Women Are Underrepresented in American History

By Giving List Women   |   May 20, 2024

Our understanding of history begins in the classroom. As young students, ideas of identity, equity, and place are explored through books, classroom lessons, and the media. Yet how often do these representations include women? 

“Women make up only 15% of people represented in state social studies standards,” says Jennifer Herrera, National Women’s History Museum’s (NWHM’s) vice president of external affairs. “Our children begin their educational journey with a skewed retelling of history, one that largely omits the contributions and accomplishments of women.”

According to NWHM research, when women are included, it’s primarily in the context of a chosen few movements like the fight for women’s suffrage, or to highlight their domestic roles and relationships as wives and mothers of famous men. But women are – and have always been – vibrant, leading contributors to every political, social, and cultural movement, and it’s time their stories are told.

Making Women’s History Inclusive and Accessible

Founded in 1996, NWHM is the nation’s leading cultural institution for women’s history. Their exhibits, programming, events, and free digital content amplify the voices and stories of women, past and present, and drive action towards gender equality and inclusivity. The organization led the lobbying effort for the construction of the future brick-and-mortar Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum – still at least a decade away – and is now reimagining their role as a museum of women’s history in the digital age. 

In addition to developing immersive, tech-forward educational content and interactive experiences, the Museum offers physical exhibitions and events across the country. Their current exhibition is at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. It focuses on the stories and voices of Black feminist organizers and features a welcome video by Oprah Winfrey and utilizes cutting-edge technology to create digital experiences in the service of women’s history education. This hybrid of offering a physical exhibition with extensive free curated online educational content is representative of the innovative work being developed by the museum. 

Gender Equity Then, Now, and Beyond

According to the World Economic Forum, North America is 95 years away from closing the gender gap. Even today, children and adults are conditioned to accept a dearth of women – in politics, in business, and on our currency. NWHM is thinking forward by looking back. NWHM President and CEO Frédérique Campagne Irwin explains that we need to change the narrative at the beginning and play a long game.

“From the very first days in a classroom, the absence of women’s inclusion means young boys start to perceive girls as less strong, less than. Likewise, young girls start thinking that they’re weaker, not as strong, not as capable, and not as good. This has tangible, dire implications for gender equity, and we have the power to course correct.” 

Systemic changes are necessary, and NWHM’s approach is a vital step on the path to greater gender equality worldwide. NWHM puts women back where they belong: everywhere. “Inclusive history is good history,” says Herrera. “But you can’t tell an accurate story if you’re missing the voices and contributions of half of the population.”


National Women’s History Museum

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President and CEO: Frédérique Campagne Irwin


We preserve, educate and amplify the diverse contributions and voices of women through innovative content and experiences at a national level to drive action towards gender equality and inclusivity.

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