February 4, 2014

WEISMAN | A Call to Cornell to Show Me the Women

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Last semester, my good friend Jordana Gilman ’14 posted an Instagram photo of a wall of portraits at Cornell. The portraits were all of men; noticing this imbalance, Jordana captioned the photo, “#showmethewomen.”

Ever since, I have seen people spreading feminist and equality-oriented articles on my Facebook newsfeed, featuring the “show me the women” hashtag. It is empowering to know that other people feel the same way we do about making a change and working towards equality. Before we can start to change the world, we should start to change our own environment here at Cornell.

About half of Cornell undergraduates are women. However, Cornell University has never had a female president. On a list of 50 notable alumni published by the University in 2011, called Selected Graduates of Note, only 11 of them are women. Where are the women?

I set out to find a statistic about how many women are Cornell faculty members. After much searching, one of the only statistics I found was that in 2001, only 23 percent of Cornell’s faculty were women. If that is the only recent number available to the general public — especially after much Google searching — Cornell must not be very proud of it.

I also found information about a program called ADVANCE, a $3.3 million effort that brought 70 new female professors to Cornell in the past six years. They aimed to recruit women in STEM fields — which include science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Finally, I found something positive! However, the program’s goal was to increase the number of women faculty in science and engineering departments to 20 percent by 2011. This is so upsetting to me — not only because these departments had a female percentage of less than 20 percent, but also because 20 percent is considered an achievement. No wonder there is an imbalance of portraits hanging around Cornell!

Over winter break, I attended a brunch in Rye, New York sponsored by Cornell Women’s Network. It was a great opportunity for a few undergraduate women to network with alumni women in the area. I met some amazing and successful women who taught me a lot about what it means to be a woman navigating and succeeding in both a man’s workplace and a man’s world.

Unfortunately, change and total equality is not going to happen overnight. However, there are several ways in which we as Cornell women can move towards this change. Posting informative and inspiring articles on Facebook is a great way to spread information, but the action we take after spreading articles (like this one!) is the most important part.

Since we all know millennials love lists, here are the three vital things I believe Cornell women — including myself — can try to do in order to close the very present gender gap:

First, never undervalue yourself or feel badly for knowing your self-worth. The alumni at the networking brunch stressed this point above most others. As we grow up, we women are taught to apologize or justify our actions in situations that we should not have to. Often, women expect a lower salary than men, just because we are taught that our worth is lower. Even with friends, many women apologize for decisions they make for themselves, such as their weight or what doing what they enjoy. Women should not have to! Whether it is in a job interview or with a group of friends, never they should never undervalue what they have to offer — because it is a lot!

Second, support other women. It upsets me so much when I hear girls say that they “hate other girls,” or that they would “rather be friends with boys.” Speaking this way reinforces negative ideas about women. It is just like Tina Fey’s character says in Mean Girls, — which turns 10 this year, by the way — “You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.” When we support each other — whether that is in our job searches or just in everyday life — we can empower each other to be even better and more positive about women. Because if we don’t, who will?

Finally, I encourage everyone to attend events like the brunch I went to. Cornell Women’s Network hosts several networking events over breaks in many different cities. Additionally, the Women’s Resource Center holds various events pertaining to women in career fields and general female empowerment. There are also several campus organizations that focus on career-minded women. I encourage you all to get involved or attend events. Networking with successful Cornell women is extremely inspiring, and I really believe that we can make a change together. #showmethewomen

Samantha Weisman is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She may be reached at [email protected]. A Weisman Once Said appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.