March 17, 2021

FINTLAND | This Women’s History Month, Support Local Ithaca Women

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As organizations across our campus and our country recognize Women’s History Month, we can’t just reflect on the past; we need to address present issues affecting women. One of today’s most urgent issues,  COVID-19, has wreaked havoc on women in the global workforce, sending progress for gender equality several steps backward. The pandemic has hurt every community, including Ithaca, and Cornellians can’t turn a blind eye to the needs of the place we call home. This Women’s History Month, support an essential local organization, the Ithaca Women’s Opportunity Center, by contributing to a campus-wide fundraiser.  

Last November, the Cornell Panhellenic Council and the Women’s Leadership Initiative at Cornell hosted a discussion on the pandemic’s impact for working women.  During the event Mekala Krishnan, a partner at McKinsey Global Institute, explained that one reason for the exacerbated inequality between job losses for women and men was the gender specific nature of their work. Through her research, she discussed how jobs held by women are 19 percent more at risk than ones held by men simply because women are disproportionately represented in sectors negatively affected by the COVID-19 crisis. 

This risk is even higher for women of color.  In September alone, four times as many women dropped out of the labor force, which equaled around 865,000 women to 216,000 men. With so many women working in  the accommodation and food service industries, along with  carrying the burden for child care, the message is clear: Working women are bearing the brunt of COVID-19’s economic impact, finding little relief or resolution to address the situation.

Here in Ithaca, we can see COVID-19’s direct consequences on women attempting to enter the workforce. Recently, employees from the Women’s Opportunity Center spoke about the burden they are seeing many local women face with balancing childcare and job responsibilities. Ultimately, many women are forced to work fewer hours and earn less money, take jobs that offer a lower standard of living or leave the workforce entirely. 

As part of the Cornell and greater Ithaca community,  we should do everything that we can to support our fellow community members during these trying times. This will look different for each and every one of us depending on our current situations. However, if you have the opportunity to lend a helping hand, you should not overlook the current circumstances that are taking place right down the hill. 

Local resources assisting women with employment opportunities are facing funding challenges. One such organization is the Women’s Opportunity Center, which works to “lead women to the pathway out of poverty by providing them with individualized career counseling, training and removing barriers to become job-ready and find employment”. After experiencing drastic lapses in government funding, the center must urgently raise $30,000 to continue to provide support for the local Ithaca community. 

To address our local community’s dire needs, the Women’s Leadership Initiative is partnering with 14 other Cornell organizations to support and bring awareness to the Women’s Opportunity Center.. We are launching a fundraiser via CustomInk, where people can choose to either purchase custom-designed t-shirts and tote bags or donate money. Proceeds from the fundraiser will go towards helping the Women’s Opportunity Center find its footing during this incredibly difficult time, hopefully expanding more job opportunities for women across the local community. To support our fundraising efforts, please visit our fundraising page here! 

This Women’s History Month, let’s celebrate the major milestones that women continue to achieve while reflecting on the many unjust obstacles and struggles endured by those who came before us. Additionally, we must take swift action to address the many unresolved gender equality issues that have been exacerbated by COVID-19’s catastrophic consequences. I hope you will consider joining us to provide much-needed support for our local community.

Alexis Fintland is a junior in the College of Industrial and Labor Relations and the President of the Women’s Leadership Initiative at Cornell. Guest Room runs periodically throughout the semester. Comments can be sent to [email protected].