By Grace Kuan
Recently, I have been part of discussions on how programs and organizations with a focus on women can be more inclusive of our male counterparts. The idea was tossed out that one could just get rid of women in the group mission and title and make it gender neutral. The term ‘women’ might disinterest men and women who might otherwise consider joining.
However: 1) The two goals of supporting men and women are not mutually exclusive. Each is its own issue that deserves its own space. 2) Having a gender neutral student organization will have less resources available in supporting women specifically. 3) Groups focused on women wouldn’t exist unless there was a great need for it. Unfortunately, gender gaps do exist, and support for women has always been and is still needed.
We already know this. We know that a gender gap exists. There is a significant body of research that supports this. Women get paid less. Women are less likely to be promoted to leadership positions in the workplace. Women do not have the same access to needed healthcare as men. Women are less likely to be in political offices. This is just to name a few, and does not even consider minorities and nuances within this group.
Rather than getting sidetracked with the statistics and the details of each issue, here are some great sources to check out that would do a better job than me in proving the burden of evidence and describing each issue. Check out this report that was just published four months ago by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), and here is a Global Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum just last year.
So, why would the term ‘women’ disinterest and scare others from joining and supporting an organization focused on women? In other words, why wouldn’t you support women in their pursuit for success?
For men, it may be that the organization is something not relevant or valuable to their own careers and success. For women, it may be the unfortunate existence of competition and fear of threat another woman’s success and ambition can pose, as Alyson discussed in WiHL’s last blog post.
In spite of this, I want to challenge both men and women in rather being comfortable in their own positions of power and success and the mentality of every (wo)man for him/herself, to employ compassion.
It’s true that we live in a world that largely engages in ‘scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,’ but to practice compassion is to sacrifice and give up resources and power in the name of justice and equality, without expecting something in return to your own advantage. (This is not to invalidate the existence of evidence that does attest to the benefits of supporting and having females in the workplace, however.)
Employing compassion in this context could look like aiding in efforts to closing that gender gap and helping peers of your own gender to be successful. For women in positions of great influence, power, and success, it looks like helping your female peers who are still struggling and still in the process of finding their own success. For men, it’s giving women fair and equal opportunity in their arenas of influence. For both genders, this means giving up some of the opportunities and power that have been afforded to you in some advancement of an area of your life. For men and women who are struggling to find success and who have been discouraged by the lack of support for their own advancement, I encourage you to choose to keep trying in the face of failure, and to choose kindness and compassion when none have been extended to you. There are always people in your circle in need of your kindness and compassion if you take the time to look and listen.
If you really care about seeing positive change in the world, as we all (hopefully) are at the School of Public Health, you can’t do it alone. Why not help in advancing and supporting your female peers so that they might join the fight alongside you in promoting positive change in the world?
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