RGM Blog 5 – Women in Education – A History

It is no secret that throughout history women have been largely exluded from education. In many developing countries they are still denied this right that we so callously take for granted here in America. Even here, it is only in recent history that women have been given the same educational rights as men, and there are still reforms to be made before things are completely equal.

Many of the earliest colleges in  America were founded in the seventeenth century, however these were not open to women. “While Harvard opened in 1636, the first college to admit women did not do so for another 200 years. Women did not begin attending college in equal numbers to men until as recently as 1980.” More information on this statistic, the history of colleges, and women in education can be found here.

Although the gender has a much shorter history than men when it comes to access to education, since getting their attendence up to equal numbers, women have actually been earning more degrees overall. “In 1982, women earned more bachelor’s degrees than men for the first time, and women have increased their share of bachelor’s degrees in every year since then. By 1987, women earned the majority of master’s degrees for the first time, and within another decade, more women than men earned doctor’s degrees by 2006, and female domination of college degrees at every level was complete.” More statistics like this and information about women and their history earning degrees can be found in the article linked here.

So ironically, the thing that women were told throughout the majority of history by nearly every country, empire, and civilization that they were not suited for, they excel at. It is important to understand that while women and men are biologically different in many ways, women are no less intelligent and intellectually capable, and should be treated as such. Today we still see rampant gender discrimination in academia even though women have equal rights when it comes to attending school. We need to end this idea that women are only suited for certain pursuits, certain majors, and certain levels of education and understand that a more diverse educational system and workforce is beneficial for all.

RGM Blog 4 – Sexual Assault Against College Women

Violence against women is a huge problem in our country and the world in general that has been largely unremedied. Whether it be domestic abuse, sexual assault, rape, sexual assault in the military, or even elder assault, women are the victims of hundreds of thousands of assaults in this nation every year and we need to spread awareness and work to decrease this number.

As a college student, rape and sexual assault that occurs on college campuses is an important issue and a scary reality for many people that I know. One in five college women has been sexually assaulted while in college. One in Five. That’s 20 percent, and far too high. In 2014, “President Obama established a White House Task Force to protect students from sexual assaults,” but this did little to remedy this problem. The sad truth is that “women and girls nationwide experience about 270,000 rapes or sexual assaults annually.” More information on sexual assault against women and these facts can be found here.

Violence against women in not a new problem, but with technological advances and greater access to information which leads to more awareness, we should be able to act against this and put some solutions in place. Although nothing will solve this problem completely, we can certainly work to decrease the number of victims. Putting in place more safety stations where students are able to access a phone or press a help button that will alert the authorities and emit a loud sound to draw attention would be a good and relatively cheap start to lowering the number of asssaults that occur on campuses nationwide. It would not be hard for many colleges to put more of these kinds of stations in place in evenly spread locations throughout the campus.

Another potential solution would be closer parking options. In my experience with UNT, parking is a huge issue. According to a report by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, over the past 25 years, more than 70 percent of college students have worked while attending school. The full report can be found here.

If we can assume that roughly half of those students are women, that’s 30-40 percent of all students who are women and have jobs in college. As a college student, most jobs that are available are in retail and food service which often cause employees to work shifts into the night hours. When you live on campus and  don’t get back to your dorm until after dark, a close parking spot can be the difference between safety and danger. When I was a freshman and worked, we had parking right behind the dorm I lived in, so this was not an issue, but now due to greater volumes of commuter students and more buildings being built on campus, UNT forces residents to park in a parking lot all the way across campus. I believe this can be very unsafe for women walking back to their dorms alone late at night. This should be an saftety issue that is considered when parking regulations are made.

All in all, we need to recognize that while this is an issue that many have knowledge of, there is not much actually being done about it. It is up to us to push our schools and universities to become more cognizant of just how important their student’s safety is and to prioritize it.

RGM Blog 3 – Gendered Children’s Toys

You can ask nearly anyone in our modern society, what do you associate the color blue with and they will reply with ‘boys’ and the same with pink for girls. It’s not something we think about very much because it seems normal, but we have allowed marketing and advertising to brand certain colors and toys and dictate what is gender normal for children, and it could very well be harmful to them.

Upon entering a toy store, you will see the girls section filled with pink and purple; sparkly dresses and plastic high heels abound, as well as toy kitchens, fake food, and cooking sets. Similarly on the boys side you will see blue, action figures, and fake handyman equipment as well as a pretty large assortment of toy guns and other pretend weapons. All of this may seem pretty benign, but in reality we are actually limiting what our child thinks is okay to play with and placing lines and gender roles on children before they can define their interests and preferences for themselves.

Not only does this place gender stereotypes and societal norms on children before they are old enough to think for themselves, it could be harmful to their development as well and have a much more far reaching impact. “Rather than encouraging experimentation and urging children to play with whatever excites them, toy companies presume that girls are less interested in toys that build spatial-reasoning skills (like Legos) and boys don’t want to play with toys that encourage verbal skills and creativity (like Barbies). This can have a serious impact on kids’ future skill sets and career aspirations, ultimately affecting the makeup of the workforce.” More information on toy segregation and how this affects children can be found in the article linked here.

Children are learning that certain toys are “for boys” or “for girls” when in reality, they should be free to play with whatever they want and allow any interests that they do have blossom. One of the biggest arguments I have seen against the gender wage gap existing is that there are much fewer girls in certain lucrative fields and that is skewing the results. Well one reason why there might not be any women in fields like science, architecture, and many manual labor positions, is that we teach our children from a young age that certain pasttimes and occupations are for certain genders. This becomes ingrained in their head and is a source of conditioning that I believe is stronger than we give it credit for. “By late primary age, research by Welsh organisation Chwarae Teg shows that children already have very clear ideas about the jobs that are suitable for boys and girls; ideas that are very hard to shake later on.” More information about this study and more negative effects can be found in an article linked here.

It is important that we change our commerical landscape and become more aware of these messages that we are telling our children just by the toys they are given. If we eliminate these gendered notions and products, we would see a more accepting environment for our children and a more diverse and productive workforce.

RGM Blog 2 – Female Body Image and The Media

As a woman, I don’t know if I’ve met any women who are completely happy with their bodies. Maybe a fitness trainer or a model, but out of the women I see and interact with on a daily basis, it is extremely rare for me to hear any talk about how happy they are with their bodies or how they look. This is extremely sad to me. Self love and confidence in your body is important, but in our increasingly consumeristic and superficial society, it is the opposite of encouraged. The truth is, in our world, sex sells. And making women feel worse about their bodies will help them buy more products that are aimed towards making them feel more sexy and attractive – closer to the “ideal”.

Our media is largely to blame for this. The idea that as a women your worth is tied to your attractiveness is promoted everywhere, so much so that most of the time we don’t even notice it because we are so desensitized.

Because of the advances in technology we have seen in the past 20 years and the increasing availability of the internet, the influence of the media has grown. We are constantly being bombarded with messages everywhere we look– from television, to social media, to ads that pop up on the sidebar when reading a news article. The saddest part is that this means these harmful messages and negative conditioning start early. “On a typical day, 8 – 18-year-olds are engaged with some form of media about 7.5 hours…Even media aimed at elementary school age children, such as animated cartoons and children’s videos, emphasize the importance of being attractive. Sexually objectified images of girls and women in advertisements are most likely to appear in men’s magazines.  Yet the second most common source of such images is the advertisements in teen magazines directed at adolescent girls.” More facts and information about this study about the effects of media on body image can be found here.

Almost every fashion and beauty brand caters to the concept of the ‘thin-ideal’ with their models, showcasing women who are usually over 5’8 and are a size 4 or smaller. “The average American woman is 5’4” and weighs 140 pounds, while the average American model is 5’11” and weighs 117 pounds.” More facts like this and information about this study can be found here.

This shows a huge dichotomy, and being that tall and only weighing 117 pounds indicates an unhealthy BMI. So we are actually sending the message to girls and women that in order to look like what is considered commercially and societally ‘ideal’ one has to resort to unhealthy measures. Not to mention all of the digital retouching that goes into nearly every photo of a model you see in commericals, internet ads, and magazines.

This is a huge problem for women everywhere and plays a part in the systematic inequality and oppression women face. We need to take a stand and push for regulation that doesn’t allow women with BMIs proven to be unhealthy to walk in runway shows and do print or digital modelling. That is not to say we need to shame skinny women. That is definitely not the answer. For reference, I myself am fairly skinny and struggled with gaining weight during my junior high and high school years. Since reaching adulthood I am 5’6, 115 pounds and wear a size 2/4. But I am not unhealthy. I run and workout. I eat healthy, but I eat regularly and eat enough. I weigh only 2 pounds less than the average model, but I am 5 inches shorter. That is what I am talking about when I say unhealthy. If a health professional determines that a women has an unhealthy BMI, then they should not be walking on a runway and selling the most luxurious brands. Instead they should be getting medical help to get to weight that is healthy so their body can function normally. We must be aware of the messages that our media is sending to girls and women and work to change that. Only then can we begin to empower women about their body image and celebrate our differences instead of making people feel horrible about themselves just to sell products.

 

RGM Blog 1 – The Gender Wage Gap

We have all heard that statistic that women get paid 79 cents on the dollar compared to men. And although this is an improvement from the 1960s, where women made 59% of men’s salaries, we still have a long way to go to reach equality. Women comprise a little more than half of the work force, and earn more degrees, both Bachelor’s and graduate, than men, yet we are still being paid much less to do the same work. According to Institute for Women’s Policy Reseach, if this wage gap continues as it has previously, it would take until 2059 for white women to be paid as much as men, and much longer for Hispanic and African American women. More information on the research done by IWPR and these statistics can be found here.

In addition, women make up only “14.6 percent of executive officers, 8.1 percent of top earners, and 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs,” according to the Center for American Progress. More information about these statistics and a more detailed fact sheet can be found here.

It is important to understand the gender wage gap and why it matters. Awareness is the first step to changing policy. I believe that as the wage gap continues, it exacerbates the gender inequality and misogyny that all women face at some point in our life, and especially in the professional world. Statistics like these are disheartening to me as a woman, because I know that representation is important and if girl children do not see women in positions of power in the workforce, they will not know that it is something that is attainable for them as a goal in their own life and the cycle will continue.

Closing the gender wage gap would be advantageous to employers because they would be hiring the best person for the job without bias, and productivity would increase. It would also be advantageous to our economy on the whole because if women were being paid more, they would be able to spend more, and most importantly, it would be good for our society by decreasing inequality and empowering more women as well as providing better representation for the younger generations.

Together we can work to educate the public on this issue and to implement programs like pay transparency in the workplace and better childcare options for working mothers that would help create positive change across the board and lead to a better tomorrow, not just for women, but for everyone.