In the 18th century, philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote “all education for women must be relative to men. To please them, to be useful to them, to be loved and honored by them, to raise them when young, to look after them when grown, to counsel them, to console them, to make their lives pleasant and sweet: these are the duties of women at all times, and which we must teach them from childhood onwards.”
Reading an article by journalist Marie-Ève Morasse, published September 24th in La Presse, (“A class for boys and a class for girls”), we should ask ourselves: Has society really evolved in 3 centuries?
In search of better educational effectiveness, a school in Gatineau is proposing that boys’ learning be centered on robotics and technologies, while that of girls be more focused on plants and gardening. This is how stereotypes continue to persist 3 centuries later.
Today’s jobs are high-tech jobs. Science should be at the top of our agenda, regardless of gender. But when it comes to gender disparity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, Canada is a poor performer.
In a letter to Jean-François Roberge, Minister of Education and Higher Education, architect Chantal Sorel, and 42 other signatories, reacted strongly to Marie-Ève Morasse’s article. “By allowing the teaching and perpetuation of gender roles, we are failing in our duty towards girls – and we are compromising our future. We are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution and the demand for engineers and computer scientists is reaching an unprecedented peak”. “Girls must be exposed to science.”
An article published this year in The Guardian highlights some of the dangers and inequalities inherent in a world designed by men for men. For example, safety equipment in cars is designed for men and the dummies used in crash simulations are based on an average male person. The result: 71% of women are more likely to sustain severe or serious injuries in a collision, against 47% of men.
Doina Precup, an associate professor at the School of Computer Science at McGill University*, believes that there is still research to be done to understand why few women are present in this environment. Romanian born, this scientist notes that in Eastern Europe, where it is normal for women to consider a career in this field, both sexes are equally represented in the technological professions. Clearly, girls and women who are exposed to science and technology are just as passionate about these fields as boys and men.
On December 28, 2005 in Brazzaville, Maitreya Rael explained the importance of developing women’s leadership, of educating girls, and that every young child should do what he or she likes, such as developing a taste for science, for knowledge.
(…) “Do you have any idea of this active collective pressure, which demands that boys be forced to act like boys and girls to act like girls. ‘Girls must be sensitive, must cry, must be delicate’. Even, unfortunately, in some parts of the world, particularly in Africa, it’s not worth it to take them to school, it’s not worth it they study. Men, they can study, to go as far as possible. These are monumental mistakes.” These remarks are included in the book ” (“The United Kingdoms of Kama”) (Africa).
Gender equality is an objective of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and is the 5th United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal: so then, for pity’s sake, let’s direct our energies towards gender acceptance rather than returning to a Jean-Jacques Rousseau-style education.
Columnist for the Canadian Raelian Movement
* Doina Precup is also a member of the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA) and laboratory director.