Professional Development

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5 Ways to Conquer Gender-Biased Practices

Hidden gender biases and gender roles' socialization lead to inequities.

What changes can be made to create a more equitable learning environments for all kids? Below are some specific questions and ideas to help afterschool professionals increase awareness of gender-biased tendencies, and reflect and change biased practices.

Take a moment to consider and reflect on the following:

  • Do I encourage empowering and nonsexist behaviors among kids and staff?
  • Do we discourage gender stereotypes?
  • In what ways do I equitably encourage voice and participation?
  • Do I ask purposeful questions of all kids, regardless of gender?
  • Are people presented in stereotypically gendered roles in any of the books or materials I use?
  • If you have a program library, is there a gender balance in authors? Are there plenty of books with strong female protagonists? Do the nonfiction books feature notable women and girls?

Here are some ideas for improving gender equity in practice:

  1. Be incredibly proactive in making sure that all kids—regardless of gender, ethnicity, language or learning ability—are equitably included in discussions and participation.

  2. Design activities that explore issues of gender, self-image and equality.

  3. If you find more male authors, scientists, and mathematicians featured in the materials you use, do your own research and add more notable women to the mix.

  4. Use video to record your practice (with consent of parents and kids, of course) and review your interactions. Invite a colleague to watch you and note the types of questions you ask and to which kids.

  5. Access additional resources such as NAA's Reducing STEM Gender Bias, a Guide for Program Leaders, Techbridge Girls' Breaking Equity Barriers in STEM, and Click2SciencePD's Keeping Girls Engaged. For lessons that explore media and bullying in the context of gender equality, check out Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

Continued awareness, reflection, and change of gender bias practice are necessary to ensure young peoples' opportunities for equitable learning and for achievement. What strategies have you used to re-educate and eliminate gender bias from your practice? Do you have additional resources to contribute? Please share in the comments section below.

Written by Heidi Ham, Vice President of Programs and Strategy for National Afterschool Association.

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