The thought of women being barred from getting an education seems ridiculous. As a result of this, women had little opportunity to access many exciting, innovative careers. The good news is that the world has changed, and still is changing. With National Women’s Day approaching, it’s a great chance to reflect on just how far we’ve come.
Who Run the World? Girls
It’s no secret that historical views of women have been quite insulting: women were considered less intelligent and less capable than their male counterparts. Yup, this is a pretty old-fashioned way of thinking. Perhaps the greatest fear of educating women was that they might lose sight of their “traditional” role in society: any basic education they received enforced social beliefs about biological role and correct conduct. Women looking for more intensive education were required to join a nunnery. It was only in the 18th and 19th century that women gained access to universities: this was only white women until the 20th century – another major injustice!
Behind Every man is a Strong Woman
This has never been truer than this moment: take a look at these “masculine” occupations that were actually pioneered by women.
- Brewing beer
This was considered a feminine, domestic task in ancient times and was a way of earning pocket money in the Middle Ages.
- Computer programming
The founder of scientific computing is Ada Byron or the Countess of Lovelace. Women remained prominent in this field throughout World War 2 and right until the 1960’s.
Nowadays, when you think of rock bands, you think of macho men head-banging while bashing drumsticks until they break. Drumming and percussion instruments were first a sacred art form used by women during religious rituals.
Women were the first healers and were considered medical experts in ancient times. It was only during the Middle Ages when doctors were required to obtain medical degrees (and women were banned from going to university) that men came to dominate medicine.
The End of the Tunnel: Girl Power is Real
Gradually, the global advantages of educating women have been acknowledged. Finally! These advantages include boosting the economy, decreasing the number of victims of abuse and reducing the rates of poverty.
Just as the gender gap in education is growing smaller (in some countries, more women are enrolled in university than men), so is the gender division in the workforce. Access to education is producing many highly qualified female job candidates for “male” professions. Since 1978, more women are entering fields like Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics than ever before. Access to education has enhanced the ability of women to enter professions that are higher-paying and have more status.
Wonder Women are Working Women
In South Africa, women now dominate the following occupations:
- Pharmacist (59% are female and 55.2% are in pharmacy management positions)
- Accountant (60%)
- Physician Assistant (88%)
- Financial Manager (52%)
- Tax Manager (64%)
- Psychologist (67%)
- Medical Scientist (72%).
Other jobs such as Health and Safety Manager (26%), Creative Director in Advertising (39%) and Veterinarian (49%) have seen increases in women employment but are still a little (or long) way off from being equal. Beyond improving gender equality within existing careers, education opportunities are also producing budding female entrepreneurs. They are paving the way towards new employment opportunities. It is exciting to hear about the progress that has been made. However, it is important to note that even within careers like Human Resources Management where women play a prolific role, the top leadership positions are still largely occupied by males.
Education has enabled women the opportunity to enter professions they previously would never have been allowed to. In doing this, they’ve been able to unlock talent and potential for the benefit of the local and global community. The entry of women into previously “male” professions should be celebrated. If we’re going to find a cure for cancer or put homes on Mars, don’t we want the very best brains of the population collaborating (regardless of their biology)?! Take some time this National Women’s Day to appreciate the women in your life who are trail-blazing, breaking boundaries and inspiring you to do the same.