On March 8, the entire world celebrated International Women’s Day. Here in Claremont, one of the many ways the 5Cs came together for the day was through the International Women’s Day Celebration Lunch and Discussion at Claremont McKenna College’s International Place. This annual event brings a featured speaker accompanied by a delicious lunch. A panel of inspiring women from the Claremont Colleges came to discuss this year’s theme: “The Pledge for Parity.”
Alexandra Cheng SC ’18, who organized the event, said, “The purpose of this event was to celebrate International Women’s Day and see how it is expressed through different perspectives through a wide array of panelists.”
The panelists included DeLacy Ganley, director of the Teacher Education Program at Claremont Graduate University, Lydia L. Middleton, director of the Claremont Colleges' Office of Black Student Affairs, Rimah Shah, director of the EmPOWER Center at the 5Cs, and Sharon Goto, professor of psychology and Asian American studies at Pomona College. They explored many issues regarding parity for women in society, heavily discussing the issues of status and pay equality in the workforce.
Ganley stressed the need to look at our own institutions in order to find areas of improvement. Most importantly, she said, “Ask for things. Look at salaries on gender lines, for example. If we could make the pledge that we look at this every seven years, that it’s no longer one person acting, but part of an institutional practice.”
Students also had questions for the panelists regarding their experiences in academia. One student said that she had read an article mentioning how computer science and psychology only began to be taken seriously once men became involved. She asked what these women had to say about the difficulty of being treated with equal respect to their male counterparts. In response, Middleton said that she has made a point to look up to women in leadership roles and make female friendships in male dominated fields. Goto said that her focus has always been on making sure that her work was the best it could possibly be.
The conversation then shifted to discuss the ways in which women can help each other, where some of the panelists offered different opinions. Some spoke directly about the challenge of being a working mother. Others spoke about how their experiences made them focus on raising their children.
“No matter what, bring up your kids as if they were the same gender,” Ramah said.
However, some opposed this and shifted the focus away from the immediate correlation between women and motherhood.
“We all hear women supporting each other, but I ask myself always: Am I reinforcing women stereotypes in my interactions; am I contributing to this? You need to be able to identify that and confront that when it happens to make the environment improve,” Middleton said.
These differences in opinion were noted in the audience’s reception of the event.
“I am a big supporter of women and female empowerment, and I think there needed to be more individuals up there that represented a greater variety of perspectives. It was progressive, but still entrenched in traditionalism,” CGU student Tiffany Smith said.
Meanwhile, Angela Twum PO '18 thought that the speakers helped her appreciate the strength in motherhood. She recalled the difficulties her mother had being a doctor and having two young kids.
“I think mothers all over the world are strong. My mother definitely is a super woman in my eyes,” Twum said. “There's a lot that I owe to her. We should have possible programs that could help professors feel more comfortable being away from their children. Faculty are a big part of this institution and it's only right that we have programs that help them out.”