By Susan Kurlander, M.Ed.
Health Educator for Jewish Community Services’ Prevention Education
My friend, the parent of a first grader, knew what to expect when she attended an IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting at her daughter’s school. A team of school staff would discuss her daughter’s progress and update her on any additional plans.
What she wasn’t expecting was for the speech therapist to say she planned to work with her daughter on how to advocate for herself. The therapist added that it is important, especially for a girl, to be able to articulate her needs and to expect action would be taken to meet them, if possible.
My friend immediately thought back to her own childhood when, as a 6-year-old, she wanted to play the drums at school. The band teacher told her mother that, “Girls don’t play drums,” and sent her home with a clarinet. Self-advocacy or even her mother’s advocacy, was nowhere on the radar.
Yes, we’ve come a long way especially in the opportunities for girls and women to be successful in mostly male-dominated fields:
Our past election marked the first time a woman was a contender for the Presidency of the U.S.
A record number of women are serving in the 116th Congress.
Three women currently sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.
A woman recently became the head of a major network television station.
The Association of American Medical Colleges reports, for the first time, more women than men have enrolled in U.S. medical schools.
A woman recently became the first female to officiate an NFL playoff game.
The Orioles head groundskeeper at Camden Yards is, you guessed it, a woman.
Should we rest on our laurels and hope that our young girls will feel empowered enough to have equal footing in any area they choose? Will they automatically absorb, through osmosis, the characteristics and skills needed to attain success in whatever is most important to them?