How Does Gender Affect the Teaching Profession?

Gender continues to negatively affect the teaching profession. Each day men and women are being subjected to society’s predetermined beliefs about how a teacher should look, act, and even how they teach. These limitations that we set for one another start as soon as we begin to walk and talk.

In “The Gender Spectrum”, Carrie Kilman brings into light that when we first see someone, we automatically think, “boy or girl?” These gender cues help us determine if we perceive someone as a boy or a girl firstly depending on their gender expression, and then we start looking for anatomical cues. Kilman includes that there are two very important and very common gender myths. The first gender myth being that gender is binary. This suggests that a person is either male or female and that there is no in between. This myth has been proven false time and time again as people continue to classify themselves as being something other than just male or female. It is relevant to point out that there are many binary gender expectations within schools. There are boy/girl lines, seating charts, bathrooms, dress codes, etc. The second myth states that gender equals sex. Gender and sex are not the same thing and these terms are commonly used interchangeably. Gender can be defined as “how you feel”. Children develop a sense of gender identity as young as 2-3 years of age. Sex is defined through ones’ anatomy. When birth sex and gender identity match, it is defined as cisgender.


When taking a look at these myths under the perspective of a teacher, we have to be self-aware of our own gender expectations. We have to be actively aware about the fact that one day, a child who doesn’t exactly know who they are yet can walk through the doors of our classroom. “Boys get to be like this. Anyone can be like this. Don’t limit me to what you think boys are.” (Kilman, 2013) From grades K-12, 78% of gender-diverse students are harassed, 35% are physically assaulted, 12% sexually assaulted, and 6% are expelled. As teachers, we need to make sure that we are not adding to these percentages. “We have a cultural lag, and teachers are catching up. It’s okay to say, ‘I just need to stop and figure this out’. Just remember, this isn’t about your values. It’s about your legal and moral obligation to support every child as the best teacher you can be.” (Kilman, 2013.)

Aside from gender-diverse children, teachers are still receiving shame because of gender. During the colonial era, European society was heavily patriarchal. Women weren’t allowed the same rights that men had and were expected to be domestic housewives. Under close observation, we can see that even in the Declaration of Independence, it is written that all “men” are created equal. Women’s rights weren’t mentioned or fought for for decades to come. Most women were uneducated, couldn’t own property, had few rights, and were subservient to men. During the 1800’s, the teaching profession was ruled by men. Dana Goldstein (2014) in chapter one of “The Teacher Wars” capitalizes on the fact that teaching was later feminized because people realized that women could be paid less than men. It wasn’t until women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton started stirring things up that change was in closer sight. Susan B. Anthony found liberation in teaching and taught for 15 years before becoming active in temperance. She lost a potential administrative position to an 18 year old male. This made her realize that it wasn’t lost potential that stopped her from moving up, it was because of her gender and hitting the glass ceiling. She left the teaching profession and demanded equal pay and women’s rights. In 1872, Anthony was tried for voting in the presidential election illegally. The trial held an all-male jury and Anthony was not allowed to speak in her defense. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, organizer of the 1st women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, teamed up with Anthony and the two become women’s rights activists.

The teaching profession is now dominated by women, but things have not changed much since the 1800’s. Women are still getting paid less than men and 75% of women are underpaid. The 4 virtues, as explained by Dr. Krutka, are some of the reasons why women are considered “better” teachers than men. The virtues go as follows: piety, purity, submission, and domesticity. Piety had to do with the fact that women were supposed to be more religious to men. Purity meant purity in the heart, mind and spirit. Submission means the same thing now as it did 2 centuries ago. Women are supposed to submit to their husbands. Women are also expected to be domestic. They are to stay at home and cook, clean, and sew. They weren’t supposed to be smart because they didn’t need to be to fulfill those duties.

Today, teaching is considered a women’s profession because to some, it still makes sense that women should be getting paid less than men on the dollar. I now see men going through the stereotypes of what women continue to go through. Men are being told that teaching is a woman’s profession because it doesn’t yield enough money to support a family. Even though men get paid more to teach than most women, men are expected to be the breadwinners of the family and that isn’t achievable through teaching. Men tend to hold the administrating positions, making it harder for women to surpass the glass ceiling to achieve that higher level of success. Men are also discouraged from teaching elementary students, and tend to teach 6-12th grades because they do not possess the “motherly” characteristics that is said to be needed when teaching younger children. This brings up the fact that some think that women make good teachers because they are motherly no so because they are smart. In the future, I hope to see more of what Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton stood for arise in the teaching profession. I would like to see the teaching paradox be eliminated from today’s teaching profession.


Education to the Masses – US History Scene. (n.d.). Retrieved January 29, 2016, from

Goldstein, D. (2014). The Teacher Wars: A history of America’s most embattled profession. New York: Doubleday.

Kilman, C. (2013). The gender spectrum. Teaching Tolerance (44). Retrieved from



5 thoughts on “How Does Gender Affect the Teaching Profession?

  1. Gender affects the teaching profession in a couple of ways as described in this blog. The two main points that come across very clearly are how gender affects how we teach, and how gender affects what is expected of teachers.
    As discussed from “The Gender Spectrum” article, gender in public schools is often defined by the two gender roles, “There are boy/girl lines, seating charts, bathrooms, dress codes, etc.” This is something that has been overlooked naturally. The very important observation made by the author of this blog is the reminder put forth that “When taking a look at these myths under the perspective of a teacher, we have to be self-aware of our own gender expectations. We have to be actively aware about the fact that one day, a child who doesn’t exactly know who they are yet can walk through the doors of our classroom.” Weather or not we agree with this issue being of priority in our public schools, it is ultimately the child that would suffer ( especially long term in some cases) if teachers choose not to make this important in their day to day interactions with children. Fantastic graphic of the “Genderbread Person” by the way!
    The other aspect to how gender affects the teaching profession is what has been expected of teachers historically to present. The fact that women were lured to the teaching profession in order to at first save tax dollars, then to not receiving equal wages to men sparked an entire movement in women’s rights. Historically, women have been considered to be more nurturing and “motherly” so they should teach younger grades. One very interesting point made about men in teaching today was “Men are being told that teaching is a woman’s profession because it doesn’t yield enough money to support a family. Even though men get paid more to teach than most women, men are expected to be the breadwinners of the family and that isn’t achievable through teaching.” However, in today’s economy most families require both parents to be employed. That being said, what is the definition of what the traditional American family looks like in today’s society? For example, how are previously gender related household roles determined in a same sex marriage? As teachers we are expected to provide a safe, nurturing environment for all of our students and will come into many situations where these issues are very important to some of our students and their families.


  2. It is important to remember that the gender expectations that teachers currently tend to uphold students to within schools stem from perceptions of gender norms that have been influenced by our society for centuries. Teachers most time unintentionally place these limitations of binary gender because we are still gradually gaining awareness of how diverse gender is. Luckily, we are now learning how to handle these changes in the classroom and are able to further help the wellbeing of our children and not just their academic development. Gender norms and other factors that have hindered education from development. Unlike the German school system public education was influenced by, the field of education in the United States was not held up to a respectable standard (Goldstein 2014). This was due to a female dominated field and the already established generalization of women. The lack of respect in the field caused oppression of women who would later go on to fight for equal treatment of women. The lose of our most influential leaders is what caused education to suffer.


  3. Anthony’s concerns are still relevant today because, as you point out in your blog, gender stereotypes still limit people. Whether the student is cisgender transgender teachers need to open doors for students rather than close them, (Kilman, 2013). Teachers need to respect all students regardless of gender. “Nearly 90 percent of transgender youth surveyed had experienced verbal harassment at school because of their gender expression. Two-thirds expressed feeling unsafe at school; more than half experienced physical harassment. A quarter experienced physical assault. Most of these incidents were never reported to school officials (Kilman, 2013).” This quote from Kilman’s article, which you discussed in your blog, stood out to me because in the U.S. we should have the right to freedom of speech and the right to not to be tortured(2013). Especially with compulsory attendance policies, all students should feel safe in school. That is a basic human right.

    Krutka advised in his video to be cognizant of Goldstein’s message that teachers can be idealized or demonized to extremes (2015). This pervasive theme can also be seen in the second chapter of The Teacher Wars. “His main complaint was that local governments were to hesitant to spend tax dollars on schools, which lead to classes that were to large- forty to sixty students- for anyone other than ‘an angel or a genius’ to effectively teach”, (Goldstein ,2014, p.42).

    I like how your blog addresses how men are not encouraged to become elementary teachers. The Europeans touring the United States schools compared the ubiquitous amount of women teachers in the U.S. in contrast to Germany and France where there were more men in the teaching field, (Goldstein, 2014, p.44). The Mask We Live In films demonstrate that pressure to conform to gender stereotypes is extreme and can even lead to suicide. These extreme pressures to conform to stereotypes prevent many men from teaching elementary schools since the profession has been feminized. Similarly male dominated fields are slow to raise the glass ceiling to women.

    Goldstein, D. (2014). The teacher wars: A history of America’s most embattled profession. New York: Doubleday.

    Kilman, C. (2013). The gender spectrum. Teaching Tolerance (44). Retrieved from

    Krutka, D. (2015). Unit 2 Background Video: Women’s Histories in the U.S. Retrieved from

    Newsom, J. S. (Writer/Producer/Director). (2015). The mask you live in [Documentary film].
    Retrieved from


  4. It was so disheartening to read that so many transgender children have faced harassment in school. I think school is a challenging time for any child. I can’t imagine all the added obstacles these children who don’t necessarily fit into a particular classification face. I think as a society we are making strides in equality for all, but we do still have a long way to go. We saw many examples of this in our readings this week. I think the one that stood out the most to me personally though, was the Always video that asked children to do certain activities in a “girly” way. It made me wonder at exactly what age we start seeing girly as an object of ridicule? I think one of the best things about the teaching profession is that you get the opportunity to help shape the minds of students. I think this is a great platform to try and teach the importance of respecting everyone.


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