International Initiatives

Susan J. Smith (
February 18, 1998


In response to your initial question, the U.K. was included on my research list
for several reasons. First, we want to compile information that will allow us
to compare gender equity efforts in both developing and industrialized
countries. We also want to look at issues of class and ethnicity
internationally. We think the U.K. will yield much that will be of interest.
While there may have been progress in the U.K., from what we are finding in our
initial research, whether girls are doing better than boys there seems to be an
evolving discussion. An examination is underway to figure out what is happening
to which girls and which boys. For example, there is a concern that reform
efforts undertaken in the 1980s and early 1990s that took a color-blind approach
and used the principles and discipline of the market-place as a means of raising
standards for every child have, in fact, increased black-white inequality in the
English educational system. [See "Young black and failed by school: the
market, education reform and black students," David Gillborn, International
Journal of Inclusive Education, Vol. 1, No. 1, January-March 1997, pp. 65-87.]
Issues also arise about what is happening in the larger society--whether even
those girls who do well in school are rewarded in the labor force or are they
still affected by occupational segregation and lower wages than their male
counterparts. These issues are certainly ones that have resonance for the U.S.
with charter privatization efforts and talk about increasing standards so high
on the education agenda, and in the continuing gender segregation in the U.S.
labor force. Also in the emerging efforts to look at the interrelationships of
race, class, ethnicity, disability and language in gender equity efforts in this

I have some suggestions for you about where to find U.S. statistics about gender
equity in education. Please look at the "Report Card on Gender Equity" prepared
by the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education as part of the 25th
anniversary celebration of Title IX, as well as "Title IX: 25 Years of
Progress, A Report of the U.S. Department of Eduation." Both were released
June, 1997 and are available on the WEEA web site <>.
The Report Card gives the U.S. an overall grade of C in its progress so far in
achieving equity in nine key areas of education: access to higher education,
athletics, career education, employment (in schools), learning environment, math
and science, sexual harassment, standardized testing, and treatment of pregnant
and parenting teens. As you will see, girls and women have hardly taken over
the educational system or the high-paying jobs in the labor force. [The WEEA
site also has lots of other information about educational equity including our
current catalog and links to many wonderful organizations.]

I think your question about boys and boys' programs raises an important issue.
For some who over-estimate the progress of women and girls in the U.S. (and
elsewhere), there seems to be this underlying notion that gender equity
advocates are the enemy and not gender role stereotyping and gender bias. That
helping girls, must, by necessity, harm boys. If our goal is to create a
gender-fair, multicultural education system that promotes the full development
of ALL students, we can't pit males and females against each other. Gender
equity, by definition, must encourage increased options for both genders. And I
believe gender equity advocates already have been working to achieve that. As
Susan McGee Bailey, of the Wellesley Centers for Research on Women wrote: "The
notion that helping girls means hurting boys amounts to a defense of the status
quo and the acceptance of a set of stereotypes that are serving few of our
students well. It is as important for boys to learn about the contributions of
women to our nation and the world as it is for girls to study this information.
Adolescent pregnancy and parenting are issues for young men as well as young
women. Boys as well as girls benefit from instructional techniques that
encourage cooperation in learning. [See Research Report, Fall 1997, Volume 2,
Number 1, p.2.] What more can we add to this list?

I think some people genuinely do not understand that gender equity is meant to
expand the possibiliites for both males and females and we need to do a better
job of educating them. However, I think we also have to be vigilant about those
who would use "harming males" as a smokescreen. In the last couple of weeks, I
have been looking for information about gender equity and males, primarily on
the Internet (and in a few books and articles). I have found some things that
talk about the culture of violence and how restrictive gender roles create/
contribute to this culture--although not much of this was related to education
in school. Frankly, most of what I've found is the worst backlash hogwash
imaginable. It's not about equity but about putting women back in their
"place." If anyone has found better info, please let me know. I just found out
that the National Coalition for Sex Equity in Education (NCSEE) has a Male
Issues Task Force that has been looking at how gender equity helps males. I am
looking forward to learning more from them about that effort.

I appreciate the dialogue that you and Linda began and look forward to hearing
others' views on these issues.

Susan J. Smith
WEEA Equity Resource Center at EDC

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