I was never so aware of my womanhood (should we call it femininity?) until I came to Cornell. My guy friends remind me that I am a woman when they offer to walk me back home in the dark. This reminder is sort of a friendly one (although the idea that I need protection is not entirely comforting to me — that this protection is available to me, should I want it, is nice). My self-proclaimed feminist friends remind me of my womanhood, too, but they do so largely in a self-victimizing way with which I’m much less comfortable.
“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,” said Jamie Levy ’23
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.
Women who don’t feel comfortable participating in these activities may miss out on promotions and client relationships, exacerbating the problem of investment management being thought of as a “boys club” that women have to fight to be included in.
Please stop calling President Martha E. Pollack “Martha.” It’s disrespectful and your internalized misogyny is showing every time that you do it. Martha Pollack is the highest ranked faculty member at Cornell University, and the way that students refer to her is telling of continued gender biases in higher academia. There is a major disparity in referencing senior staff at Cornell University, with President Pollack referred to more frequently by her first name than Vice President Ryan Lombardi and Provost Michael Kotlikoff. In common conversation, students abbreviate these administrators’ titles to “Martha,” “Lombardi” and “Kotlikoff.”
Every time I hear a student refer to President Pollack by her first name, I remember my academic advisor’s warning during my first week at Cornell. She sat down her ten new advisees and explained the importance of referring to female professors as “Professor” or “Doctor” rather than “Ms.” or “Mrs.” She explained the struggle that she has faced after years in academia and her frustration when students, and worse, other academics downplayed her accomplishments when they reference her.
Forbes’ 2019 America’s Most Innovative Leaders named only one woman on the entire 100-person list. Cornell’s Society of Women Engineers saw this lack of representation as an opportunity to showcase female leaders in STEM within the Cornell community. The result was Wall of Wonder: Cornell Women Leading the Way in Science, Technology, and Engineering, a book of short biographies of 27 inspiring alumnae, written by SWE co-presidents Madeline Dubelier ’20 and Catherine Gurecky ’20, alongside member Abigail Macaluso ’20. The three also worked with David Ross Jansen ’22, a performing and media arts student who illustrated portraits of each of the women. Proceeds from the book will go to K-12 outreach programs organized by the Cornell SWE chapter.
From establishing relationship policies to facilitating Intergroup Dialogue Project, seven Cornell community members were awarded at the 20th Cook Awards on March 12 for their efforts in women’s empowerment on campus.
The last year and a half (or so) have been marked by some uncharacteristic interpersonal drama, mostly in the form of internet harassment and (at least) half in response to columns that I’ve written. My Greek life column was met with the most serious antagonism, but I can’t deny that basically any piece of writing that I’ve put out in the world has resulted in angry emails, internet comments and some uncomfortable conversations. Recently, I’ve resorted to less controversial subjects, sinking my teeth into the heart-warming and uplifting spectrum of opinion writing. A few weeks ago, I read Mary Beard’s essay “The Public Voice of Women,” and there was a special type of familiarity in the pages. Beard details a history of women being told to stop talking.