The struggle for women's equality isn't over. Use these resources in your classroom to discuss the modern-day fight for political equality.
The gender gap -- unequal access to resources between women and men -- divides our country in almost every way: healthcare, education, physical safety, the economy, politics. Because of the hard work of women and their male allies, the healthcare and education gaps are showing signs of shrinking. Economic justice for women -- particularly for women of color -- remains stalled. And political equality, even in light of recent gains, remains a dream.
Most of us know why the political gender gap started. Women once were considered the property of men. Women were denied the right to vote, the right to run for office, and the right to own property of their own. African American women were denied basic personhood. Even into the 1970s, many women were required to show their husbands’ signature to attain a credit card, rent an apartment or apply for a job. Women have had a lot of catching up to do.
But why does the gap persist today? Here are some of the reasons:
1. Gender roles. Even after women won their basic freedoms, strong cultural myths created very narrow definitions of what women could and could not do. These prescribed roles -- called "gender roles" -- teach girls and boys in subtle and overt ways what they’re capable of and/or allowed to do, solely based on their gender. Over time, some women internalize these messages, believing that "people like me" don't belong in positions of power. An example of internalized gender bias can be seen in a CBS poll: When asked whether they thought the country was ready for a female president, men were more likely than women to say 'yes.'
2. Cultural norms. In addition to gender roles, more generalized cultural norms thwart women’s ability to achieve greater access to power. For example, while women and men work fulltime jobs at almost equal rates, women still do the majority of household tasks -- like child-rearing, cleaning and cooking. This helps explain why men far surpass women in the best-paid, high-level jobs, even though the number of women in college now surpasses the number of men.
3. Sexist policies. From the pay gap (women make about 75 cents for every dollar earned by