The title says it all. And I’ll say it louder for the people in the back, too: teachers are underpaid because teaching is a female-dominated profession.
While I’m at it, I might as well point out that the same goes for nurses, too. But I have more experience and knowledge about the education system, so I’m going to stay in my lane for now.
I used to be a teacher. That’s right. I used to be a teacher. As in I’m one of many who left the profession in pursuit of greener pasture. And like the majority of people who leave teaching, I left before finishing my first three years. But while my experience was for a limited time, I experienced enough of the profession’s tomfoolery to understand how the field of education does a great disservice to the women who dedicate their lives to shaping children for little financial reward.
Here is the main thing I noticed: society’s sexism is magnified in the education workforce.
If you’re a woman, think of the expectation society has set for you. And if you’re not a woman, or if you were fortunate enough to be raised secluded from the patriarchy, let me break it down for you in a simple chart. Please see below:
|Societal Expectations for Women||Expectations of Teachers|
|Women should stay home and have babies because it’s in the nature of women to be mothers.||Teachers are expected to teach for the love of kids and not for the purpose of being gainfully employed. Also, teachers are discredited for how highly educated and trained they are to be educators because teaching is just seen as being a glorified babysitter, and according to society women are supposed to naturally love kids.|
|Women are seen as submissive.||Women in education aren’t encouraged to be ambitious. While most teachers are women, most leadership positions in schools are held by men.|
|A good mother puts her child’s needs above her own. Society says women should be martyrs.||Teachers are guilted into putting the needs of their students above their own. As a result, they often pay for supplies out of their own pockets. However, teaching is a job. And teachers should be making money on the job, not losing money. Also, teachers don’t get raises based on their performance because they’re told they didn’t get into teaching for the money; they got into it for the love of kids. Tough luck.|
|Women are held to an unfair standard of appearing “put together” at all times, whether that be in the way the woman looks or “having it all” in life. And don’t forget to look happy while you “have it all,” or you’ll be seen as a bitch.||Teachers are under immense pressure to be perfect, and they’re not allocated enough time or resources to perform at their highest potential. Teachers work way beyond 40 hours/week. In most schools, teachers are given no time to lesson plan or grade, so they are forced to work 60+hr weeks just to keep up. And don’t forget to put a smile on your face while you teach, or you’ll upset the kids.|
Of course, the expectations of teachers listed in the helpful chart above go for all teachers, but they pervade education more than any other field because, as a female-dominated field, education gives less push-back to this unfair treatment. This is because women are already laden with unfair expectations in all aspects of their lives, not just their careers.
Most teachers are women, and since women are already accustomed to unfair expectations, they are overall less likely to push back then men. Women in society are made to feel guilty over and over again for falling short of the high expectations placed on them, so we as women will avoid pushback and confrontation in order to avoid being guilt-tripped or made to feel that we are not good enough. And this of course is ridiculous, because men overall are not held to the same standards as women, so generally this is an issue that men are altogether confronted with much less often.
Call the picture I’m painting speculation, but I’ve lived it. And if this is an experience that you’re fortunate enough not to share, then please recognize that many women do share a similar experience in regards to unfair pressures from society. And to be clear, these unfair expectations for women find themselves in every type of job. It’s just more prevalent in female-dominated fields like teaching precisely because women are the target of these disproportionate standards.
Don’t get me wrong, the world absolutely needs great teachers. I know women, and men, who are still teachers and love it. I’m not rallying everyone to abandon the profession like I did, and I also don’t regret the years I dedicated to teaching. I personally have found happiness elsewhere, but there are many who are perfectly happy to teach even though it has some serious drawbacks. And there are also plenty, like me, who decide to leave in pursuit of a career where they have more agency, power, and opportunity to make money.
So this is the hill I’ll die on, but what do you think? Is it just a coincidence that teaching is both a female-dominated profession and an underpaid profession? Or is it because women are notoriously underpaid, so of course a female-dominated profession will underpay its workforce?
3 thoughts on “The Hill I’ll Die On: Teachers Are Underpaid Because Teaching Is a Female-Dominated Profession”
This is such an important topic! I completely understand your sentiments and agree with the points you’ve raised. They apply all the world over.
I teach piano lessons and work independently and am fortunate, because only teaching a small number of students allows me to look for families that value education.
There is a percentage of families who understand and value teaching and I find these families value teaching in all spheres. And these families also value the skill of parenting and put time, effort and education into their parenting techniques. And the results are visible – with 5 & 6 year old’s able to read, speak and converse fluently, with a vocabulary and comprehension that many Indian teens develop late, or don’t develop at all, due to exam oriented book learning of language.
Every community has, in different proportions, some families that lack of understanding as well as value for the skill, education, experience and competence that is needed for good teaching. And the need for parenting, disciplined family routines and a family life that fosters education at home in small ways.
The role of women here in India can sometimes be about complex cooking and one family member cleaning up after others, to such an extent that it leaves no time for mom’s to read and play with their kids. I’ve seen kids with poor logical reasoning or poor language skills from families like this.
Like you said, women do tend to be willing to work for a lower salary than they deserve. They tend, in many families, to be doing more chores at home than men and therefore go for priorities that help them balance dual roles – career and home.
This leaves less flexibility for negotiating salary and career leaps. And also to deal with overtime – this was an issue for me in my earlier career, because company culture at times valued late working for it’s own sake. And I lost because I needed to finish work and go home to do housework.
For me, the way out was to work from home, organize so chores don’t disrupt my career and set work times so family and friends knew my routine and didn’t disrupt it,. And choose to work with families that respect what I do.
I think it’s a good option.
I think things will change when enough women think it’s a good option.
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Thank you for your comment. You bring up such a good point talking about how women are expected to still do all the chores at home and work outside the home, and how it limits their time with their children. Mothers are the first teachers for their children, and they way mothers talk to their children and communicate with them and read to them is so profoundly important. I’m very glad to hear that you figured out your own schedule that works for you. I think more women need to demand autonomy over their lives and their schedules because we deserve it.
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Yes we definitely do 🙂
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