Raising Campus Awareness of Violence Against Women
- Despite women’s achievements in higher ed, sexism and gender discrimination persist.
- Women today face challenges with asking for higher salaries and pursuing STEM careers.
- To advance gender equity, colleges can offer special workshops and conferences.
- Universities can also use social media to promote women’s achievements.
March is Women’s History Month, a time for us to acknowledge and celebrate the amazing role women play in American history. But due to sexism and gender discrimination, women continue to face insurmountable systemic barriers in achieving social and economic parity with men.
In the U.S., women earn 81 cents for every dollar men make, and this trend holds true regardless of job type or seniority level. The gender pay gap widens even further when we look at salaries for Black, Hispanic, and Native American women.
The recent inauguration of Kamala Harris — the first Black and South Asian woman vice president of the U.S. — helped us see how critical it is for women to shatter the glass ceiling in order to create change and advancement for other women. When women assume leadership positions, they help those like them overcome similar barriers and achieve success.
Yet despite the many historical accomplishments women have made to advance gender equity, we’re still seeing gender disparities in executive positions. Across the most prominent C-suite titles, just 25% of top leaders are women. Additionally, among the top 1,000 U.S. companies, a paltry 6% of CEO positions are filled by women.
Women must also deal with hostile work environments. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, up to 85% of women experience sexual harassment in the workplace.
Colleges and universities are a microcosm of society, and while studies show that more women attend and graduate from college than men, many women continue to experience gender microaggressions and sexual harassment on campus. Universities play a key role in not only educating women but also advancing equity for female students.
Making sure that all female students receive a campus experience that is free of discrimination should be embedded in every institution’s diversity and equity plan. Here are four easy steps colleges can take to promote equity for women in higher education.
Hold Training on Domestic Violence and Healthy Relationships
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the impact of domestic violence — which includes emotional, sexual, verbal, and physical abuse — with shelter-in-place orders and historic downturns in employment. Due to a lack of resources, many victims of domestic violence were forced to stay in close physical contact with their abusers.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence.” Women between the ages of 18 and 24 are at highest risk of being abused by an intimate partner.
Compared to men, women are disproportionately impacted by domestic violence. And due to the gender pay gap, many women lack the economic resources to leave or separate from their abuser.
Today, women continue to face ridicule for choosing to stay with an abuser due to the stigma associated with domestic violence. This blame is not only unfair but also completely one-sided. Such accusations fail to acknowledge the role men play in building and sustaining healthy relationships, and in advocating for women who have been abused.
College is a time when many young people explore dating and sex, which can heighten issues of domestic violence. It’s important that both men and women understand what constitutes a healthy relationship, the cycle of abuse, and what resources can assist students who’ve experienced abuse.
Most colleges offer some form of Title IX training, in which students learn how to report incidents of domestic violence. Schools should also consider forming local partnerships with domestic violence organizations and women’s centers.
Start a Social Media Campaign Around Women Heroes
Research found that 98% of college-aged individuals use social media. And with the COVID-19 pandemic and physical closure of campuses, social media usage has likely increased.
Social media is a useful platform for disseminating information to a large audience. Many use it not just to connect with friends and acquaintances, but to learn new information. Social media platforms similarly allow colleges to easily connect and build relationships with students. What’s more, social media campaigns are relatively less expensive than other outreach methods.
Unfortunately, women aren’t celebrated enough, and female students should be able to see themselves represented positively in the media. Universities can hold a social media campaign focused on women heroes during Women’s History Month or, better yet, throughout the year to highlight their commitment to gender equity.
Specifically, the campaign could concentrate on women’s accomplishments throughout history in fields like science and medicine, and individuals who’ve paved the way for future generations of women.
It’s also important for these campaigns to showcase women with intersectional identities. LGBTQ+ women, women of color, and women with disabilities are often overlooked, forgotten, and overshadowed by white heterosexual women. We must introduce the full spectrum of women and their accomplishments so that all female students can be inspired and empowered.
Empowering Women in Higher Ed Starts With Equity
Gender equity work is far from finished, as women continue to face unique barriers. Universities play a critical role in establishing equitable learning spaces and advancing equity for women. This month should serve as a reminder for college administrators to revitalize and refocus their efforts on promoting equity for women in higher education.
Feel free to check out our handy guide that breaks down everything you’ll want to know about the top women’s colleges.
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