Hearing an overview of the findings of the Gender Taskforce report really made me think about accomplishment and women’s role in the workforce. Knowing that I want to enter the corporate world and be successful, it was really great for me to hear this.
The Gender Taskforce report indicated that women tend to have higher grades, generally spend more time in academic preparation taking advantage of the resources offered on campus, and dedicate more time to co-curricular activities or student groups (with the exception of sports) and studying in general. On the other hand, men spend more time in leisurely activities such as playing recreational sports, time with friends, etc. Yet, trends from research at other institutions suggest that males tend to overestimate their abilities or are overconfident, whereas females tend to underestimate what they can do.
Those facts made me really think about the structure of our education. If confidence in oneself seems to be key to being successful, then why is it that the educational system does not address lower confidence among women? Why is it that women underestimate their achievements and qualifications? Is it biological or environmental? Why do women feel like they need to work twice as hard to accomplish the same results men do?
Hearing these facts is both unsettling and exciting at the same time. If developing confidence and faith in one’s abilities is the answer to leveling the playing field or at least one step in the right direction, then I am starting to feel hope. I feel like there is something I can do. Instead of signing up for yet another activity or overloading on classes, I will now take the time to truly reflect on my strengths and take the time to focus on myself. At the same time, I feel that it is absolutely imperative to figure out what it is that is causing women to underestimate their abilities.
For the last week one of my assignments has been monitoring the progression of the Jerry Sandusky trial and analyzing media coverage surrounding the issue of child sexual abuse. Sandusky is accused of molesting 10 boys over the course of 15 years, boys he met through his charity The Second Mile. Reading about the trial made me consider how something so horrific could occur and how it relates to the importance of women in our society.
In covering the trial, majority of the media outlets focus solely on the legal aspects – the motions attorneys make, the statute of limitations, etc. States are beginning to pass legislature about requirements for reporting suspected child sexual abuse. What the media fails to mention is what can be done to prevent child sexual abuse. It fails to place the focus on families and communities. It fails to place the focus on women and show how investing in women can help stop child abuse and lift up communities in general.
It’s a known fact that women tend to spend greater portions of their income on their children than men. Spending on children means better education, better nutrition, better everything. If that is the case, then how is it that a woman still only makes 77 cents on every dollar a man does? How can Congress take measures to maintain this status quo by voting down the Paycheck Fairness Act? And if the government is not willing to do anything about it, what can I do?
Reading about the trial at my job and discussing women’s economic status and investment into women’s causes with the group made me think about the intricacies and interconnectedness of these issues and what can be done to ameliorate them all. So far, I truly believe that empowering women is the first step to changing the world.
Feminism. Several months ago it was just a concept… somewhere… out there. All I knew was that I wanted to avoid being labeled “a feminist” at all costs. Being called a feminist was the equivalent of “you’re an angry and overly uptight asshole and you’re ruining our fun.” Even though I wholeheartedly believed in what feminism represents, I felt that being explicit about it gave people a reason to dismiss and silence me. “Oh, she’s one of those…” and everything I said was instantly deemed irrelevant and annoying.
That was several months ago.
Three days ago I was told I would have to find my way to the MetroTech Center in Brooklyn where Ms. Foundation is located. I would have to use the SUBWAY!! Needless to say I got lost more times than I would have liked. As I walked into the elevator to the 26th floor where Ms. Foundation is located, I was sure of two things: Ms. Foundation is an organization that promotes the rights of women and I have no idea what to expect. My idea of a non-profit office space was a stuffy 10×15 room with old computers and no space to breathe.
It was nothing like what I had anticipated. I walked through the beautiful glass doors and was warmly greeted by Lulu. The space was open and bright, the walls were white and red and featured quotes and beautiful images of women.
The view was absolutely spectacular.
Everything about the space was inviting. Shortly after, Lulu gave me an overview of the organization and introduced me to members of the staff. When I sat down at my desk, I realized that I was surrounded by intelligent, passionate women who openly call themselves feminists and bravely stand up for what they believe. There was nothing angry or scary about them.
Working at Ms. Foundation even for the last few days made me realize that change cannot happen quietly. One must take a firm stance on something and fight to promote it. I realized that the very notion that all feminists are unpleasant or annoying is what I must stand up against. I am excited to see how working in this environment and exploring what feminism means to me will shape my perspective.
As for now, I am Karolina Povedych and I am a feminist.