By Dr. Dwayne Dyce
Published March 26, 2021
During Women’s History Month and beyond we have to deliberately create space for girls and women to connect themselves to great women in our shared history.
Women’s stories are eternal accounts for all of us to garner personal courage for our own lives. In reality, women have accomplished equal to and sometimes more than their male counterparts, even if history failed to include it as regularly as men’s accomplishments. That is why it is so important beyond Women's History Month to share the countless stories like those of our grandmothers and aunts and extended relatives, they should be heard. Our young girls and women need to connect with women’s stories as guidance for their lives.
Social Curriculum Guidelines
Creating space for girls and women requires major shifts in mindset on several levels. First, some traditional ways of providing access to girls and women are tainted with male-dominant views which stigmatized women as being different when compared to men, when women had never been allowed to compete with men. Take for example STEM education which is dominated by men. Girls are often conditioned from a tender age not to focus on fields like Math and engineering.
However, what is most detrimental to the development of young female minds is when the space we create for our girls is void of purposeful connection to women’s accomplishments and access to opportunities that provide networks for essential support to pursue untraditional career fields. Access and support to explore and engage in male-dominated fields should be a staple for girls in STEM and leadership areas. Thankfully, there are glimmers of change in the societal mindset in recent years, and an even greater need to turn up the momentum on female achievements and interest in the traditional male-dominant pyramid.
Family Values Focused on Girls and Young Women
Creating space for our girls require parents to pay keen attention to the values that are consciously or unconsciously being imparted onto their female children. Both fathers and mothers are responsible for raising their children in a way that provides transforming experiences. The family, as the miniature representation of society, should prepare youth for a successful life of contribution.
When families are disjointed and dysfunctional, severe problems surface in the development of our children; they show up in their life choices and lived experiences. This is well known in circumstances where a father is not present in the life of the growing child, and a lack of proper parental control over the schooling of the child, causes the child to have behavioral issues. A well-supported upbringing is essential to all of our children, especially our girls and young women to ensure they are always confident of their value despite social pressures to the contrary. Such an educationally focused home environment demands commitment by parents to remain fully engaged in the child’s social and emotional development.
Lucky for me, I had my grandmother who was very present in my life. My grandmother is a strong woman who always supported me and gave me the confidence to try, fail and try again with a constant eye on reaching success. When these values are not being instilled in children, and especially girls, the school must create experiences that change the mindset of the child for the better. This school-based demand to produce a supportive environment prompted me to create an in-school mentoring program that creates space to foster the development of a balanced student.
Being Purposeful Beyond Women’s History Month
To educators, parents, and others, as we get to the end of Women’s History Month, remember to ALWAYS create space for our girls to connect their lives to the great women in our history. • Space for them to express themselves in ways that you have never done before. Help them by providing access to information about non-traditionally female industries and networking opportunities that increase the probability of their success through partnerships and community building. • Space in our classrooms, whether virtual on in-person for our girls may learn more about remarkable women leaders and entrepreneurs in science, technology, and business. In this way, our young ladies may gain knowledge and perspective to put them on track to future success in their fields of expertise and in life.
Finally, do not forget to encourage our girls to be brave in the pursuit of their goals. Only in their own belief in themselves will they generate the will to face the challenges they must overcome to live.
Dr. Dwayne Dyce is a Jamaican-born US national, who currently works as a teacher in Washington, DC. He is also a published author, a motivational speaker and the Chair of the Jamaica Diaspora Education Taskforce (JDETF).