Women’s Center of Ohio | Photo by Soham Parikh | The Wright State Guardian
Wright State University faculty members and students discuss the importance of Women’s History Month while reflecting on racial issues, social expectations, the gender wage gap and the programs that support and acknowledge women’s existence.
Women’s History Month
March marks Women’s History Month, the month celebrating the history and accomplishments of women.
Beginning as a small celebration in California in 1978, the month grew to become a national holiday in the U.S. when Congress dedicated March as Women’s History Month in 1987.
This is a time when activists, feminists and people of all genders discuss women’s history, celebrate women’s accomplishments and advocate for the challenges women still face.
Women in science
Women in the U.S. have made great strides towards gender equality, including earning the right to vote in 1920 and gaining greater access to higher education in the 1960s. However, women still experience implicit bias, especially in male-dominated fields like STEM.
Senior biological sciences major, Whitney White, who is also a Black woman, explains the additional pressure she feels due to societal expectations.
“I do feel people underestimate my abilities compared to my classmates,” White said. “That is another challenge; I have to perform even better than my counterparts.”
The young STEM student fears that if she does not assert herself then she will not be hired or taken seriously. She also fears that she will not be hired due to a lack of representation in her field.
“You are going to hire someone who looks like you,” White said.
Careers that fall under STEM are still often dominated by men and those who identify as white.
The gender wage gap
The gender wage gap is another issue women still face. According to the U.S. Census Bureau,
white women made only 83 cents for every dollar white men made. The pay gap is even wider among women of color and women with multiple minority identities.
This pay gap impacts women’s economic stability, wealth, healthcare and ability to care for themselves and their families according to Dr. Nicole Carter, director of the Women’s Center at WSU.
Carter further explained that when she began to work in higher education, a male colleague working in a similar position with similar qualifications was making $20,000 more than her. She went on to renegotiate her salary to be paid an equal wage.
Women in academia
Nancy Garner, a history professor at WSU, began at the university in 1993, the same year the women’s studies program and women’s center was created. At the time, Garner was the only professor who taught women’s history. She explained the difficulties of keeping programs that teach women’s issues alive.
“Many women’s, gender and sexuality studies programs throughout the United States at state universities are just programs and can be easily targeted for budget cuts and reductions —they are not well-established departments. That is the case for WGS and African American studies here,” Garner said.
Garner explained that learning about women’s history not only provides representation but leads to an accurate view of history, explains topics like sexuality and provides perspective on historic moments.
White, Carter and Garner all acknowledged that women do have more opportunities than they did in the past. However, they also agree that there are still areas like politics and science that women have difficulty entering and earning respect in.
“Women are humans, we are going to be just as awful and be just as good as men if you give us the opportunity,” Garner said.