Girls’ Empowerment in Newark, New Jersey

Introduction

This website investigates the challenge of empowering and raising girls as leaders in Newark and other cities, especially in the classroom. Girls in urban educational environments face various adversities, including disempowerment, bullying, violence, trauma, sexism, and racism. However, it is important to avoid reducing Newark and other urban areas to distressing problems such as these. Many girls and women have stepped up, creating grassroots organizations and environments in Newark and beyond that work toward gender equity, girls’ empowerment, and creating sisterhoods of support.

The Problem

This website focuses on the problem of girls’ disempowerment 1) on a broad urban scale,  2) in the classroom, and 3) in STEM.

1) On a larger scale, girls in urban schools deal with trauma, bullying, sexism, racism, violence, difficult family or home lives, and more, leading to disempowerment. The video below provides some examples of Newark girls’ struggles (in the context of SHE Wins Inc., a grassroots organization that seeks to empower Newark girls).

Organization empowers Newark girls affected by violence

2) In urban classrooms, girls of color face emotional and physical pain, apathy, criminalization, and a lack of role models. In “Schoolin’ Black Girls: Politicized Caring and Healing as Pedagogical Love,” scholars Sherell McArthur and Monique Lane state that black girls experience “emotional, physical, and intellectual violence” as a result of “criminalization,” “apathetic educators, deficit teacher ideologies, and culturally irrelevant pedagogies” (McArthur & Lane, 2018, pp. 66, 69). This disempowerment in the classroom puts girls at a disadvantage in their academic and future careers, as well as their lives in general.

3) Specifically in the field of STEM, girls in urban schools often lack role models and confidence. A scholarly article titled “Girls Explore Math Careers by Making 3D-Constructions of Diverse Women Mathematicians’ Lives” by Audrey Rule, Dana B Blaine, Clayton Edwards, and Mindy Gordon emphasizes that even with similar numbers and achievement for boys and girls in Kindergarten through twelfth grade, girls pursue STEM at one fourth the frequency as males (Rule et al., 2019, p. 542). In an article titled “Keeping Girls in Stem: 3 Barriers, 3 Solutions,” Carly Berwick discusses the fact that cultural norms and stereotypes keep girls from pursuing STEM careers. She discusses one source of this problem: “Persistent, subconscious images of male mathematicians and scientists that start at the earliest ages” (Berwick, 2019). Further, she states that as girls get older, the gender gap widens as girls take fewer advanced STEM courses and tests (Berwick, 2019).

 

The disempowerment of urban girls both in and out of the classroom creates injustice and deepens the gender gap in education and the work force. This problem presents a challenge that many large organizations have sought to resolve.

According to scholars, practitioners, and girls who live through this struggle, what are the best solutions?

The Solution

The main solution is to empower girls, and there are many ways to do so. For teachers, this means providing girls with culturally relevant role models and practicing pedagogical love. More broadly, grassroots organizations are creating sisterhoods where girls’ voices and experiences are heard, supported, and valued. Mentorship and role models are key to raising a new generation of empowered women.

This website focuses on many solutions to girls’ disempowerment in urban schools, specifically in Newark, New Jersey. See the synthesis of grassroots organizations, the list of grassroots organizations, the synthesis of scholarly and practitioner opinions, or the discussion of participatory democracy for more detailed and specific solutions.

Why Empower Girls in Urban Areas?

This United Nations article argues that establishing gender equity, equal educational and career opportunities, and a reduction of the disadvantages that urban women face (such as violence and access to health services) is essential to ensure the economic prosperity of cities (“Empowerment of urban women,” 2013). While this should not be the only reason to empower girls and promote gender equity, it is important to acknowledge how vital women are to the survival of urban areas.

 

References

Berwick, C. (2019). Keeping girls in STEM: 3 barriers, 3 solutions. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/article/keeping-girls-stem-3-barriers-3-solutions

Empowerment of urban women and youth vital for future prosperity of cities, UN says. (2013). Retrieved from https://news.un.org/en/story/2013/04/437542-empowerment-urban-women-and-youth-vital-future-prosperity-cities-un-says

McArthur, S., Lane, M. (2018, October 31). Schoolin’ black girls: politicized caring and healing as pedagogical love. The Urban Review, 51(1), 65-80. doi:10.1007/s11256-018-0487-4

Mishkin, L. (2018). Organization empowers Newark girls affected by violence [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.njtvonline.org/news/video/organization-empowers-newark-girls-affected-by-violence/

Rule, A., Blaine, D., Edwards, C., Gordon, M. (2019). Girls explore math careers by making 3D-constructions of diverse women mathematicians’ lives. The Mathematics Enthusiast16(1,2,3), 541-578. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.bowdoin.edu/education/docview/2172581279/fulltextPDF/E699898A253B42ACPQ/11?accountid=9681