In 1833 Oberlin college, in Ohio, was the first university in the United States to admit women to their campus. It seems like eons ago but when you consider that Harvard had been accepting men for over 200 years, it hasn’t really been that long. I wonder if perhaps today’s young women entering college take for granted the gifts of those who pioneered on their behalf so many years ago.
Just as recently as the 70s, the choices for most women leaving high school were very limited. For most, a secretary job and an early marriage was the path taken. Those lucky enough to go to college went for an “MRS” degree while studying for a career as a teacher or a nurse. Very few women stepped outside the norm to pursue careers in technology, math, science and engineering.
How different the education landscape is today. Today women out number men in American universities according to the National Women’s History website. And yet elsewhere there is still so much to be done.
In this month of focus on women’s history, I ask you…how are we using our education and it what ways has it empowered us?
The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs report The Millennium Development Goals Report 2007, stated that “worldwide more than 60 percent of unpaid family workers are women,” meaning that women in many developing nations continue to lack access to job security and social protection. The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reports that forty-three million girls worldwide are still denied a primary education. Two-thirds of the 137 million illiterate young people in the world are women. In Afghanistan, there are thirty- six literate young women for every one hundred literate young men.
We may not be able to quickly change the cultures of other countries, but we can be aware of—and make small steps toward advancing—women all over the world.
History holds important lessons. This incomplete history of the women’s movement provides the context for the Plan we have today. The Plan to “have it all.”
Just as the women before us had challenges to address, so do we. As they did not shrink from their challenges, neither must we. We can learn from the women’s movement and the women who emerged, faced their challenges, and made the world better for us. Now it’s our turn.
So what will you do to make a difference this month. Is there a woman in your workplace that you can encourage to gain more educational training. Is there a degree or a certification that you’ve always wanted to achieve? Perhaps now is the time to pursue that goal of additional education.
Hats off to all of those women who helped shape our world and bravo to each of us and those that come after, who will continue the efforts on behalf of women worldwide.