Will COVID-19 Finally Change Our Sexist Undervaluing of Educators? - Women’s Media Center

Will it finally lead to the real changes teachers have been calling for for years?

7/6/2020 12:18:00 AM

“Has this pandemic fundamentally changed the way our society views the work of this female-dominated profession?” via WMC's the_fbomb

Will it finally lead to the real changes teachers have been calling for for years?

wanting to go into this line of work. This is also problematic because, in the United States, we frequently correlate an individual’s pay grade and class status to the prestige of their work. For example, we view doctors and lawyers as professionals and members of the highest social class, so they get paid as such. But when we look at minimum wage jobs such as grocery store employees, labor workers, and teachers, we view them with a lack of status or professionalism, and in turn they get paid much less. Once we value teachers as much as we value our doctors, their wages will rise and the prestige of their work will follow.

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While systemic change is clearly needed on the political and economic levels, we can all help contribute to changing the way teachers are valued in our society by reevaluating the language we use to describe them. Using disrespectful and gendered language — such as calling teachers “babysitters” or “selfless” — diminishes their work. If we begin to speak about educators with professional language — by describing them as intelligent, strong, and hardworking — we can urge policy makers to pay teachers like we pay other professional fields. Teachers who feel valued and respected will want to continue teaching,

reducing turnover, which would naturally lead to better teaching because some improvements can only come from years of practice.A sense of respect that spans across the population of parents, students, and policymakers would also encourage an increase in pay and education funding — not just wage increases, but also

student-centered reformslike funding for school projects, school counselors, language professionals, subjects like the arts and music, and sports teams. Policymakers have so much influence over where, and how much, money is allocated. If they start to respect teachers as professionals, with the support of their constituents, they would begin to propose funding in order to improve the quality of life for our nation’s children.

The gender norms of teaching create an understanding that teachers are not professionals and they do not deserve a high level of respect, simply because it is a field dominated by women. If we begin to describe teachers as professionals, intellectuals, and dedicated hard workers, the harmful gender norms would decrease and the field would become more welcoming to new professionals and increasingly respected in society.

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