On a recent panel exploring high teacher turnover, Mountain View Elementary Principal Kenneth Limb charged that the school system is “sexist from its inception.” The system doesn’t pay teachers enough, and most of those teachers are women.
Limb noted that many school teachers make so little money that their own children would qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
Why do we not value our women? Why do we think their time isn’t worth as much as a man’s?
The panel also noted Utah’s decreasing ability to replace teachers who quit, according to research by Envision Utah. And turnover affects quality; new teachers are less effective than experienced ones.
The profession is not attracting new workers.
Part of the high turnover could be because women leave the profession to have children and don’t return, likely because they can’t afford childcare on such a low salary. Many teachers also move on to higher-paying opportunities.
But it’s more than just money. As Limb said, it’s institutional. In teaching positions that do pay more, women are sorely underrepresented.
Just this last week we saw this systemic sexism play out on a university level. A Brigham Young University math club posted a flyer publicizing details of a panel discussion. The club is called Women in Math, and the flyer featured pictures of the four panelists, who were all male.
The student who created the flyer didn’t intend the irony. The math department responded that the flyer “was done with good intentions but poor judgment and was not meant to be satire, though we did all get a good laugh here at the department.”
Except that it’s not funny. The math department couldn’t even refrain from throwing its own female student under the bus for “poor judgment,” as opposed to accepting blame for having a deficient faculty roster.
The flyer in fact highlighted the fundamental problem – there aren’t many female math professors at BYU. Specifically, out of 37 permanent faculty members, two are women. That is 5 percent. The Women in Math club couldn’t even host a panel of four female permanent faculty members if it wanted to.
BYU student Suzannah Stephenson suggested that people recognize that the point of the club is to improve the numbers of women involved in math. And that’s true. But if the problems are systemic, then student clubs won’t help as long as current professors and administrators choose to laugh at the problem rather than recruit more women to the faculty.
It’s not enough anymore to argue that women just want to make less money.
Because they don’t.