Taiwan has laws on gender equality in the workplace. A woman ran for president in the last Taiwanese election.
Yet, a small change in ordering boys and girls in the classroom can be more powerful than any law passed by government. By simply assigning class numbers by a genderless system, you will change an entire generation’s way of thinking.
After my soapbox speech, I received the noncommittal: “I’ll think about it.”
These women were all in these places of power and yet were uncomfortable going against the “status quo.” I certainly understand that.
As a woman, especially a Taiwanese-American woman, I have been fighting the stereotype of docility my entire life: “Women don’t make trouble. Women need to tend to the home and not the affairs outside.”
Yet I refused to believe this. I knew that I was just as smart and worked just as hard as my male colleagues. Thankfully, I found myself in an environment where I could believe this is true.
I was called in class based on my name, not my gender. I believe such tiny details allowed me to believe that I was living in a fair society.
I graduated first in my class in high school, went to an Ivy League University and then received my doctorate from Johns Hopkins University, being inducted into the Delta Omega Honor Society during graduation. I am living proof that these intangibles matter.
It is my sincere hope that school principals who may be reading this article make this small change in their classrooms.
You have the power to make a difference. Do not be afraid to change the system. A change in policy now may affect that first-grader who tomorrow could become president.
If Rosa Parks never had the courage to sit down on a bus, an entire generation of African-Americans would still be segregated.
There would be no US President Barack Obama.
If Neil Armstrong was afraid to step outside his spacecraft, the Soviets would have been first on the moon and the world would be very different, indeed.
If schools make this one small change in their classrooms, it may be only one small step for a schoolgirl, but it can be a giant leap for a generation of women.
Grace Tsai is a research fellow at National Taiwan University’s School of Public Health.