When I was growing up, I asked my mother why she dropped out of high school at 16. She told me that when she was in 4th grade, she was accused by her teacher of submitting work that her “older brother or sister” had done. She was the oldest child in her family and did the work herself.
In high school, my mother had straight A’s and made the cut for her school’s honor society. Yet, because she didn’t attend study hall (she clearly didn’t have trouble studying), the teacher in charge refused to let her in.
In her words, “the classes were boring, the teachers were boring” and she wasn’t learning anything. She dropped out at 16 and the dean of her local community college allowed her to take classes even though she couldn’t take the GED Test until she was 17. She worked part-time, but had to drop out when her bike was stolen and she couldn’t commute to both work and school. She said, “What did I need a degree for? All the women I knew were secretaries and you didn’t need a degree for that.”
I didn’t think much about it again until I was a senior in high school. My longtime debate coach told me that the history teacher who just started teaching at my school brought him a paper I wrote and said “I don’t think Cristina wrote this. She must have plagiarized it.” My coach told the history teacher to run my paper through Turnitin. She did and found that the work was my own. I never knew this until I was about to graduate and my debate coach told me what happened.
The same thing happened to my mother (much earlier and repeatedly). Thankfully, 25 years later, it was happening to me and I had absolutely no idea. It’s been shown time and time again that girls are thought of as less capable than boys in the classroom. When I think about why there aren’t more examples of women in the highest positions of any industry, I think about how hard it must have been for them and how lucky I am to be a woman in today’s world.