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Women, Work & Education

Women, Work & Education

Celebrating international women's day is a day to remind us how far we have come in education and how behind we still are for so many females across the globe.

The celebration includes a transformation to how many opportunities women have gained by being given access to education, but we need only switch on the news to remind us that women continue to sacrifice equitable education when power and privilege are shifted from one political figure to another. However, for the context of this article, I will keep it short and sweet but aimed at sparking insights that will help you reflect on the journey that women have been on in their careers and will continue to pursue because equitable education and employment should always be the expectation and not the exception.

Women have always worked. However, the recognition of work as a paid entity has been the determining factor identified by researchers for giving women's work credibility (di Leonardo, 1985; Iversen et al., 2020; Schechner, 2003). For example, in a 1985 research study, di Leonardo stated that a woman's primary responsibility was in the household, which made it difficult for her to participate in the labour market. However, in a recent study by Iverson et al. (2020), women were identified as occupying mainly service sector jobs which the researchers (2020) associated with childcare and household responsibilities. In the research, Iverson et al. (2020) proposed that women willing to forgo a family life would substantially have a greater chance of career success. 

In a recent interview with a 7-year-old author Sofia, she spoke confidently to me about her career aspirations and strategies for achieving her goals. In another interview with Gaythree, a 30-something architect working in the Middle East, she described herself as a minority in a male-dominated industry, and the percentage of men to women is far from balanced, making her find strategies of resilience to overcome her reality of belonging to a minority gender at work. She shared that she did not want her gender to impact how her seniors perceived her in the workplace. From lower wages to unequal career potential in the workplace, women continue to juggle work and household responsibilities. However, even if women participate in the labour market, Schechner's research (2003) asserted that certain jobs were still considered women's work and feminized. Therefore, ongoing bias, whether conscious or unconscious, are faced in the workplace, resulting in women being given less than equal opportunities for training, thus resulting in fewer chances for a woman to receive a promotion or a critical role (Brown et al., 2020). In my experience as an educator and career practitioner, I see a more significant number of initiatives to support girls in STEM. 

However, as a podcaster interviewing professionals globally, I still find males outnumbering females in STEM careers. Therefore, one must reconsider the messages the youth receive from home, school and their communities nearby and globally. Are the messages shouting out, 'get an education, and you will have equitable opportunities,' or are they whispering, 'you cannot do both if you are a woman'? It is not a secret that the rising financial concerns families face globally make work necessary for women. However, the perception of women in the workplace remains socially constructed and continues to expect women to work at home and thrive in their roles of motherhood and marriage. Helmbold and Schofield (1989) stated that women are perceived and perceive themselves as inherently domestic beings, but is this still the case? Does the celebration of International Women's Day declare a victory for women and equitable opportunities for work, wages and ranking in the workplace? Unfortunately, not. As a career practitioner, I support young girls who are still expected to achieve higher education degrees but are equally expected to carry on traditional female roles in the household. 

I recognise that this article has its limitations. However, I chose to use older and newer literature to highlight that the milestones that women are celebrating today may not be where women rightly deserve to be. However, we must celebrate every milestone, whether large or small. Therefore, as I conclude my thoughts today, I will continue to ponder on the topic of women, education, careers and the journey forward. I also urge you to ponder on the topic because by doing so, we can support the youth with more conscious and intentional social education. However, do not limit yourself to educating the youth. For example, as you spend your day with colleagues in the workplace, observe and discuss the small gaps that need to change to alleviate the pressures women face while pursuing their career aspirations, supporting their families and finding joy in the work they do.

Take an audit of your own thinking. What is your worldview about women in education and employment? Do you believe that the workplace should provide equitable professional development for both men and women? What about wages? Should gender define one's wage perimeters? For example, if the degree and experience are the same, why then does one gender get paid more than the other? What other blindspots still hinder equitable work development at your organisation or institution? Finally, we are all equally responsible for positive changes for women. Therefore, what will the next decade show us regarding women, education and work? Will future females still be struggling for equality, or will they read about the mission in a historical context? My concern on a day like today is that we should do less celebrating and take more concrete actions to make the needed changes in education and at work.


Brown, B., Carlucci, R., & Stewart, S. (2020). The consequences of bias. Phalanx, 53(4), 26–33.

Di Leonardo, M. (1985). Women's Work, Work Culture, and Consciousness. Feminist Studies, 11(3), 490.

 Helmbold, L. R., & Schofield, A. E. (1989). Women's Labor History, 1790-1945. Reviews in American History.

Iversen, T., Rosenbluth, F. M., & Skorge, Ø. S. (2020). The Dilemma of Gender Equality: How Labor Market Regulation Divides Women by Class. Daedalus, 149(1), 86–99.

Schechner, R. (2003). TDR Comment: Women's Work? TDR: The Drama Review, 47(4), 5–7.

Vitoratos, M. (2023, February 6). Construction careers: Gayathrre shares her insights to getting the job [Video]. YouTube.

Vitoratos, M. (2023, March 6). Maria Vitoratos interviews Sofia Samaha [Video]. YouTube.

Maria Vitoratos, Careers Educator, Coach & Thought Leader

Maria Vitoratos is a freelance Excecutive Careers Coach, the Founder of the UAE Careers Community, an author and an avid careers practitioner who engages with colleagues across the globe.  She continues to strive to change the conversation from 'what university degree to you want to complete to what do you want to bring to the world and how can post-secondary experiences and education help you to achieve these career and life goals'? 
Maria is an active member of the global careers education community and finds every opportunity to enrich her skillset so that she can create a careers provision that will both prepare and ignite enthusiasm in the youth of her educational institution and the UAE.