By Dr. Queena Hoang

Throughout history, pregnant and parenting students have faced unique challenges, and their stories are an important part of women’s history. These students have had to balance their academic pursuits with the demands of pregnancy and parenting, often facing discrimination and barriers to their education. Just eight percent of single mother undergraduates in the United States earn an associate or bachelor’s degree within six years of enrolling in college, compared with nearly half (49 percent) of women in college who are not mothers.

This Women’s History Month, we recognize the resilience and strength of pregnant and parenting students who have overcome these challenges. Today, we would like to recognize three student parents who have and will shape history: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Madeleine Albright, and Jill Biden.

What do they have in common? These are three notable women who have all made significant contributions to society while also being mothers, caregivers, and student parents. Each of them have been trailblazers in their own ways, inspiring future generations of women to pursue their goals and aspirations.

Madeleine Albright was the first woman to serve as Secretary of State in the United States. She was a mother of three children and has spoken publicly about the challenges of balancing her career with motherhood. Albright has been a strong advocate for women’s rights and has worked to promote women’s leadership and empowerment around the world. She has also been a vocal supporter of education and the importance of lifelong learning.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a pioneering figure in the fight for gender equality and women’s rights. She was the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court and served for 27 years until her death in 2020. Ginsburg was a mother and caregiver who worked tirelessly to advance gender equality and to ensure that women had equal access to opportunities in all areas of life. She was also a strong advocate for education and believed that knowledge and education were essential to promoting equality and justice.

Jill Biden is an educator and the current First Lady of the United States. She has been a teacher for over 30 years and holds a doctorate in education. Biden has also been a mother and caregiver, raising her children while pursuing her career in education. She has been a vocal advocate for education and has worked to promote access to education for all.

In the past, pregnant students were often expelled from school or forced to drop out. This discrimination led to the establishment of Title IX in 1972, a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education programs or activities that receive federal funding. Title IX requires schools to provide pregnant and parenting students with equal access to educational opportunities and support services.

Women’s History Month has its roots in International Women’s Day, which was first observed in 1911. The idea was to have a day to recognize the contributions of women to society and to promote women’s rights. In 1980, eight years after Title IX was passed, President Jimmy Carter declared the week of March 8th as National Women’s History Week. Later, in 1987, Congress passed a resolution designating March as Women’s History Month. March presents an opportunity to recognize the struggles and obstacles that women past and present have overcome to achieve equality and to honor the women who have made a difference in the world.

Recognizing these struggles and obstacles, many schools today have programs and resources to support pregnant and parenting students. These programs may include child care services, lactation rooms, counseling services, and academic accommodations; however, pregnant and parenting students still face challenges such as lack of affordable child care, stigma, and bias.

Each of the women previously mentioned serves as an inspiration for parenting students who are working to balance their academic pursuits with the demands of parenting and caregiving. They show that although extremely difficult, it is possible to pursue a successful career and to make a difference in the world while also being a parent and caregiver.

It is important to continue to support and uplift women in their pursuit of education and career goals, and to create a more equitable and just society for all.

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation seeking to accelerate progress towards a more just world through grantmaking, operating programs, and impact investing. Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.

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