The Hill I’ll Die On: Teachers Are Underpaid Because Teaching Is a Female-Dominated Profession

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 WomenExpectations 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.
a helpful chart explaining the woes of womanhood

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?

Photo by cottonbro on