When I entered college, I was warned about the threats of alcohol, drug use and lack of time management skills. I had no idea that entering college I had to also be prepared to be a woman in a somewhat male-oriented environment. Although the gender ratio is pretty equal at Wake Forest, and the school attempts to make strides toward equality for all of its students, there lies an underlying difference between groups that my friends, people outside of my immediate circle and I have come to notice.
This thought first came to me in a sorority chapter meeting in which we discussed the experience that our founders endured at their universities as women in the late 1800s. We all assumed they were in the minority, couldn’t study all the subjects their male peers could and were not offered the same career opportunities after either. Things have certainly changed, as more women than men attend college as of today, but some biases remain. I chatted with a friend of mine who shared that she felt disadvantaged at times being a woman trying to pursue business here. Another felt that she has gotten different treatment, interview opportunities and possible job opportunities because she was a female, and though firms were looking to be more inclusive, she felt her struggle lies in proving that she has earned these for reasons beyond solely than being a woman. While professors prepare us for the real world with deadlines and being tough like bosses will be, there is not much of a focus on the position of women in the workforce that is unfortunately so intrinsic. There should be some concentration on making males look at women as equal while they are being educated, rather than having to learn this lesson when already in their career.
Like the concept of “boys will be boys,” which is very outdated and not a valid excuse for inappropriate behavior, “men will be men” is also not a justification for a gender divide of treatment. For example, parents and educators have caught on to the importance of rather than telling girls to dress modestly or to stay away from boys, males should know the importance of consent, regardless of what a woman is wearing or how she behaves. The same can be said for how women are treated in all workforces, be it business, law, medicine and beyond. My mother will share with me how upset it makes her when in meetings or on business calls with a majority of men, she is often the only one to get interrupted, her opinion is sometimes disregarded and she can not always compete with the tightness of the good old boys club. She grew up in a generation in which women were not always included in the workplace narrative and had to learn for herself how to react to different treatment, how to ultimately stand up for herself. In lower and higher education, boys should be informed and ingrained through their teaching that everyone should be treated with respect and to use their advantage of being born a man in this society to change the norms. For our generation, the idea that men are superior in the career world is still very much present among young males, so it would be beneficial for young women to be trained in a program or class how to take authority and push to be heard, recognized and appreciated for their skills. This would help to make it understood that they’ve earned their money and positions with hard work, not because companies want to fill quotas for female employment or be viewed as more progressive and modern to the public.
If this rethinking cannot be taught in a curriculum, it would be beneficial if the climate on college campuses, including Wake Forest, were to change. For example, as silly as this sounds, often the fraternity system controls the fun that females have on the weekends. Women are somehow supposed to feel grateful and dependent on boys’ tailgates or non-school associated fraternity houses, while it is still against the rules for sororities to have boys or alcohol (even if above the age of 21) on their halls because they are more “innocent.” A more academic example would be the percentage of males to females in business classes, which is not forced by the university, as a major is a choice, but perhaps female participation could be more encouraged on the surface, so they feel more welcome to join different career paths than the traditional “womens’ jobs.” In short, it is difficult to change the narrative immediately and it needs to be altered in early education. Higher education attempting to change social norms through curriculum would ultimately help to promote the equality of males and females in the workforce.