Women’s Educational Equity Act
July 25, 1973 — Subcommittee on Equal Opportunities of the Committee on Education and Labor, US House of Representatives, Washington DC
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to express my personal appreciation to the chairman of the subcommittee, Congressman Hawkins, for making possible the inauguration of these hearings which I believe will have a very profound effect upon not only the course of education in America, but will be the driving force toward the accomplishment of fill equal opportunity in this country.
The quest for equal rights for women has, as its ultimate objective, a society in which all individuals are free to develop and participate freely and fully in American life and leadership. But without the practical means to open up opportunities, the equal rights amendments and legislation to prohibit discrimination in employment will remain wholly promises.
The Women’s Educational Equity Act will provide such practical direction through teacher training, curriculum development, community programs, counseling, and other means. It will confront sex bias, in testing, vocational training, and in the hidden curriculum — the rituals and roles of school.
But most important, this legislation seeks to do away with the whole concept of sex role stereotyping in education.
A few days ago, I ran across a Gallup poll in which parents were asked, “If you had a son, would you like to see him go into politics as a life’s work?” Son, not daughter, not child, just son. Why in 1973 is it still conceivable for a national organization such as the Gallup Poll to contemplate politics in the public concept as something which is still strictly limited to men?
Let me read to you from a children’s book, I’m Glad I Am A Boy, I’m Glad I’m a Girl, by Whitney Darrow, Jr. This book was published in 1970, not 1930 or 1920, but in the yean 1970. Let me just show you some of the illustrations that I think really go to the heart of what this legislation is attempting to achieve.
Here is a picture in the book, “Boys are doctors, girls are nurses.” “Boys are policemen, girls are meter maids.” “Boys are pilots, girls are stewardesses.” And I am sure my colleague, Mrs. Chisholm, would be interested in this, “Boys are Presidents, girls are First Ladies.” “Boys can eat, girls can cook.” “Boys invent things, girls use what boys invent.”
Well, that is an illustration of what our problems are in school. I think this book shows very vividly why in 1971, according to the most recent statistics, only 2.8 percent of the lawyers were women and only 7.6 of our doctors were women. It shows why there is still no woman Justice on the Supreme Court and no Member of the U.S. Senate is a woman. Boys are expected to be strong, aggressive, competent, unemotional. Girls are taught to be submissive and dependent.
The hardship which these stereotypes impose on children is permanently damaging and in my view more so on boys. Boys are expected to act out more and are therefore subjected to more discipline in school.
They are prodded to succeed, often beyond their interests or capabilities. Few parents have ever apologized for their daughters who did not make the bar examinations, but there are legions of parents who have to apologize for sons who fail to go to law school or medical school.
The school system is but one aspect of society and cannot be held wholly responsible for attitudes toward sex roles which pervade the whole fabric of society. Education is the most organized and systematic agent of socialization. No other activity except sleeping occupies so much of a child’s time, 10,000 hours by graduation from high school.
School does not have to channel boys and girls into separate activities. There does not have to be a biased and prejudiced curriculum. The roles in school do not have to sharply differentiate between boys and girls.
It is the job of education to prepare children to meet changes in society capably and intelligently and in accordance to their individual needs. Most females in school today are going to work outside of the home a good part of their lives. They don’t spend their lives in kitchens. The stereotype of adult women encased in aprons and children is less relevant to the experience of children today.
It is important for children to have models upon which to shape their conceptions. All too often the rigid role stereotypes taught in schools are reinforced by the authority structure of the school itself. Eighty-five percent of all elementary school teachers are women, while 79 percent of the principals are men.
These hearings will begin the subcommittee’s in-depth study of the role of education in sex stereotyping. We plan to examine the impact of counseling and teacher attitudes on channeling boys and girls into traditional work. We will consider the woman who is entering education late in life after her responsibilities as a mother and wife are completed.
We will look into the limited opportunities offered women in vocation training and in development in the professions.
This is for me, Mr. Chairman, a most exciting moment in my nearly ten years of service in the Congress. I am extremely pleased that you have given the women of this country an opportunity to pursue this subject matter through these hearings.
Thank you. Mr. Chairman.
Source: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Equal Opportunities of the Committee on Education and Labor, US House of Representatives, Ninety-Third Congress, First Session on H.R. 208 (Washington DC; US Government Printing Office) 1973, pp. 4-6.