Karen Fratti
March 01, 2017 5:03 am
Jon Flobrant/Unsplash

If we want to close the gender gap in professional settings, it might be a good idea to get to the root of the problem and figure out where women and men start to take different tracks. Gendered toys and clothes and media messages are a part of it. But it also starts in schools. Which is why New York City hired a gender equity coordinator to take a look at public school programs and curriculums and ensure that everything is equal. That’s a really big idea.

And also so simple and smart that we can’t believe no other city has already done this. Kimberly Shannon is the first-ever gender equity coordinator hired by any Department of Education.

So she’ll basically be setting the example and precedent for other states and cities who want to get in on this genius plan.

Shannon will be looking into everything that goes into gender equity in schools. Like ensuring that there’s equal representation in career technical programs or STEM classes, making sure that pregnant students or teen moms are getting enough attention from schools, and tackling gender based violence. She’ll also be brainstorming ways to empower girls, transgender, and gender non-conforming students, focusing first on students in temporary housing, students of color, and students with disabilities. So, basically everything. NBD.

Since taking on the position two months ago, Shannon told DNAInfo, “I’m building partnerships with community-based organizations, other city agencies and DOE employees and parents.” To take on this ginormous job, making sure everything is connected is the first step.

“The greatest need for my role is focusing on the most marginalized populations. That’s something we’re committed to at the DOE. I’ve been really moved at how many organizations and schools are eager to work with me.”

New York City has about 1,800 public schools and they aren’t perfect. But the current city council, in particular the Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, who created the position appears to be dedicated to building up a line of defense in the new political climate. The new administration recently trashed transgender protections in schools and just appointed Betsy DeVos to oversee the federal Department of Education, which isn’t great news for educators or public schools. DeVos is an advocate of “school choice,” which means spending less federal resources on reforming failing public schools and more about giving parents tax breaks for tuition at private or charter schools.

Whatever Shannon comes up with when it comes to empowering the marginalized and sticking up for STEM programs will be useful if the national Department of Education starts to tinker with the public school system. It probably won’t be perfect, but it’s probably a good thing Shannon’s there to keep an eye out.

Advertisement