Learning & Development

Women, education, and the future

March represents Women’s History Month. It’s given us a chance to reflect on women’s impact on education and celebrate their past contributions, achievements, and events.

With our team working in the Learning & Development industry we have seen heavy change for women in this field. We wanted to take this opportunity to look back on these developments as well as future progressions we expect to see.

So, let’s start from the beginning…

Education – the Medieval period

Opportunities to learn for most people in England were slim as education was not of the highest priority.

There were only two real sources of education; the Church and their immediate family. However, monks and nuns were usually the few people able to read and write in Latin. Only wealthy families were able to afford their sons to be taught.

Daughters did not receive this treatment and normally were only taught within the family. The level of education varied on class when it came to this so, education was extremely unequal at this stage.

Early Modern period

During this period there was great progression in the freedom of education for women. A growing merchant class meant a growing number of people desired for their daughters to be educated. This was so they could help the family business.

Businesses were being left for wives in their husband’s will. With this change, it showed that women were significantly educated enough to fulfil these roles.

Georgian period

This period was considered to be a step back in women’s education.

There were some movements being made such as the Bluestocking movement in this time. However, there was also a divide being made between men’s and women’s education.

This divide was named the ‘separate spheres’. It outlined the theory that men were in charge outside the home, in the working world whereas women were in charge within the home, with childcare and household management.

Compared to their male counterparts, girls did not attend boarding school. Instead they attended ‘dame schools’ where teaching was centred around being wives and mothers.

Victorian period of education

By this point, women’s frustration had grown, and this was showing amongst society.

More learning opportunities and options were becoming available to men, and these were shortly sought by women soon after. Schooling also had to begin to adapt to demand in education for women.

Previously only boys were sent to boarding school and girls were given less academic education at other schools at home. With this surge, girls were provided with access to attend schools equivalent to boarding schools.

These were often built in the mind of the wealthy; however, education was made compulsory for children aged between 5 and 10 with government funding in 1800.

Early 20th century period

Following the Victorian era schools, universities, and colleges were becoming available to women. This movement came alongside the campaign to give women the vote.

In 1918 the vote was provided to women under conditions, then in 1928 given it on equal terms to men.

Onwards from this equality began to develop; in 1972 Britain joined the EU. This meant the Sex Discrimination came into force. It banned discrimination on the basis of sex or marital status in certain areas. These were employment, education, training, harassment, housing and the provision of goods and services.  

21st century period

Since the Sex Discrimination Act, education within the UK has changed dramatically. Institutional bias still exists! Only 20% of professorships are held by women at UK universities. Although, there has been a vast improvement in other areas.

Young women are now 35% more likely to go to university than young men. This suggests the suppression to educate has decreased.

The future of education

The growth has been great so far but, there are still improvements to be made.

Women need to be supported, encouraged, and provided the opportunities equal to men. As in turn this will allow them to progress into senior and more influential roles. However, there is still a lack of women in these positions. The only way to change that is to ACT NOW as a business to help this.

You can promote this in many ways; provide training courses, knowledge hubs, blended learning, and connect them with relevant resources. Even simply praising and showing your appreciation could boost their morale.

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