Female Identity and Gender Expectations

The four lessons in this unit explore different aspects of gender for today’s girls and women. Each lesson identifies barriers that limit girls’ and women’s opportunities and asks students to explore how those barriers can be dismantled.
Grade Level

Despite a great deal of progress in the past half-century, gender stereotypes persist. Many people continue to associate qualities like strength, intellect and autonomy with men, while they associate qualities like weakness, emotion and dependence with women. Students today may consciously reject such stereotypes—and yet find that stereotypes still affect their sense of identity. 

Lesson 1, The Importance of Female Voices examines the gender discrepancy among Wikipedia contributors. Students create their own class wiki in order to discover why, despite Wikipedia’s policy of openness, girls and women comprise only 13 percent of Wikipedia contributors.

Lesson 2, Girls’ Attitudes About STEM Careers: Similarities and Differences Among Race/Ethnic Groups presents excerpts from a recent Girl Scouts Research Institute study showing girls may be more interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers than previously thought. Students compare and contrast white, African-American and Hispanic girls’ perceptions of STEM fields.

Lesson 3, Gender and Jobs: Women in the Workforce helps students identify the industries in which women work, their rate of pay and how that pay compares to men’s pay using data from the Department of Labor. Students question whether stereotypical ideas about women contribute to women’s work choices and why women still earn less than men in virtually every industry.

Lesson 4, Legislating Equal Access uses the text of Title IX as a jumping-off point for students to explore how girls’ and women’s experiences in education have and have not changed in the 40 years since this landmark 1972 legislation became law.

Each lesson includes a central text and strategies for reading and understanding that text. We encourage students to make connections between the texts and their own experiences. We also encourage them to take action to address gender inequities they identify in their own communities.