Lesson Plan

Moving Beyond Gender Barriers in Our Lives

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On June 10, 1963 President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act (EPA), which ensures that men and women receive “equal pay for equal work.” At that time, women earned a mere 59 cents for every dollar that men earned.

Despite the establishment of civil rights laws and gains of the women’s movement since that time, significant disparities and barriers remain for women in the workplace. Not only do women of every race and ethnicity earn significantly less compared to men of the same race or ethnicity, women of color suffer both because of their gender and their race.

In 2007, women in the U.S. earned only 77 cents for every dollar men earned and eight years later this increased only three cents. For every dollar men earned in 2016, the female population earned 80 cents and African-American and Latina women earned just 63 cents and 54 cents respectively.[1]

Female workers also remain largely segregated in “women’s jobs,” which pay on average significantly less than “men’s jobs.” Non-traditional occupations offer higher wages for women, yet women are underrepresented in many of these occupations like aviation maintenance, engineering, law enforcement and welding. Young women, for example, are only 1% of automobile mechanics, 7.2% of airline pilots and flight engineers, 12.3% of electronics engineers and 5.2% of the CEO’s in America’s 500 largest companies.[2], [3]

Women who forge paths in male-dominated fields often encounter wage discrimination and gender bias on the job. After working for almost twenty years at a Goodyear Tire plant in Alabama, Lilly Ledbetter discovered that she had been consistently paid less than her male co-workers with the same job. On January 29, 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 (“Act”). The Ledbetter Act recognizes the “reality of wage discrimination” and restores “bedrock principles of American law.”

Situations such as this underscore the importance of making children aware of the gender barriers that still exist for women in our society so that girls do not unconsciously limit their aspirations and boys understand their role in being advocates for a more gender inclusive world.

This edition of Curriculum Connections explores gender role expectations and the obstacles that still exist for people who behave in gender non-conforming ways. The early childhood lesson (K–2) helps young students to explore the gender stereotypical beliefs that place limits on the types of activities and interests they pursue. The lessons for older students helps young people explore assumptions about job roles and gender, increase awareness about gender segregation and pay inequality in the workplace and encourage students to move beyond narrow gender role expectations as they pursue interests and envision their own professional futures.


[1] Catherine Hill, The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap, ed. Kevin Miller (Washington, DC: American Association of University Women, 2017), www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/.

[2] United States Department of Labor, “Nontraditional (male-dominated) occupations, 2014 annual averages,” (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor), www.dol.gov/wb/stats/Nontraditional%20Occupations.pdf.

[3] Pew Research Center, “Women and Leadership: Public Says Women are Equally Qualified, but Barriers Persist” (Washington, D.C.: Pew Research Center, 2015), www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/01/14/chapter-1-women-in-leadership/.