Any college student will tell you the first class of the day is rough. It’s probably early, we’re most likely tired, and we’re definitely stressed. Tearing myself from the warm cocoon of my cozy bed is asking a lot, not to mention having to trek across campus in the increasingly crisp morning air. Wednesday mornings are the worst because my first (and only) class is Math116. On any given afternoon, you can find me in the math lab or in my room whining about how the class is ruining my life. So waking up and going to listen to my GSI drone on about separation of variables and volumes by revolution and a plethora of things I don’t care about isn’t exactly motivating to wake up in the morning. Which is why, this past Wednesday, when her first words weren’t “good morning, here’s your quiz,” my ears perked up and I actually wanted to hear what she was about to say. “I got the feedback from your midterm evaluations of this class and I was really upset by it…”
She proceeded to lecture us on the importance of acceptance. Across all the sections of Math116, students criticized their GSI’s for things they cannot control. Many complained about accents getting in the way of learning, or made other insensitive comments about an instructor’s race, nationality, and gender. She told us how upsetting it is that women are looked at differently than men, especially in her field (mathematics). She also informed us about a study by PNAS in which fake applications for the same position were submitted with different applicant names, and “faculty participants rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hirable than the (identical) female applicant. These participants also selected a higher starting salary and offered more career mentoring to the male applicant.” My mind immediately went to my Intro to Political Science class.
Over the past few weeks, we have talked a lot about women and equality. We had a guest speaker, Suzy, come in and speak about her experience as a soldier in the US Army. She was constantly made to feel like an outsider or unwelcomed among men who were supposed to be her equals and her supporters. She took conscious actions to have her gender overlooked in an effort to fit in better in her environment. Before Suzy, I knew that women have not always had an easy time in the military, but I did not realize that problems still existed.
Between Suzy and my GSI, it dawned on me just how unequal women still are. A simple Google search will produce dozens of statistics on women in the workplace, such as that women earn about 81 cents for every $1 men earn. There are, of course, many examples of successful women out there. I had the opportunity to listen to one at an LSA Theme semester event. Andrea Joyce, U of M alum, spoke about her career in broadcast journalism. She has covered events from NCAA football to NBA basketball to Olympic Games and interviewed prolific figures like Hillary Clinton. However, her road to success was not easy. She explained that when she entered the scene in 1978, there were no women doing sports. She started off by doing a little bit of everything and eventually, with hard work and perseverance, found her niche in sports journalism. Her advice to young professionals, and specifically young women:
“Take risks. If you don’t take the risk, you’ll never get the reward.”
This was the one thing that really stuck with me. I believe this can be related to just about any person in any field, but especially women hoping to make a name for themselves. You must be willing to put yourself on the line and take chances or you will never stand out. As a female, people will be waiting for you to mess up, but you just have to do what you feel is right and work until you succeed.
I had the opportunity to listen to another successful, female, U of M alum at LSA: “The Winning Play” Alumni Connections Event. Angela Thick studied communications here and now works as the communications coordinator at Oxford Community School in Michigan. Her previous experiences also include Assistant Director of Marketing for the Michigan Athletic Department, where she oversaw the launch and management of the HAIL app, a service I am familiar with and use regularly. This was a great experience because as a current Comm102 student, I am definitely considering continuing in this field as a major. It was very interesting to hear how Angela’s career has progressed and what kinds of opportunities were available to her. I found her especially relatable because we’re both females. I couldn’t help but notice that most (not all) of the other alumni were male.
While it is often more difficult, the I learned from all of these experiences and role models that women can make it big in whichever field they want; be it teaching, the military, journalism, or business. As a young female who will eventually be joining this society’s workforce, I hope that things will change for the better in the future. I can also acknowledge that there will be some added challenges, but nothing that I am not prepared to handle.