Questions To Ask Your Students This Women’s Day

Tal, Teacher

International Women's Day is on Tuesday 8th March.
  • 129 million girls across the globe can’t access school;
  • 2.7 billion women worldwide are legally restricted from having the same access to jobs as men;
  • 30% of women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence;

By engaging our students to understand the impact of inequality we can do our part in helping to effect change.

We’ve compiled a list of thought starter questions you can use with your students this International Women's Day.

 

1. Who is a woman that inspires you?

Taking time to reflect on the contribution of women in society can be a powerful tool for thinking about the importance of gender equality and breaking our expectations of what can be acehived.

Making it personal by appealing to our students’ own experiences can help make the discussion more relatable.  

Brainstorm some whole class ideas about inspiring people and characteristics. Notice that these characteristics are not gendered and that we are all capable of affecting change and inspiring others. 

 

2. Who was the first person to win two Nobel Prizes? 

It surprises many to learn that it was a woman named Marie Curie.   

Marie was born on November 7, 1867 in Poland. She was a brilliant student, but wasn’t allowed to attend university in her homeland because she was a woman.

She won her first Nobel Prize in 1903 as part of a team that made meaningful discoveries about radiation. In 1911 she received her second award due to her invaluable work on polonium and radium.

Her discoveries allowed, among other things, the invention of x-ray machines saving countless lives.

By discussing her achievements with students we can challenge expectations about the roles and capabilities of women, particularly in STEM and highlight the potential loss to society from not providing equality of opportunity.

 

3. Who was the world’s first computer programmer?

Ada Lovelace. 

Ada Lovelace was born in England in 1815. Her mother insisted that Ada was taught Math and Science, despite this not being a common practice for girls at the time. 

She is widely regarded as the first person to come up with the idea for a computer language. As a result, she’s recognized as the world’s first computer programmer. 

In her honor, the U.S. Department of Defence named a computer language ‘Ada’ in 1979. 

  

4. Why is it important that we provide equality of opportunity?

Meritocracy is central to the concept of equality of opportunity. This is the notion that individuals should be treated based on their qualifications and experiences, rather than arbitrary factors such as race, gender, or age, for example.

People who are treated fairly and have equal opportunity are better able to contribute socially and economically to the community, and to enhance growth and prosperity.

It’s a vital concept. It sets the expectation for our students that they should be appropriately rewarded based on their ambitions and effort levels, not the color of their skin or their countries of origin, for instance.

   

5. What is the difference between equality, equity and justice?

Although they may sound similar, it’s important for our students to understand the difference between them. 

After posing the question to students, show them the attached cartoon.

 

EEJ.jpg
Source: https://www.mobilizegreen.org/blog/2018/9/30/environmental-equity-vs-environmental-justice-whats-the-difference

Encourage them to identify the difference between the images. 

Discuss how equality means giving groups or individuals the same opportunities or resources. 

Equity, however, is the recognition that we all have different circumstances, and allocating the resources and opportunities to enable an equal outcome. 

Justice is removing the causes of inequity such as removing systemic obstacles.

Ask students to share how they feel about each concept and why.

 

6. What can we do to provide a safe learning environment for everyone?

All our students, regardless of gender, deserve to have a safe learning environment. As teachers, it’s our privilege and responsibility to provide this space. 

Strategies for creating a safe space include:

  • Consulting with students on the ways in which they feel safe. Using a confidential feedback tool such as Ziplet is a great way for students to be honest and feel heard;
  • Valuing all student contributions;
  • Establishing classroom rules and expectations;
  • Role modeling and encouraging respectful interactions amongst students;

7. Describe 5 issues you would like to fix for the women in your life?

What are some issues that your students would like to solve for the women they care about? 

Example answers might include:

  • Equal pay (ensuring people of all genders are paid equally);
  • Equal access to education (explain how in many countries, girls don’t have the same access to education as boys);
  • A more balanced division of genders amongst professional occupations (for example, women are overly represented in industries such as childcare, nursing and aged care, while men tend to work across industries including engineering, farming and security);
  • Equal division of domestic duties (on average, women perform more housework than men);
  • A reduction in harassment (1 in 3 women has experienced sexual and physical harassment worldwide);

 

8. What is an example of gender bias? 

Gender bias occurs when favoritism is shown for one gender over another. It can also be influenced by perceptions of what constitutes ‘male’ and ‘female’ behavior.

Some examples of gender bias include:

  • Bias towards men for leadership positions
  • Expectations that women aren’t good in STEM
  • Ideas men can’t look after children
  • Assumptions that women can’t be doctors or men can’t be nurses
  • Lack of recognition or misattribution for accomplishments by women

 

Conclusion

As teachers, we have an important role to play in the fight towards equality for all. Asking these questions of our students is a meaningful and engaging approach.

Discussing concepts such as gender bias, safe learning environments, equality of opportunity and equity is essential to promoting equality for all people. 

Encouraging students to reflect on the people in their lives helps to contextualize the issues of gender inequality, and encourages them to think about how they might contribute to improving society for all.


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