Leilani Burke/Sun Staff Photographer

Students studying in Mann Library. Female students, like the ones pictured above, often face gender-based discrimination or fear about gender-based issues on campus.

October 19, 2022

Female Cornell Students Reflect on Gender Inequality

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Female students at Cornell are no strangers to issues of sexism and gender-based discrimination. Many report facing sexist behavior on campus or experiencing fear about sexism and discrimination. 

According to a 2017 Pew Research study, in the United States, 42% of women have experienced gender-based discrimination, specifically in the workplace. Women are 4 times more likely than men to report that they have been treated as less competent due to their gender.  

Women at Cornell often share these experiences and others, such as pressures to dress a certain way to be taken seriously, looking over your shoulder while walking home alone at night, or being told to “smile more.” 

Jamie Levy ’23 feels that while Cornell does a great job of promoting gender equality on campus, she often faces safety concerns. 

“At night I do not feel comfortable walking around campus alone,” Levy said. “I have heard of many unfortunate incidents happening to women on campus while they were walking home by themselves at night, so I always make sure to walk home with a friend or call an Uber… I’ve been taught to always have my guard up, especially at social events.”  

Another student, Erin Laney ’25, said she doesn’t face sexism at Cornell but still has concerns about being able to physically protect herself while in Ithaca. 

“Being a woman, I know I will always need to be more alert than any man would ever have to,” Laney said. “If I’m alone walking at night, I make sure I’m always on the phone with someone, especially [given] that most of Cornell’s crime alerts happen close to where I live.” 

Among undergraduate students in the United States, 26.4% of women experience rape or sexual assault, and 5.8% of all students experience stalking. For students like Emily Abbruzzese ’23, these issues are deeply personal. 

“For the most part, I do feel pretty safe and accepted on campus, but I mostly credit that to the support system that I have built for myself,” Abbruzzese said. “That being said, I have been hazed and sexually assaulted. It took me a while to realize that I endured these experiences while on campus because of how safe I perceive it. Although they do not define me, these experiences are a reminder that harm can still occur towards students.”

Even beyond physical incidents, women like Annie Stewart ’25 still deal with sexist behavior in their daily lives at Cornell. 

“Being a woman in STEM, I can confidently say that it is a male-dominated field,” Stewart said. “During discussions, I have to speak louder and be more assertive to get my point across in a class with mostly men. I deal with ‘mansplaining’ on a constant basis, as if I am not smart enough to understand topics myself.” 

There are various groups and resources on Cornell’s campus that aim to provide a supportive environment for women on campus, such as the Cornell Women’s Resource Center and the Women’s Health Initiative. Alexandra Michael ’23, President of the Women’s Leadership Initiative at Cornell, said her group uses speaker series, networking events and alumni mentorship to support women on campus. 

“We strive to establish a culture uplifting, inspiring and connecting all women in leadership efforts throughout Cornell and beyond,” marketing chair Rhea Serron ’24 said.

Despite these resources, Stewart said that she believes women’s resources on campus need to be better advertised in order to help more people.

“I think there are plenty of resources available, we just don’t know about them,” Stewart said. “There needs to be more awareness surrounding where women can go if they’re struggling.”