A remark from the International Women’s Day leaders in Washington D.C. —on January 21, we marched, on March 8, we strike. I want to be in solidarity with my gender yet I struggle with this approach. I really don’t understand the purpose and the goals. Don’t get me wrong. In the sixties when Women’s Consciousness Raising Groups were flowering mostly in major cities and suburbs, I was right there. A young mother meeting with other women in homes, reading the emerging women’s literature, and discussing what we felt were important issues. And important issues they were.
A snapshot of this time—my husband’s Harvard Law School class of 1963 had over 500 students, only 16 of them women. We all knew this had to change and slowly it did.
Title IX of the Education Amendment Act of 1972, transformed women’s athletics and girls’ goals. The number of women in Congress began to expand. Schools, scouting, and parents began to push math and science curriculum for girls and provide leadership opportunities. Almost overnight for me, I began to see female pediatricians, attorneys, and principals. Positions reserved in my childhood for men.
Today three of the eight sitting U.S. Supreme Court justices are women. And to circle back, the Harvard Law School Class of 2019 is 51% female.
I know, I know, in the United State there is still an imbalance with gender representation and in some cases, respect. CEO’s of major corporations and their boards are predominantly male. Superintendents of our nation’s public school systems are over 75% male. Our new Congress is 80% male.
So I get the issues and some of the angst, yes, but striking makes no sense to me. Women in the United States and other countries have moved up the economic, political, and social ladder by education and grit. Being a former educator, I am especially bothered that the strike forced two Washington D.C. area school systems to close—the Alexandria City Public School System in VA and the Prince George County Public School system in MD. Both of these school systems serve low income students who desperately need a good education.
March 8, 2017—for some women in the D.C. area it meant celebrating International Women’s Day by going on strike. They will remember carrying signs, marching in parades, and listening to speeches. Or maybe, just staying home.
March 8, 2017— for thousands of children in the Alexandria and Prince George Public School Systems, it meant school being canceled. They will remember missing:
- A free or reduced fee school lunch
- As kindergarteners, their turn being the line leader for the day, directing their classmates in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance
- As struggling students, time with a resource teacher or volunteer tutor
- A scheduled library period to hear a story, learn a research technique or discover a book
- A previously planned slot to explain a science project
- A much need review of fractions and decimals before the test on Friday
- A lunch-time meeting with the student government leaders and the counselor to plan an anti-bullying program
- A civics class debating how a bill becomes a law
- A biology II class interviewing a noted scientist by Skype
- A visiting author, artist, nonprofit leader
- After school classes and programs such as chess, SAT prep sessions, scouts, rehearsals for musicals and concerts, athletics practices and scheduled competitions, which often keep students connected to schools and help prevent drop outs
Schools, especially large public systems are cumbersome entities. Schedules are not easy to re-configure and a day of instruction missed is almost impossible to recapture.
The solution for bridging the gender gap everywhere has always been education. If you educate girls to be the best they can be, the returns are enormous for each girl and society. And as she moves toward self-sufficiency, the positive effects continue if she bears children.
Women educators or caregivers who go on strike are self-serving even if they believe they have lofty goals. Children and families operate in the present and can’t help thinking, “What about me now, today?”
Gimmicky pink hats and red dresses divert us from the real issues—educational opportunities for all.