools undermines the right to education and presents a major challenge to achieving gender equality in education because it negatively impacts girls’ participation and their retention in school. In addition, ineffective sexual and reproductive health education inhibits adolescents’ access to information and contributes to school dropouts, especially among girls who have reached puberty.

The education of girls and women can lead to a wide range of benefits from improved maternal health, reduced infant mortality and fertility rates to increased prevention against HIV and AIDS. 4 Educated mothers are more likely to know that HIV can be transmitted by breastfeeding, and that the risk of mother-to-child transmission can be reduced by taking drugs during pregnancy.

Each extra year of a mother’s schooling reduces the probability of infant mortality by 5-10 per cent. Children of mothers with secondary education or higher are twice as likely to survive beyond age 5 compared to those whose mothers have no education. Improvements in women’s education explained half of the reduction in child deaths between 1990 and 2009. A child born to a mother who can read is 50 per cent more likely to survive past age 5. In sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 1.8 million children’s lives could have been saved in 2008 if their mothers had at least a secondary education. In Indonesia, 68 per cent of children with mothers who have attended secondary school are immunized, compared with 19 per cent of children whose mothers have no primary schooling. Wages, agricultural income and productivity—all critical for reducing poverty— are higher where women involved in agriculture receive a better education. Each additional year of schooling beyond primary offers greater payoffs for improved opportunities, options and outcomes for girls and women.

In the varied discussions on the post-2015 education related agendas, there was strong consensus that gender equality in education remains a priority. Various inputs noted that inequalities in general, and particularly gender equality, need to be addressed simultaneously on multiple levels—economic, social, political and cultural. A response on behalf of the International Women’s Health Coalition maintained that “all girls, no matter how poor, isolated or disadvantaged, should be able to attend school regularly and without the interruption of early pregnancy, forced marriage, maternal injuries and death, and unequal domestic and childcare burdens”.

Other inputs highlighted the importance of ensuring access to post-basic and post-secondary education for girls and women. Referring to secondary education, the German Foundation for World Population noted that the “completion of secondary education has a strong correlation with girls marrying later and delaying first pregnancy.” While access to good quality education is important for girls and women, preventing gender-based violence and equality through education clearly also remains a priority.

Gender-based discrimination in education is, in effect, both a cause and a consequence of deep-rooted differences in society. Disparities, whether in terms of poverty, ethnic background, disability, or traditional attitudes about their status and role all undermine the ability of women and girls to exercise their rights. Moreover, harmful practices such as early marriage, gender-based violence, as well as discriminatory education laws and policies still prevent millions of girls from enrolling and completing their respective education. 5

Additionally, given the extensive and growing participation of women in income generating activities, education for girls and women is particularly important, especially in attempting to reverse gendered patterns of discrimination. Not only is it impossible to achieve gender equality without education, but expanding education opportunities for all can help stimulate productivity and thereby also reduce the economic vulnerability of poor households.


Equity is the strongest framing principle of a post-2015 rights-based agenda, and underlines the need to redress historical and structural inequalities in order to provide access to quality education at all levels. This heralds what was effectively one of the strongest themes that emerged in the post-2015 education consultations, i.e., a rights-based approach in which rights are indivisible. This implies that all aspects of education should be considered from a rights perspective, including structural features of education systems, methods of education, as well as the contents of the education curricula. Indeed, overcoming structural barriers to accessing good quality education is vital for realizing education rights for all.

In related post-2015 consultations, equity is affirmed as a fundamental value in education. Several inputs noted that inequality in education remains a persistent challenge. This is connected to a focus in the Millennium Development Goals on averages without an accompanying consideration of trends beneath the averages. Many contributions in the education consultation, as well as in the other thematic consultations, highlighted the lack of attention to marginalized and vulnerable groups.

Equal access to good quality education requires addressing wide-ranging and persistent inequalities in society and should include a stronger focus on how different forms of inequality intersect to produce unequal outcomes for marginalized and vulnerable groups. Post-2015 consultations suggest that overcoming inequality requires a goal that makes national governments accountable for providing minimum standards and implementing country specific plans for basic services, including education. Equity in education also implies various proactive and targeted measures to offer progressive support to disadvantaged groups.

Amartya Sen notes empirical work which has brought out very clearly how the relative respect and regard for women’s well-being is strongly influenced by their literacy and educated participation in decisions within and outside the family. Even the survival disadvantage of women compared with men in many developing countries (which leads to “such terrible phenomenon as a hundred million of ‘missing women’) seems to go down sharply, and may even get eliminated, with progress in women’s empowerment, for which literacy is a basic ingredient”.

In the summer of 2009, the International Labour Organization (ILO) issued a report entitled “Give Girls a Chance: Tackling child labour, a key to the future”, which makes a disturbing link between increasing child labour and the preference being given to boys when making decisions on education of children. The report states that in cultures in which a higher value is placed on education of male children, girls risk being taken out of school and are then likely to enter the workforce at an early age. The ILO report noted global estimates where more than 100 million girls were involved in child labour, and many were exposed to some of its worst forms.

Much of the research around women and education highlights the importance of investing in the education of girls as an effective way of tackling the gamut of poverty. This is in line with assertions made in numerous other references, which also point to a strong link between education, increased women’s (as opposed to girls’) labour force participation, the wages they earn and overall productivity, all of which ultimately yields higher benefits for communities and nations. In other words, it pays to invest in girls’ and women’s education.


In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Western feminist stalwarts, such as Simone de Beauvoir, were elaborating the difference between biological ‘sex’ and social gender. Anne Oakley in particular, is known for coining the term gender socialization (1979), which indicates that gender is socially constructed. According to Oakley, parents are engaged in gender socialization but society holds the largest influence in constructing gender. She identified three social mechanisms of gender socialization: manipulation, canalization, and verbalization (Oakley, 1972). Oakley noted that gender is not a fixed concept but is determined by culture through the use of verbal and nonverbal signifiers and the creation of social norms and stereotypes, which identify proper and acceptable behavior. The signifiers are then perpetuated on a macro level, reinforced by the use of the media, as well as at the micro level, through individual relationships.

The concept entered mainstream lexicon on gender relations and development dynamics, and through criticism and counter criticism, ‘gender socialization’ itself became an important signifier. As a tool to highlight discriminatory practices, laws and perceptions (including stereotypes), gender socialization is often identified as the ‘root cause’ which explains various aspects of gender identities, and what underlies many gender dynamics.

In 2007, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) defined gender socialization as “[T]he process by which people learn to behave in a certain way, as dictated by societal beliefs, values, attitudes and examples. Gender socialization begins as early as when a woman becomes pregnant and people start making judgments about the value of males over females. These stereotypes are perpetuated by family members, teachers and others by having different expectations for males and females.”

There is, therefore, a clear interaction between socio-cultural values (and praxis) with gender socialization. This only partly explains why it is that in many developing societies there is a persistent prioritization of women’s ‘domestic’ roles and responsibilities over public ones. Most young girls are socialized into the ‘biological inevitability’ of their socially determined future roles as mothers. This is closely connected, in many relatively socially conservative contexts, with the need to ensure (the prerequisite of) marriage.

Most related studies maintain that women with formal education are much more likely to use reliable family planning methods, delay marriage and childbearing, and have fewer and healthier babies than women with no formal education. The World Bank estimates that one year of female schooling reduces fertility by 10 per cent, particularly where secondary schooling is undertaken.

In fact, because women with some formal education are more likely to seek medical care and be better informed about health care practices for themselves and their children, their offspring have higher survival rates and are better nourished. Not only that, but as indicated earlier, these women are less likely to undergo early pregnancy. Being better informed increases the chances of women knowing how to space their pregnancies better, how to access pre and post-natal care, including prevention of HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases and family planning in general. The World Bank estimates that an additional year of schooling for 1,000 women helps prevent two maternal deaths.

The World Bank, along with UNICEF and the United Nations Population Fund highlight in several of their reports the intergenerational benefits of women’s education. An educated mother is more likely, it is maintained, to attempt to ensure educational opportunities for her children. Indeed, the World Bank specifically notes that “ in many countries each additional year of formal education completed by a mother translates into her children remaining in school for an additional one- third to one-half year”. 6

In short, girls’ education and the promotion of gender equality in education are critical to development, thus underlining the need to broadly address gender disparities in education.

The rhetorical question that needs to be raised here is whether the consistent elements of gender socialization in the region, and the confusing messages for both sexes, can only lead to entrenching processes of gender inequality. At the very least, it is safe to argue that gender socialization, combined with the continuing discrepancies in education opportunities and outcomes not only provide a negative feedback loop, but effectively contribute to entrenching patriarchal norms.

Political events and the endorsement of political leadership are often catalytic, if not necessary determinants, of policy change. In fact, most education reform programmes are often linked to political dynamics. To date, such reforms are typically launched through a political or legal act. In most cases, countries prioritize aspects such as forging a common heritage and understanding of citizenship, instruction in particular language(s), and other means of building capacities as well as popular support for party programmes. All developing country governments have, at one time or another, put special effort into including girls in the education system. While there is a continuous role for policy makers and governments, it is increasingly clear that the socio-cultural terrain is where the real battles need to be waged in a studied, deliberate and targeted fashion.

Influencing the way people think, believe and behave; i.e., culture is the single most complicated task of human development. And yet, in policy and advocacy circles globally, this particular challenge still remains largely considered as ‘soft’ and, at best, secondary in most considerations. What is maintained here is that within the current global geopolitical climate, particularly where an increasing number of young men—and now also young women—are reverting to extremes such as inflicting violence, and where this is often exacerbated by socialization processes which often enforce certain harmful practices (e.g., early marriage) and outdated forms of gender identity and roles, then culture needs to be a high priority.

Needed cultural shifts require several key conditions. One of these is the importance of bridging the activism around gender equality and doing so by involving both men and women. While this still remains anathema to many women’s rights activists, it is nevertheless necessary that men become more engaged in gender equality work, and that women realize that their rights are incumbent on the systematic partnership with men and on appreciating the specific needs and challenges that young boys and men themselves are struggling with.

Another critical determinant of cultural change is that it has to be from within. Those who have worked with human rights issues more broadly have had to learn the hard way that any change that appears to be induced ‘from outside’, even if responding to a dire need and with perfectly sound reason, is destined for failure in many cases. Sustainable change has to be owned and operated locally. This points to the importance of identifying the ‘cultural agents of change’ in any given society, which include both its men and women activists, religious leaders, traditional and community leaders (in some cases these categories converge), media figures, charismatic community mobilizers, and especially youth themselves, who are the most critical agents of change.

At the same time, it is a fallacy to think that there can be no linkages whatsoever between local ownership and external dynamics. International, especially multilateral, development partners have an important role to play in facilitating the bridge building between and among the cultural agents of change themselves on the one hand, and between them and their respective policymakers on the other. But in this day and age of technology and increasing speed of technology, international development actors, as well as transnational academic actors, are already facilitating the building of bridges between youth. Some of this is already happening through a plethora of fora (including social websites), and the impact remains difficult to gauge.

All this points to the fact that education in the traditional sense of school enrolment, drop-out rates, curricula development, and structural dynamics thereof are in multiple stages of transition. It remains to be seen how, and in what way, new forms of education, knowledge acquisition, and information sharing will significantly change patterns of gender socialization itself. It is too soon to definitely assess the shifting sands we are standing on. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to either overestimate the power of entrenched patriarchy, or to underestimate the capacity of women and men to significantly refashion their realities. At the same time, the changes in the culture of international development goal setting are already producing critical insights and inputs which are shaping the agenda of global, regional and national dynamics for upcoming decades.

The opinions expressed in this article belong to the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of any institution, Board or staff member.

1 UNICEF and UNESCO: The World We Want— Making Education a Priority in the Post-2015 Development Agenda: Report of the Global Thematic Consultation on Education in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, 2013 . Available at Making_education_a_Priority_in_the_Post-2015_Development_ Agenda.pdf.

3 “Making education a Priority in the Post-2015 Development Agenda: report of the Global Thematic Consultation on education in the Post-2015 Development Agenda”.

4 All the figures and data herein presented from UNESCO. 2011b. EFA Global Monitoring Report 2011. The Hidden Crisis: Armed Conflict and Education, Paris and UNESCO . World Atlas of Gender equality in education. Paris, 2012.


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Diamond, Larry (ed.). Political Culture and Democracy in Developing Countries (Boulder and London, Lynne Rienner, 1994). Huntington, Samuel. ‘The Clash of Civilizations?’, Foreign Affairs , vol.72, No.3, Summer 1993, pp. 19 -23.

Johnson, Chalmers. Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (New York , Henry Holt and Company, 2000).

Karam, Azza. Transnational Political Islam: Religion, Ideology and Power (London, Pluto Press, 2004).

Leftwich, Adrian (ed.). Democracy and Development: Theory and Practice (London, Polity Press, 1996).

Macrae, Joanna. Aiding Recovery? The Crisis of AID in Chronic Political Emergencies (London and New York, Zed Books in Association with ODI, 2001).

Pilch, John J. “Beat His ribs While He is young” (Sir 30:12): A Window on the Mediterranean World”, Biblical Theology Bulletin: A Journal of Bible and Theology, vol. 23, 3 (1993) pp 101-113.

Tynedale, Wendy. (ed.). Visions of Development: Faith-based Initiatives (UK: Ashgate, 2006).

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Arab Human Development Report (New York, 2002, 2004, and 2005).

UNESCO, “Key Messages and Data on Girls’ and Women’s education and literacy” (Paris, April 2012).

UNICEF and UNESCO, The World We Want—Making Education a Priority in the Post-2015 Development Agenda: Report of the Global Thematic Consultation on Education in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, 2013 . Available at . United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) State of World Population Report: Reaching Common Ground—Culture, Gender and Human Rights (2008).

Williams, Brett (ed.). The Politics of Culture (Washington D.C., The Smithsonian Institution, 1991).

World Bank MENA report: The Road Not Travelled: Education Reform in the Middle East and North Africa , (Washington D.C. The World Bank, 2008).

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This was the struggle for female education in the U.S.

Bengaluru, India girl chalkboard school education

Debate about “coeducation”—and the word itself—emerged only in the 1850s. Image:  Unsplash/Nikhita S

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  • Between 1790 and 1870, girls in the US went from being illiterate to outperforming their male counterparts in schools
  • From false accusations that learning algebra would harm their reproductive capabilities to gendered classes, this is the tale of women in education

With so many young women succeeding academically, education is becoming feminized, and boys are left out. Or at least, that’s the familiar complaint today, perhaps best known from Hanna Rosin’s 2010 article for The Atlantic , “ The End of Men .” The thing is, this phenomenon goes back at least 150 years , as the education historian David Tyack and political scientist Elisabeth Hansot explain in the journal Educational Researcher .

Tyack and Hansot write that there was a huge influx of girls into public elementary schools in the first half of the nineteenth century. In 1790, US men were about twice as likely as US women to be literate. But by 1870, girls were surpassing boys in public schools. At the time, the change wasn’t the subject of much national debate. Rather, local school boards and parents quietly began including girls in common schools that had previously served only boys—a process that the education reformer Horace Mann called “smuggling in the girls.”

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Debate about “coeducation”—and the word itself—emerged only in the 1850s. Tyack and Hansot write that this was directly related to increased mixing of children of different classes and ethnic groups in urban schools. One report of that era suggested that gender-segregated schools might be useful in shielding girls (presumably middle-class, native born white ones) from the “rude assaults” of boys from inferior social classes. These complaints had little effect. However, coeducation soon stirred up different public fears. Girls began to greatly outnumber boys in high schools, and women came to “monopolize” teaching jobs, especially in cities.

American students with a Bachelor’s Degree

This led to rising worries about women usurping men’s roles. Girls’ success in school made it hard for traditionalists to keep making their old arguments that women were intellectually incapable. Instead, they began relying on new claims that education would harm their health and reproductive capacities. For example, the physiologist Edward H. Clarke made a much-publicized argument against admitting women to Harvard based on the idea that the energy required to learn subjects like algebra would flow from other bodily systems, harming their ovaries.

Meanwhile, Tyack and Hansot write, the popular press began to warn of a “boy problem.” Pointing out that boys were more often held back a grade, and less likely to finish elementary school or continue through high school, critics claimed that the female-dominated education system was ill-suited to masculine energy. A Columbia professor wrote that it was “little short of monstrous that boys during [adolescence] receive almost all their intellectual and moral impulses from women.”

School administrators sought ways to address these complaints. But they generally saw implementing gender segregation as impractical and undesirable. Hiring more male teachers was appealing, but few men were willing to work for the low pay schools offered. Ultimately, the solution many schools settled on, in the early twentieth century, was the creation of new, gendered classes. Boys got vocational classes, while girls got home economics and secretarial courses. Separate physical education classes stressed concerns about women’s health and biology, while encouraging boys to engage in vigorous physical activity.

As we can see today, these changes failed to permanently address worries about the relative success of girls at school.

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Press release: The world is failing girls and women, according to new UN report

New figures point to the need of an additional usd 360 billion in investment per year to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment by 2030..

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New York — Despite global efforts, the world is falling short of achieving gender equality. This year's edition of the UN Women and UN DESA “Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals: The gender snapshot 2023” , launched today, paints a worrisome picture halfway through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development .

“The gender snapshot 2023” warns that, if current trends continue, more than 340 million women and girls—an estimated 8 per cent of the world’s female population—will live in extreme poverty by 2030, and close to one in four will experience moderate or severe food insecurity. The gender gap in power and leadership positions remains entrenched, and, at the current rate of progress, the next generation of women will still spend on average 2.3 more hours per day on unpaid care and domestic work than men.

The annual publication provides a comprehensive analysis of the current state of gender equality across all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and highlights prevailing trends, gaps, and recent setbacks on the journey towards achieving gender equality by 2030.

This year’s report includes sex-disaggregated data on the intersections of gender and climate change for the first time, and projects that by mid-century, under a worst-case climate scenario, climate change may push up to 158.3 million more women and girls into poverty (16 million more than the total number of men and boys).

Ms. Sarah Hendriks, UN Women Deputy Executive Director, ad interim, said: “In this critical midpoint moment for the SDGs, this year’s report is a resounding call to action. We must collectively and intentionally act now to course-correct for a world where every woman and girl has equal rights, opportunities, and representation. To achieve this, we need unwavering commitment, innovative solutions, and collaboration across all sectors and stakeholders.”

With a special focus this year on older women, the report finds that older women face higher rates of poverty and violence than older men. In 28 of the 116 countries with data, fewer than half of older women have a pension; in 12 countries fewer than 10 per cent had access to a pension. Halfway to 2030, progress on SDG 5—gender equality—is clearly way off track. The report shows that the world is failing women and girls with a mere two Goal 5 indicators being “close to target” and no SDG 5 indicator at the “target met or almost met” level.

“The gender snapshot 2023” underscores the urgent need for concrete efforts to accelerate progress towards gender equality by 2030, revealing that an additional USD 360 billion per year is needed to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment across key global goals. The report also includes calls for an integrated and holistic approach, greater collaboration among stakeholders, sustained funding, and policy actions to address gender disparities and empower women and girls worldwide, concluding that failure to prioritize gender equality now could jeopardize the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“Gender equality is not just a goal within the 2030 Agenda,” said Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs of UN DESA. “It is the very foundation of a fair society, and a goal upon which all other goals must stand. By breaking down the barriers that have hindered the full participation of women and girls in every aspect of society, we unleash the untapped potential that can drive progress and prosperity for all.”

Further facts and figures highlighted in the report include:

  • Under a worst-case climate scenario, food insecurity is projected to affect as many as 236 million more women and girls, compared to 131 million more men and boys, due to climate change.
  • No country is within reach of eradicating intimate partner violence, and only 27 countries have comprehensive systems to track and make budgetary allocations for gender equality and women’s empowerment.
  • The number of women and girls in conflict-affected contexts has risen significantly, with catastrophic consequences. In 2022, the number of women and girls living in such contexts reached 614 million, 50 per cent higher than the number in 2017.
  • Globally, at current rates of progress, an estimated 110 million girls and young women will be out of school in 2030.
  • The labour and earnings gap remains persistently high. For each dollar men earn in labour income globally, women earn only 51 cents. Only 61.4 per cent of prime working age women are in the labour force, compared to 90 per cent of prime working age men.

Access the report .

  • Global gender equality in 2023: Urgent efforts needed to reach 2030 goals
  • The 11 biggest hurdles for women’s equality by 2030
  • 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
  • Climate change
  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Financing for gender equality

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The World Bank

Girls' Education

Every day, girls face barriers to education caused by poverty, cultural norms and practices, poor infrastructure, violence and fragility. Girls’ education is a strategic development priority for the World Bank.

Ensuring that all girls and young women receive a quality education is their human right, a global development priority, and a strategic priority for the World Bank. 

Achieving gender equality is central to the World Bank Group twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. As the largest financing development partner in education globally, the World Bank ensures that all of its education projects are gender-sensitive, and works to overcome barriers that are preventing girls and boys from equally benefiting from countries’ investments in education.

Girls’ education goes beyond getting girls into school. It is also about ensuring that girls learn and feel safe while in school; have the opportunity to complete all levels of education, acquiring the knowledge and skills to compete in the labor market; gain socio-emotional and life skills necessary to navigate and adapt to a changing world; make decisions about their own lives; and contribute to their communities and the world.

Both individuals and countries benefit from girls’ education. Better educated women tend to be more informed about nutrition and healthcare, have fewer children, marry at a later age, and their children are usually healthier, should they choose to become mothers. They are more likely to participate in the formal labor market and earn higher incomes. A recent World Bank  study  estimates that the “limited educational opportunities for girls, and barriers to completing 12 years of education, cost countries between US$15 trillion1 and $30 trillion in lost lifetime productivity and earnings.” All these factors combined can help lift households, communities, and countries out of poverty.

The Challenge

According to  UNICEF   estimates, around the world, 129 million girls are out of school, including 32  million of primary school age, and 97 million of secondary school age. 

Globally, primary, and secondary school enrollment rates are getting closer to equal for girls and boys (90% male, 89% female). But while enrollment rates are similar – in fact, two-thirds of all countries have reached  gender parity in primary school enrollment  – completion rates for girls are lower in low-income countries where 63% of female primary school students complete primary school, compared to 67% of male primary school students.  In low-income countries, secondary school completion rates for girls also continue to lag, with only 36% of girls completing lower secondary school compared to 44% of boys. Upper secondary completion rates have similar disparities in lower income countries, the rate is 26% for young men and  21% for young women.

The gaps are starker in countries affected by fragility, conflict, and violence (FCV). In FCV countries,  girls are 2.5 times  more likely to be out of school than boys, and at the secondary level, are 90% more likely to be out of secondary school than those in non-FCV contexts.  

Both girls and boys are facing a learning crisis. Learning Poverty (LP) measures the share of children who are not able to read proficiently at age 10. While girls are on average 4 percentage points less learning-poor than boys, the rates remain very high for both groups. The average of Learning Poverty in in low- and middle- income countries is 55% for females, and 59% for males. The gap is narrower in low-income countries, where Learning Poverty averages about 93% for both boys and girls.

In many countries, enrollment in tertiary education slightly favors young women, however, better learning outcomes are not translating into better work and life outcomes for women. There is a large gender gap in labor force participation rates globally. It is especially stark in regions such as South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, which have some of the  lowest female labor force participation rates  at 24% and 20% per region, respectively. These are appallingly low rates, considering what is observed in other regions like Latin America (53%) or East Asia (59%), which are still below rates for men. 

Gender bias  within schools and classrooms may also reinforce messages that affect girls’ ambitions, their own perceptions of their roles in society, and produce labor market engagement disparities and occupational segregation. When gender stereotypes are communicated through the design of school and classroom learning environments or through the behavior of faculty, staff, and peers in a child’s school, it goes on to have sustained impact on academic performance and choice of field of study, especially negatively affecting young women pursuing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

Poverty  is one of the most important factors for determining whether a girl can access and complete her education. Studies consistently reinforce that girls who face multiple disadvantages — such as low family income, living in remote or underserved locations or who have a disability or belong to a minority ethno-linguistic group — are farthest behind in terms of access to and completion of education.

Violence  also prevents girls from accessing and completing education – often girls are forced to walk long distances to school placing them at an increased risk of violence and many experience violence while at school. Most  recent data  estimates that approximately 60 million girls are sexually assaulted on their way to or at school every year. This often has serious consequences for their mental and physical health and overall well-being while also leading to lower attendance and higher dropout rates. An estimated  246 million children experience violence in and around school every year , ending school-related gender-based violence is critical. Adolescent pregnancies can be a result of sexual violence or sexual exploitation. Girls who become pregnant often face strong stigma, and even discrimination, from their communities. The burden of stigma, compounded by unequal gender norms, can lead girls to drop out of school early and not return. 

Child marriage  is also a critical challenge. Girls who marry young are much more likely to drop out of school, complete fewer years of education than their peers who marry later. They are also more likely to have children at a young age and are exposed to higher levels of violence perpetrated by their partner.  In turn, this affects the education and health of their children, as well as their ability to earn a living. Indeed, girls with secondary schooling are up to six times more likely to marry as those children with little or no education.  According to a recent report , more than 41,000 girls under the age of 18 marry every day. Putting an end to this practice would increase women’s expected educational attainment, and with it, their potential earnings. According to the report’s estimates, ending child marriage could generate more than US$500 billion in benefits annually each year.

COVID-19  is having a negative impact on girls’ health and well-being – and many are at risk of not returning to school once they reopen. Available  research  shows that prevalence of violence against girls and women has increased during the pandemic – jeopardizing their health, safety and overall well-being. As school closures and quarantines were enforced during the 2014‐2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, women and girls experienced more sexual violence, coercion and exploitation. School closures during the Ebola outbreak were associated with an increase in teenage  pregnancies . Once schools re-opened, many “visibly pregnant girls” were banned from going back to school. With schools closing throughout the developing world, where stigma around teenage pregnancies prevails, we will probably see an increase in drop-out rates as teenage girls become pregnant or married. As girls stay at home because of school closures, their household work burdens might increase, resulting in girls spending more time helping out at home instead of studying. This might encourage parents, particularly those putting a lower value on girls' education, to keep their daughters at home even after schools reopen. Moreover,  research  shows that girls risk dropping out of school when caregivers are missing from the household because they typically have to (partly) replace the work done by the missing caregiver, who might be away due to COVID-19-related work, illness, or death. Therefore, with the current COVID-19 pandemic, we might see more girls than boys helping at home, lagging behind with studying, and dropping out of school.

The World Bank is committed to seeing every girl prosper in her life. Our projects support the education of hundreds of millions of girls and young women across the world. Working through interventions in education, health, social protection, water, infrastructure, and other sectors, we are making an even stronger commitment to support countries in ensuring that every girl receives the quality education she deserves.

Our 180 projects are impacting more than  150 million girls and young women worldwide . Hundreds of millions more have been impacted over the past few decades. 

We tackle key barriers that girls and young women face when trying to obtain an education. Guided by evidence on what works for girls’ education, our projects use multi-pronged approaches across areas including:

1. Removing barriers to schooling

  • Addressing financial barriers, through scholarships, stipends, grants, conditional cash transfers
  • Addressing long distances and lack of safety to and from school by building schools, providing transportation methods for girls to get to school
  • Addressing a lack of information about returns to girls’ education but running community awareness campaigns engaging parents, school leaders, and local community leaders
  • Working with the community to address and inform on social and cultural norms and perceptions that may prevent girls’ education

2. Promoting safe and inclusive schools 

  • By constructing and rehabilitating schools to create safe and inclusive learning environments, 
  • Efforts at the community- and school-levels, and programs to engage the school (including teachers, girls, and boys) in reducing gender-based violence (GBV) and ensuring available mechanisms to report GBV
  • Support for hygiene facilities and menstrual hygiene management for adolescent girls

3. Improving the quality of education 

  • Investing in teacher professional development, eliminating gender biases in curriculum and teaching practices, and focusing on foundational learning
  • Adapting teaching and learning materials, and books to introduce gender sensitive language, pictorial aspects, and messaging

4. Developing skills and empowering girls for life and labor market success 

  • Promoting girls’ empowerment, skills development programs and social programs
  • Prioritizing and promoting women in STEM subjects and careers in both traditional and non-traditional sectors
  • Reducing barriers and providing incentives through scholarships for women to enroll in higher education and TVET programs
  • Support for childcare programs for women and girls to join the labor market

For more information on our girls’ education investment and projects, please read  Count Me In: The World Bank Education Global Practice: Improving Education Outcomes for Girls and Women , which highlights our decades-long commitment to girls’ education, and showcases how Education GP projects are creating opportunities for girls around the world to succeed in their education and beyond.

The WBG supports girls’ education through a variety of interventions.  Our focus on girls’ education and wellbeing goes beyond school attendance and learning outcomes – we strive to ensure girls have safe, joyful, and inclusive experience with education systems that set them up for success in life and motivate them to become lifelong learners. This  approach , reflected in the current Education portfolio impacting at least 150 million girls and young women, prioritizes investments in four key areas listed below. 

1. Removing barriers to girls’ schooling

  • Our projects providing stipends to improve primary and secondary school completion for girls and young women in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and the Sahel benefit close to half a million girls. 
  • Our  Girls Empowerment and Learning for All Project in Angola  will use a variety of financial incentives to attract adolescent girls to schools, including scholarships, and new school spaces for girls. 
  • The AGILE (Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment) project in Nigeria is providing conditional cash transfers to households for sending girls to school, removing cost barriers to their education. 
  • The MIQRA (Mali Improving Education Quality and Results for All Project) has a school feeding and nutrition program targeted at retention and attendance for girls in schools.

2. Promoting safe and inclusive schools for girls

  • In Tanzania, the Bank is supporting the training of a counselor in every school who will provide life-skills training in girls’ and boys’ clubs – which is important because closing gender gaps is not only about interventions for girls but also for boys. 
  • In Nigeria, female counselors will provide life skills training to about 340,000 girls in safe spaces. Several of our other projects also support the construction of separate sanitary toilets for girls, as well as introducing GBV-reducing and reporting mechanisms in school systems. 

3. Improving the quality of education for girls (and boys)

  • In Ghana, the Accountability and Learning Outcomes Project is conducting teacher training for gender-sensitive instruction, and aims to create guides for teachers to support gender sensitivity in classrooms. 
  • In Honduras, the Early Childhood Education Improvement Project, will create a revised preschool curriculum that will include content on gender equity, inclusion, and violence prevention, as well as training for teachers, including training to combat GBV.
  • The Girls Empowerment and Quality Education for All Project in Sao Tome & Principe is creating girls’ clubs after school, where they are also provided with life skills training, and counseling.

4. Developing skills for life and labor market success for young women

  • The Nurturing Excellence in Higher Education Project in Nepal is focusing on increasing access to tertiary education for young women from low-income groups, and additional providing scholarships for the poorest applications, alongside communication and advocacy campaigns for more female enrollment in STEM subjects. 
  • The ASSET (Accelerating and Strengthening Skills for Economic Transformation) project in Bangladesh is working to increase the participation of women in skills training programs, and conducting awareness and communications campaigns to address dropout.
  • In Pakistan, the  Higher Education Development  project seeks to support women enrolled in STEM programs, with an aim to move them from 2-year to more comprehensive 4-year programs. 
  • The  Higher Education Project  in Moldova and the Higher Education Modernization Project in Belarus will both support and finance activities to increase enrollment of women in STEM fields. The Côte d'Ivoire  Higher Education Development Support Project  provides scholarships for women in higher education, and extra tutoring support for females pursuing STEM subjects.
  • Schemes to increase participation of girls in higher education. Through the Africa Centers of Excellence (ACE) project, the Bank has supported increased enrollment of females in masters and PhD programs. The number of female students in ACE centers was 343 in 2014 and is now 3,400 in 2020; a tenfold increase. The Bank is also building the pipeline of female students interested in computer science and engineering programs and retain them.  

The WBG works closely with governments and other development organizations on girls’ education issues to identify and advance interventions that improve girls’ education outcomes and provide resources to support countries implementing such initiatives. Partnerships both within and outside of the World Bank are critical to the Education GP’s work on girls’ education. The Education GP works with other global practices in the Bank to improve girls’ education—for example, collaborating with the Water GP for access to sanitation and hygiene in schools, with Social Protection and Jobs GP for challenges related to labor market transition, or Energy GP to improve school safety. 

The World Bank collaborates actively with many donors and organizations. As a signatory to the G7 Charlevoix Commitment, the Bank has already committed an estimated $2.5 billion to girls’ education in FCV countries as of September 2021—exceeding its pledge of $2.0 billion from 2018 to 2023. 

The Education GP: 

  • is collaborating with the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office FCDO (UK) about targets and high-level engagement with G7 donors, to support aid and financial commitment for girls’ education; 
  • is a member of the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) Girls’ EiE Reference Group, which seeks to further research and advocacy for girls’ education in emergencies; 
  • a member of the UNESCO Gender Flagship Reference Group and has provided technical contributions to the UNESCO-commissioned study (December 2020-July 2021); and 
  • is working closely with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) as the implementing agency for 54 percent of the total GPE grants of $3.62 billion, that support girls’ education.
  • is a member of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), which comprises over 20 partners representing multilateral, bilateral, civil society, and non-governmental organizations.
  • collaborated with the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) to produce Economic Impacts of Child Marriage , a recent report detailing the effects of child marriage, which was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation , the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation , and GPE.


Girls’ education in conflict is most at risk: Here’s how to reach them

Why girls’ education should remain a priority

Closing the gap: Tackling the remaining disparities in girls’ education and women’s labor market participation

Empowering adolescent girls in Africa through education

The World Bank


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Boys left behind: Education gender gaps across the US

Subscribe to the center for economic security and opportunity newsletter, richard v. reeves and richard v. reeves president - american institute for boys and men @richardvreeves ember smith ember smith former research analyst - center on children and families @ember_smith.

October 12, 2022

There are wide gender gaps in education in the U.S. and across the economically advanced nations, as I describe in my new book   Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do about It   (Brookings Institution Press, 2022).

But how does the gender gap in educational outcomes vary across the U.S.? That’s the question addressed in this note and accompanying interactives.   

In every U.S.  state, young women are more likely than their male counterparts to have a bachelor’s degree . The education gender gap emerges well before college , however : girls are more likely to graduate high school on time and perform substantially better on standardized reading tests than boys ( and about as well in math ) . In this piece, we dive into how these gaps differ — or stay the same — across the U.S.

Girls getting degrees

In 1970, j ust 12 percent of young women (ages 25 to 34) had a bachelor’s degree , compared to 20 percent of men — a gap of eight  percentage points . By 2020, that number had risen to 41 percent for women but only to 32 percent for men — a nine percentage – point ga p ,  now going the other way . That means there are currently 1.6 million more young women with a bachelor’s degree than men. To put it into perspective, that’s just less than the population of West Virginia .

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The U.S. made great strides in improving overall educational attainment in the last fifty years, but progress has been uneven across   states and by gender . W e show here the share of those ages 25 to 34 with a bachelor’s degree or higher by state using the American Community Survey . Figure 1 shows the share of young adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher in every U.S. state, by sex. (See the same figure for the largest 25 metro areas here ).  

FIGURE 1Young women more likely to have a college degreeShare ages 25-34 with a bachelor's degree or higher, by state

Both the gender gap and total educational attainment vary across the states. Young adults in Mississippi, for instance, are less likely to have a bachelor’s than young adults in any other state. The share of Mississippi young men with a bachelor’s degree in 2020 was just 18 percent — two points lower than the U.S. male share in 1970. By contrast, about half of men (49 percent) had a bachelor’s degree in Massachusetts, which is higher than the share of women with a bachelor’s degree in all but three states.   

Although there are many more college grads in Massachusetts than in Mississippi, in both states young women are about ten percentage points more likely to have a bachelor’s than their male peers (the length of the gray bars). To account for the wide variation in overall attainment rates, we also show the ratio of women to men with a bachelor’s degree (just hover over a state to see this number). For example, Mississippi’s young women are 52 percent more likely than men to have a bachelor’s, and Massachusetts’ young women are 19 percent more likely.   

North Dakota has the largest percentage point gender gap (14 points), while Alaska has the largest ratio gender gap (61 percent). Utah has the smallest gender gap by both measures, with women just four points (14 percent) more likely to have a bachelor’s than men. 

High school graduation  

Just as young women are more likely than young men to have a bachelor’s degree, girls are more likely than boys to graduate high school across the country.  

As we described last year , states are not required to report the preferred on-time high school graduation measurement by sex to the federal government, even though they are required to report this information for many subgroups, including each “major racial and ethnic group,” economically disadvantaged students, homeless students, and English learners. But because they are already collecting the information necessary to calculate the rate, many state Departments of Education independently publish their high school graduation rates by sex.  

The 33 states with available graduation data in 2021 account for over two thirds of the total national cohort. We use these states to gauge the national trend: we estimate [1] that 88.4 percent of girls graduated on time in 2021 compared to 81.9 percent of boys – a gap of 6.5 points. Figure 2 shows the share of high school freshmen who graduated from high school on time in 2021 by gender in the 33 states with available data.

FIGURE 2Girls more likely to graduate high school on time, 2021Share of freshmen graduating in four years, by state

Again, there are big differences between states both in the overall level of high school graduation and in the size of the gender gap.  On-time graduation rates range from a low of 72 percent for Arizona boys to 93 percent among West Virginia girls. Girls are between three percent (Vermont) and 12 percent (New Mexico) more likely than boys to graduate on time.   

Boys and girls in grade school  

But even before high school, boys are falling behind. We use state-level Math and Reading Language Arts testing data from the Educational Opportunity Project at Stanford University to show the gender gaps in each subject across grades four and eight.   

Figure 3 shows the U.S. gender gap in English and Math achievement test scores in grade-level equivalents. (See the gender gap for the top 25 metro areas [2] here .) Girls outperform boys in reading by more than 40 percent of a grade level in every state. In ten states (the ones in dark blue on the map), girls are more than a full grade level ahead of boys. In math, by contrast, boys have a slight advantage in some states, though the gender gap in either direction is less than a quarter of a grade level in most states.

figure 3

Table 1 show s states ranked by the size of their overall test score gender gap , regardless of if the gap favors boys or girls, in both English and Math and their rankings separately for each subject.   

Understanding the dynamics of the gender gaps in education , especially for less – advantaged boys and men, is essential to informing policy solutions, including those in the book and in our related work. The variation in disparities between different cities and states may well offer useful lessons here. The new Boys and Men Project a t Brookings will be digging deeper in to these questions in the coming months , so stay tuned. (Also, consider subscribing to my Of Boys and Men newsletter to keep up to date).

The Brookings Institution is financed through the support of a diverse array of foundations, corporations, governments, individuals, as well as an endowment. A list of donors can be found in our annual reports published online  here . The findings, interpretations, and conclusions in this report are solely those of its author(s) and are not influenced by any donation.

[1] Along with our colleague, Simran Kalkat.

[2] Some large metropolitan areas (Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Areas (CMSAS)) are divided into Metropolitan Area Divisions. These divisions (e.g., Warren), which are also large, are treated as separate metropolitan areas for analysis purposes. See Fahle, E. M., Chavez, B., Kalogrides, D., Shear, B. R., Reardon, S. F., & Ho, A. D. (2021). Stanford Education Data Archive: Technical Documentation (Version 4.1).

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Women in Islam: Mohammed calls for action on education, empowerment and peace

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed addresses the International Conference on Women in Islam in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

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Even though women have made extraordinary contributions to Islamic civilization, in many countries they are still being left behind, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said during a speech in Saudi Arabia on Monday .

Addressing an international conference in Jeddah on the rights and the role of women in Islam, she called for action in the areas of education, economic empowerment and peace. 

End Israel-Gaza conflict 

With “the human catastrophe unfolding in Israel and Gaza”, she reiterated the Secretary-General’s condemnation of the killing of civilians, and the taking of hostages, as well as his call for their unconditional release, a humanitarian ceasefire and unimpeded access to people in need. 

“We, in this region and the world, must all do everything in our power to end this horrific violence, pain, and suffering and return to the table of peace, only perhaps this time with women,” she said.  “Our Muslim faith demands of us that we care for our neighbours in times of need.”  

World failing women 

Ms. Mohammed said she was honoured to be part of the discussion “on how we can return to Islam’s original and beautiful vision of measuring a person not by their gender but by the strength of their beliefs and the virtue of their acts.”  

She recalled that from the start, Islam recognized women’s right to participate in political decision-making, to inherit, and to own property and businesses, “yet many centuries later, in many countries and in many areas of life, women have been left behind.”  

She said it was “a sad fact throughout history” that women and girls often suffer first, and worst, but everyone pays the price as societies are less peaceful, economies less prosperous and the world less just. 

“Today, women are being failed the world over. Our mothers, wives, daughters,” she said.  

“Old forms of discrimination, violence and abuse against girls are worsening all over, while new forms of gender bias and inequality are often built into the algorithms of the new era of the digital world. “   

‘Right the wrongs’ 

Ms. Mohammed called for acting in solidarity on three fronts “to right the wrongs.” She said more must be done to secure the right to education for all people, especially women and girls, “because the Holy Quran demands it of us”. 

However, she stressed that education “must be defined by an inclusive, progressive, process that respects societal, religious and cultural norms that do no harm but give agency and dignity to all persons.”  

Afghan girls arrive in Rwanda to continue their education.

Urgent situation in Afghanistan 

Islam clearly calls for ending all discriminatory laws and practices that hinder access to education, she added, noting that 130 million girls worldwide are out of school, highlighting the particular situation in Afghanistan. 

“Afghan women need to play their full part in building the future of their country, and their country needs its women and girls to flourish.  The Taliban’s harsh restrictions and denial of divinely granted rights must be addressed as a matter of urgency,” she said.

Economic empowerment and justice 

Turning to the second front, Ms. Mohammed said advancing economic opportunities and rights of women and girls is not just a question of fairness or equality, but a matter of justice, progress, and prosperity for the whole of society.

When millions of women and girls are prevented from contributing to their communities and to the economy, “we see women’s rights trampled, as is the case in Afghanistan today,” she said, adding that “we all lose.” 

But Ms. Mohammed also pointed to signs of hope across the Islamic world, where countries are demonstrating the compatibility of Islamic principles and the empowerment of women. 

Honouring tradition, embracing change 

Citing countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, and Senegal, she said “Muslim women scholars, women doctors, women entrepreneurs and political leaders are charting a path forward, rooted in tradition but embracing progress and change.”   

She underlined the need to advance women’s leadership, particularly in resolving conflict, mediation and sustaining peace. 

Women, peace and security 

 “We know peace processes, including mediation from the home to the battlefield, that involve women, lead to more sustainable peace outcomes,” she said. “Here too, this is not a matter of doing women a favour – it is about securing the very conditions for inclusive, peaceful and prosperous communities.”

Ms. Mohammed said contrary to the stereotype of Muslim societies as static and unchanging, history shows relentless change and dynamic transformation.   

Amplify women’s voices   

For example, Muslim jurists have been open to finding interpretations of Islamic Law consistent with changing circumstances and evolving values, while Muslim States have reformed their laws to allow for greater economic and political participation of women.  

She said this process must be intensified and encouraged.   

“I urge all of you to listen to and amplify the voices of our women in our societies, especially our sisters in Afghanistan,” she said. “Together, let us correct the false impression and ignorance that denying girls and women education and opportunities is consistent with our Islamic faith.” 

  • empowering women and girls

A young woman in jeans and a backpack leans against a blue and pink painted wall. She looks out of a large window.

Andrew Tate’s extreme views about women are infiltrating Australian schools. We need a zero-tolerance response

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Lecturer in Education, Monash University

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Professor of Education and Social Justice, Monash University

Disclosure statement

Steven Roberts currently receives funding from the Australian Research Council and the Australian government that does not pertain to the content of this article. He is a board director at Respect Victoria. This article is written independently from this role.

Stephanie Wescott does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Monash University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation AU.

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Earlier this week, two students were expelled from a Melbourne private school for their involvement in creating a spreadsheet that ranked girls using sexist and violent categories (from “wifeys” and “cuties” to “unrapeable”).

There has been a necessary focus on the school and its response and significant community outrage about the actions of the young men involved. But this incident is not an isolated one.

Our ongoing research has found sexism, sexual harassment and misogyny are rife in Australian schools.

This is influenced by the rise in popularity and ubiquity of figures from the “ manosphere ” (an overlapping collection of extreme men’s communities that are anti-women and against women’s empowerment) on social media. This includes Andrew Tate, the “ misogynist influencer ” who is facing trial in Romania on charges of human trafficking and rape ( which he denies ).

At the same time, Australia is confronting shockingly high rates of violence against women. Last week, the federal government announced a range of measures to respond to the crisis and quell the public’s understandable anger.

Although the package contains measures aimed at preventing young people being exposed to misogynistic content online, it largely overlooks the crucial role of education in tackling sexist attitudes that enable and drive the current high rates of violence. To make real change, schools must be included.

Our research on schools and Andrew Tate

Our research explores the influence of anti-women and anti-feminist online figures such as Tate on boys’ behaviour and attitudes towards women in Australian schools.

In mid-2023, we interviewed 30 women teachers working in schools across the country. The women described a sharp increases in sexism, misogyny and sexual harassment in their classrooms.

Teachers also identified the explicit influence of Tate on their students’ attitudes and behaviours. This included setting images of Tate as their computer desktop backgrounds, provoking teachers with Tate’s ideas (for example, asking teachers whether they agree women shouldn’t be allowed to drive), and using his body language (such as a hand gesture he often displays when photographed).

One teacher spoke of the transformation of a student she had known for several years:

I taught [a] boy in Year 7 and he was a wholesome, creative [child]. This boy does dance competitions and is in a dance troop and is always polite to me […] and yet is [now] writing these disturbingly misogynistic messages, literally saying, ‘No, Andrew Tate is being vilified. He’s in the right.’ I’m like, who is that boy? That’s not the boy that I’ve seen for the last couple of years.

The response needs to be urgent

This is happening within a broader culture of backlash to gender justice gains achieved via feminist activism – including the #metoo movement. Teachers in our study said their students believe women have achieved unequal power over men.

Despite these worrying trends and teachers requesting help from school management, the women we spoke to reported schools were not responding in a meaningful or urgent way.

Our study findings have been echoed by an April 2024 survey of Adelaide school teachers, who described how misogynist language and physical intimidation are commonplace in their schools. They are also part of a much longer history of research showing an ongoing culture of sexism in Australian schools.

Students sit at desks in a classroom, a teacher stands at the front.

We need a national campaign…

If we are serious about changing the way our culture sees and treats women, we need to view schools as sites of primary prevention. This means they are places where we intervene to help stop the problem of gendered violence happening in the first place.

First, we need the federal government to lead a national campaign calling for a zero-tolerance approach to violence against women and girls in schools. It needs to specifically use the words “sexism”, “misogyny” and “violence against women”.

In our research teachers reported their schools will often stay away from using such language. Instead, “disrespect” or other ways of classifying this behaviour are used to explain what are obviously sexist incidents. This reluctance could be due to fears of controversy.

But this risks reducing the problem to simply being about individual behaviour and takes gender out of it. Naming and confronting sexism directly can be the first step in creating safer and more inclusive learning environments for women, girls and gender-diverse people in schools.

…and national guidelines

Second, we need national, consistent guidelines and advice for schools on how to respond to incidents of sexism, sexual harassment and misogyny.

At the moment, it is largely left up to schools to handle this and teachers are telling us they are falling short. With all the other pressures schools are under , clearly they need more support and guidance to respond to incidents adequately.

Other researchers have also suggested a national code of conduct for sexism and sexual harassment in schools with reporting guidelines.

This would ensure consistent approaches to incidents, give us a clearer picture of what is happening, and allow us to tell when things start to improve.

Two young women carry a folder and backpack.

We also need more education

Third, respectful relationships education should be mandatory across all Australian schools.

Although it is mentioned in the Australian Curriculum , it is up to states and territories to decide how it is delivered. Even though respectful relationships is mandatory in Victorian government schools, teachers in our study described its presence in their schools as diluted. They said they would like to see it expanded.

The messages and attitudes should also be implemented across the whole school , including in school policies, school leadership and teaching approaches. This means there is greater recognition of schools as safe workplaces, places for learning and parts of the community.

Australia is in the grips of a national crisis of violence against women. Schools, as microcosms of broader society, deserve much more meaningful, long-term interventions to contribute to a change that is urgently needed.

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Watch CBS News

70 years on, Topeka's first Black female superintendent seeks to further the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education

By Janet Shamlian

May 16, 2024 / 7:56 PM EDT / CBS News

Topeka, Kansas — Home-delivered birthday gifts and cake aren't generally part of a school curriculum, but Topeka Public Schools Superintendent Tiffany Anderson rarely sticks to a lesson plan when there's a child in need.

"If we don't do it, who will?" Anderson asks.

The district at the center of the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling , which outlawed racial segregation in schools, is now helmed by its first Black female superintendent. Friday marks the 70-year anniversary of that historic Supreme Court decision.

"I think, 70 years later, I live with the privilege to help their hopes and dreams come to life," Anderson said of those who fought to overturn the "separate but equal" policy in schools. "I'm standing on their shoulders. If it were not for the plaintiffs of the Brown case."

The district's high school graduation rates have skyrocketed from about 70% to 91% during Anderson's eight-year tenure. She also established morale boosting programs — like graduation ceremonies for students in a nearby state correctional facility.

She's also revolutionized post high school opportunities for her students. Through a partnership with a local health center, students can take classes and get certified in things like phlebotomy, and they are even guaranteed jobs after they graduate.

In a district where 46% of students qualify for subsidized lunch, Anderson put washers and dryers in schools and opened food and clothing pantries.

"It's not really hard to get people on board when they know that you care, and they know they can be part of something pretty incredible and transformational," Anderson told CBS News.

Anderson speculates that fear could be the reason these changes aren't taking place on a larger scale in the U.S.

"Fear can make you choose not to accept other people, fear can shut down systems in a way like nothing else can," Anderson said.

Now, the historic district is transforming once again, this time opening its doors to refugees and migrants.

"Just because somebody doesn't speak English doesn't mean they're less valuable to a community," said Pilar Mejía, director of cultural innovation for Topeka Public Schools.

Students from more than 40 countries have enrolled in the district.

"It would be tragic," Mejía said of where some of these families would be without their help. "They might end up in either not being able to come, or stay in situations in their countries that are dire."

Anderson says there is a throughline running from 1954 to today of families coming to the U.S. in search of what parents 70 years ago fought for.

"The connection is, they all are looking for a better and brighter future," Anderson said. "They're all hoping for something better for their lives. We're dealing with families who want more for their children."

  • Brown v. Board of Education


Janet Shamlian is a CBS News correspondent based in Houston, Texas. In a career that spans three decades, Shamlian has covered many of the biggest national and international stories of our time.

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Why educating women is more important than we realize

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The Times of India

The Stri or the Female Energy is the creatrix, mother of all gods, conqueror of all evil, dispenser of all boons in the Indian culture. She is considered the divine power of the universe from where all beings are born. This divine female energy is worshipped with intense adoration and devotion in India.

Yet, it is in India itself that we find the most intense contradiction towards the female shakti.

On one hand we surrender to the divine Durga to protect us and on the other hand we look down upon the feminine principle with condemnation, contempt, cause of all failures, source of lust and miseries.

An Indian woman suffers this wrath both in her mind and heart right from her birth. She struggles to understand her true role, position, and identity in human society. She lives in a dilemma, wondering whether to relate to the feminine deities being erected all around her or to an unborn female avatar which was never allowed to be born.

Since ancient times women have not been denied legal, social, and educational rights in India but certainly in practise they have been more preoccupied and confined to domestic affairs and that is where their social subordination began.

Despite such subjugation, women have survived important roles such as bold householders, strong mothers, queens, administrators, warriors, elected representatives and leaders. Therefore, despite oppression and denial, India has, time and again, truly experienced the shakti of this female creative force.

The way forward for India and humans in general is to treat the Female Shakti (The Feminine Powerhouse) with respect, deep regard, equal access to experiences, learning and opportunities. All sexes should be allowed to find, above all sexual differences, their full inner potential.

India, the land of diversity and contrast, India the ardent worshipper of the Shakti-The Durga can perhaps lead mankind into human success based in deep regard for the deep inner potential, intellectual prowess and ingenuity of women. Denying women their due place is denying mankind its due success.

Women Across the Globe

The battle for legal, civil, social, and educational equality is a central element of woman’s rights globally. However, a deeper understanding of the women’s needs has revealed that in daily life they struggle to voice their objections and opinions, struggle to agree or disagree, condemn, or promote, speak, share, discuss, and struggle to manage, participate and lead.

Therefore, it would not be incorrect to state that the battle is only half won if the women get access to education and opportunities but no access to exercise their will.

Women across the globe may be characterized by diversity in feminine energy and feminine approach to life, work, family, and society yet their basic emotional, psychological, physical, mental, intellectual, social, professional, and creative needs tie them together to a common cause. The common cause being-women across the globe want to be active participants and decision makers in their own lives and refuse the passivity that is expected of them.

A modern progressive woman prides herself with all her feminine virtues. She wishes to embrace her own self in entirety not to put men down but only to break out of an oppressed state so that she can realize her own untapped full potential.

Women today are capable of and want to accumulate the advantages of both the sexes, but she is not willing to pay an unfair price for achieving this. For instance, a young mother wants the right to work or not to work to lie within the realms of her decision-making powers.

She wishes to be able to make a choice between scenarios where in one she wishes to fully involve herself in her motherhood and suspend her professional aspirations without being made to feel undeserving or financially dependent. Or in another scenario where she wishes to strike a balance between her motherhood and professional duties and yet not labelled as irresponsible and selfish. Such a state of choice with dignity would be true liberation for a young mother.

Equal Education is a Steppingstone Towards Gender Equality, Quality Socialization and Economic Growth

Denying women access to equal and quality education opportunities encourages gender segregation and stereotypical behaviour in society. Perceptions towards gender roles are sowed by members of family and society very early on in the lives of men and women which adversely impacts the quality of the socialization process.

Creating gender neutral learning environments can serve as a steppingstone to quality socialization. This in turn can help in creating favourable position for women in creative, scientific, technological, professional endeavours and lessen their personal and social struggles.

Any society that denies and discourages women from boldly participating in the learning process is only encouraging biased patterns that are deeply rooted in promoting the influential masculine identity.

Quality education can help both men and women understand these deep-seated issues in our society, raise their collective and individual levels of awareness, understand the importance of all people, irrespective of sex, in building a healthy and conscious society. In order to ensure sustainable development, it has become imperative to recognize the importance of all the sexes.

When a girl is educated, she is empowered. She can make her own decisions, raise the standard of living for her family and children, create more job opportunities, and reform society as a whole. As a result, a shift in attitudes toward girl child education in India is urgently needed. Every girl child deserves to be treated with love and respect. If all girls complete their education and participate in the workforce, India could add a whopping $770 billion to the country’s GDP by 2025!

Some Important Statistics

As per statistics presented by UNICEF, 129 million girls are out of school around the world, including 32 million of primary school age, 30 million of lower-secondary school age, and 67 million of upper-secondary school age.

Borgen Project, a US based not for profit, study has revealed that every year, 23 million girls in India drop out of school after they begin menstruating due to lack of sanitary napkin dispensers and overall hygiene awareness in schools.

As per National Survey of India, Literacy Rate in India has increased from 73% in 2011 to 77.7% in 2022, however it still stands behind the global literacy rate which stands at 86.5% (as per UNESCO). Of the 77.7% Indian literacy rate in 2022, male literacy rate stands at 84.7% and female literacy rate stands at 70.3% as compared to global average female literacy rate of 79% (as per UNESCO).

There are several factors that influence poorer literacy rates in women as compared to men, the biggest and most crucial factors being inequality and sex-based discrimination. This discrimination pushes the girl child to either never be born (female infanticide) or the woman to be predominantly pushed into household affairs.

Low enrolment rates, high dropout rates, social discrimination, unsafe public spaces, prioritizing boy child education are some other important factors that negatively influence female education.

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Interdisciplinary Curriculum Boosts Women's Health and Gender-Affirming Care in Internal Medicine Residency

Discoveries & impact (may 2024), group posing in park.

A novel interdisciplinary curriculum has been successfully implemented in Internal Medicine residency programs to enhance education in women's health, gender-affirming care, and health disparities. Led by Janet Henrich, MD , and created by a collaborative team of faculty from various disciplines, including Internal Medicine; Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences; Surgery; and community experts, this curriculum comprises half-day modules on interrelated topics, emphasizing health equity and interactive learning.

Implemented since 2015 for about 175 residents annually, the curriculum's impact was evaluated through anonymous surveys. The 2022-2023 data showed that 90% of the 131 resident respondents felt adequately prepared to apply the skills learned. A consistent trend of increased comfort with the material was observed across previous years. The curriculum was particularly commended for its interactive teaching methods and direct learning experiences from community members and peers.

This innovative educational approach has proven effective in increasing resident learning and readiness. The team hopes this success can be replicated for other medical training programs, addressing vital issues in women's and gender-affirming care education, and fostering an equitable healthcare environment.

To learn more, read “ It Takes a Village: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Preparing Internal Medicine Residents to Care for Patients at the Intersection of Women's Health, Gender-Affirming Care, and Health Disparities” in the Journal of Women’s Health .

Henrich JB, Richman I, Rabin TL, Gielissen KA, Dhond M, Canarie JX, Hirschman AF, Windham MR, Maya S, McNamara C, Pathy S, Bernstein P, Smith R, Vasquez L. It Takes a Village: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Preparing Internal Medicine Residents to Care for Patients at the Intersection of Women's Health, Gender-Affirming Care, and Health Disparities. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2024 Feb;33(2):152-162. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2023.0217. Epub 2024 Jan 8. PMID: 38190490.

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Inequality doubles in gender pay gap for women, new survey shows.

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Facing inequality: the wage gap for women has doubled.

The gender pay gap - the difference between what men and women are paid for the same role - has doubled from 2.9% in 2022 to 6.0% in April 2024. According to data pulled from over 1 million resumes in the US, new research commissioned by Adzuna reveals that, on average, women continue to make a fraction of what men are paid for the same (or similar) roles. For some career paths, the disparity is even greater than the average 6% deficit.

Careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) have the widest gender pay gaps, according to the survey. In March 2023, the gender pay gap in science was 13.1% - meaning that women are paid 87% of the wages their male counterparts receive. In engineering, the gap is 9.5%, for women in the workforce. The legal sector has seen the pay gap increase significantly, where the gender pay gap is now 11%. That’s a significant reversal from 2022 and 2023, where women in the legal profession outearned men by 5%.

“Despite ongoing endeavors to enhance female participation and representation within STEM fields, the scales remain overwhelmingly tilted in favor of men, with women in science still earning a staggering 13% less than their male counterparts on average. Our data underscores a pressing need for better efforts to advance gender parity in the workplace," says James Neave , Head of Data Science at job search engine Adzuna.

Inequality for Women: Reversed in Some Sectors

The survey revealed the one sector where women out-earn their male counterparts. While women in IT earn 7% less than their male colleagues (note that this figure is actually an increase in earnings of about 5% vs. last year), accounting is the place where wages for women have actually exceeded what men are paid. In accounting, the survey says, women earn $1.04 for every dollar earned by men. Close behind is the field of banking and finance, where women are earning 99 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. In finance and accounting, the gender pay gap is more equitable - even favorable - for women.

Will Education Help with Inequality in Wages?

Does a college degree help to even the odds, when it comes to wage inequality? According to Pew Research, about 62% of US adults over the age of 25 don’t have a college degree. (Perhaps that’s why so many are interested in high-income skills you can learn without a degree). Indeed, education takes many forms in 2024 - and college isn’t the answer for everybody. But, for those enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs, the data shows that the future is female.

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Since February 2023, the labor force participation for prime-age women (those between the ages of 25 and 54) has exceeded its all-time high. In other words, women are entering the workforce in greater numbers, with a participation rate of 77.8%. Research from the Hamilton Project, a division of the Brookings Institute dedicated to opportunity, prosperity and growth (based on the initial work of Alexander Hamilton), shows that women have contributed most to the overall labor force since the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Pew Research shows that women are outpacing men in college graduation rates. For adults age 25-34, women surpass men as a percentage of the population with a bachelor’s degree: 46% of women versus 36% for men. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, women are more likely to graduate in four years and less likely to drop out: just over 51% of women who enrolled in college in 2014 finished in four years (versus 41% of men). Statista projects that there will be 36% more women than men enrolled in college in 2031. While universities are not the only source of education and experience, these statistics point to a potential shift in the workforce, as women have a greater propensity for enrolling (and completing) college programs.

According to, societal shifts are driving the desire for more education. And by extension, a desire for equal pay. “One significant factor is the changing societal and cultural norms that now encourage and support women in their educational endeavors. As gender roles evolve and traditional barriers are dismantled, women are more empowered to pursue their academic and professional aspirations,” the website shares.

While progress is shown in educational institutions, there’s still room for improvement - which is simply another way of saying, “equality” - when it comes to the wage gap for women. The key to the job search conversation is knowing your worth, and knowing what a position pays, so that you can ask for what you deserve (not just what you think you can get). While systemic change is needed, on a micro level every job interview is a negotiation - an opportunity to share your story and your value in a way that creates fairness, inclusion and equality. Does that sound like a wish for sunshine and peppermints, or a strategy that’s just good business? The answer depends on how you negotiate - and who is on the other side of the table.

While one person can’t change national statistics, change always happens one person (and one conversation) at a time. As the workplace conversation evolves, and the workforce continues to shift, equal pay for equal work won’t be a matter of negotiation. It will be a matter of necessity.

Chris Westfall

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Mississippi governor signs law restricting transgender people’s use of bathrooms and locker rooms

FILE - Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves is surrounded by legislative supporters after signing a bill to ban transgender athletes from competing on girls' or women's sports teams on March 11, 2021, at the state Capitol in Jackson, Miss. On Monday, April 29, 2024, Mississippi House and Senate negotiators quietly killed two bills that would have further restricted recognition of transgender people by limiting which bathrooms they could use in public buildings and by specifying that "there are only two sexes, and every individual is either male or female." (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

FILE - Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves is surrounded by legislative supporters after signing a bill to ban transgender athletes from competing on girls’ or women’s sports teams on March 11, 2021, at the state Capitol in Jackson, Miss. On Monday, April 29, 2024, Mississippi House and Senate negotiators quietly killed two bills that would have further restricted recognition of transgender people by limiting which bathrooms they could use in public buildings and by specifying that “there are only two sexes, and every individual is either male or female.” (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday that he has signed a new law regulating transgender people’s use of bathrooms , locker rooms and dormitories in public education buildings, making Mississippi at least the 12th state to restrict transgender students from using facilities that align with their gender identity.

Reeves criticized a federal regulation banning blanket policies that bar transgender students from school bathrooms aligning with their gender, among other provisions. Republican attorneys general from Mississippi and some other states are challenging the federal regulation.

“It’s mind blowing that this is what Joe Biden’s America has come to,” Reeves wrote on social media. “Having to pass common sense policies that protect women’s spaces was unimaginable a few years ago. But here we are ... we have to pass a law to protect women in bathrooms, sororities, locker rooms, dressing rooms, shower rooms, and more.”

The law requires all public education institutions in the state to equip their buildings with single-sex bathrooms, changing areas and dormitories, as well as at least one gender-neutral bathroom and changing room.

Residents of an apartment complex try to clear Old St. Augustine Road of trees and debris in Tallahassee, Fla., Friday, May 10, 2024. Powerful storms with damaging high winds threatened several states in the Southeast early Friday. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)

The new law, which took effect immediately, says people would only be allowed to enter spaces that correspond to their sex assigned at birth, regardless of their appearance or any procedures they’ve had to affirm their gender identity. Those who violate the policy could be sued, but schools, colleges and universities would be protected from liability.

It also declares that people are either male or female “as observed or clinically verified at birth, without regard to a person’s psychological, chosen, or subjective experience, feelings, actions, or sense of self.”

During legislative debate, Democrats said the new restrictions on bathrooms and other facilities would put transgender people at risk. They also criticized Republicans for spending time on the issue as other legislative priorities remained unfinished.

In 2021, Reeves signed legislation to ban transgender athletes from competing on girls’ or women’s sports teams. Last year, he signed a bill to ban gender-affirming hormones or surgery for anyone younger than 18.

The Mississippi proposals were among several bills being considered in state legislatures around the country as Republicans try to restrict transgender people’s access to gender-affirming care, bathrooms and sports, among other things.

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  4. Progress on girls' access to education: What the new UNESCO data

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  15. The gender gap

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  16. Girls' Education Overview

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  25. 70 years on, Topeka's first Black female superintendent ...

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  26. Why educating women is more important than we realize

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  28. Inequality Doubles In Gender Pay Gap For Women, New Survey Shows

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