Iranian Women Cut Off from Higher Education

August 24, 2012

“Some fields are not very suitable for women’s nature, such as agricultural machinery or mining, partly because of the hard work involved in them.”

— Seyed Abolfazl Hassani, Iran Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology

“It is pushing them back into the house in the hope that they abandon their demands and leave the government alone to pursue in its wrong pursuits.”

— Shirin Ebadi, Iranian Nobel laureate

Through an act of gender discrimination aimed at creating “balance,” it was announced a few weeks ago that women will lose access to 77 bachelor’s degree programs at 36 universities across Iran. Many of those academic programs are focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This is a startling change when you consider that, in a 2010 U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization study, women represented 70 percent of Iranian graduates in science fields.

Via Flickr user Paul KellerAbout two-thirds of Iranian college students are women. In the past 30 years, Iranian women have made so many advances in education. Compare that with the 350-year struggle for U.S. women to have equal representation in campus enrollment. And even with these enrollment numbers, American women are still struggling in the STEM fields. Consider what effect this discrimination will have on Iranian students in STEM. Why take women out of science in Iran? Why take women out of any academic program?

AAUW has long been invested in women’s access to higher education. We were founded on that principle in 1881. Our 2011–13 Public Policy Program affirms our commitment to “a strong system of public education that promotes gender fairness, equity, and diversity … and advocates increased support for, and the access to, higher education for women and other disadvantaged populations.” We know that higher education is critical to helping women obtain financial security and economic independence. In Iran and everywhere, this is clearly a human rights issue. To ban access to education represents yet another act of control over women.

This post was written by AAUW College/University Relationships Manager Christine Hernandez.

By:   |   August 24, 2012

Join the Conversation

You must be logged in to post a comment.