Change the Message: End Gender Stereotypes in Education


Change the Message: End Gender Stereotypes in Education

By: Lauren DiPiero

In recent years, we as a society have been attempting to send newly positive messages to young women. We have been slowly attempting to deconstruct the idea that certain roles are reserved for men while others are reserved for women. We are fighting to break down the assumption that doctors, business executives and lawyers are usually men, because we are hoping to change that reality. All of this is wonderful. Encouraging women who want to enter the science and business worlds is commendable and will hopefully bring progress. However, assuming that women who choose to enter other fields only do so because of the stereotypes we are trying to destroy diminishes the perception and reputation of other fields. 

I have chosen to major in English and minor in Business, and I am equally proud of both decisions. I did not choose to study English because I consider it “soft” or because it is a traditionally female-dominated major. I chose to study English because I have enjoyed reading and writing immensely since my first conscious memory. I used to write stories as a child and spend all night reading with a flashlight under my covers. I continue to read and write today for my own happiness and for academic pursuits. English feels right for me, as I am confident in my writing and reading skills. Both make me happy. 

However, I have continuously faced the assumption that “failing” to major in a STEM or business field means I am adhering to old standards set for women. Recently, I went on a trip with a group of students and we all went around the room stating our names, ages and majors. When I announced that I was majoring in English, a middle-aged woman asked me if I planned to, “find a husband and become a teacher.” I’d love to get married one day, and teaching is one of the many professions I’ve considered, but I found this comment both unnecessary and offensive. 

I call myself a feminist, which despite contrary beliefs, simply means embracing equality of the sexes. I believe in my own intelligence and I believe in my own strength. I have chosen to major in English because I feel that it is an area of talent for me that will open up opportunities for my future. I have chosen to minor in business because I am interested in acquiring technical skills that will help advance my career, but not interested enough in business to spend all of my time as a student studying its principles. I did not choose to major in a science or in nursing because I hate blood and seeing others in pain, not because I don’t see myself as smart or confident enough to complete science classes and succeed in the field. I’d rather write research papers than work through math problems, but that doesn’t mean I can’t understand math. I majored in English because it’s my forte, not because I believe it’s “my place”. 

Stop sending the often silent but clear message to young women and girls that they are failing to embrace feminism by pursuing their myriad of passions. Some women follow their dreams and strengths by studying business, science or engineering. Others  follow their dreams by studying the humanities, communication, political science, etc. If a woman pursues a major or career because she loves it, not because society has taught her that men are more fit for what she really wants to do, leave her alone. Change the message.