Representation Project panel explores gender inequality

Bailey Winston | Contributing Reporter

Students and faculty gathered to discuss how women in the workforce are often treated with less respect and given lower expectations than their males counterparts, as well as how the future generation can help solve the issue.

The Representation Project, a student-run social justice organization, curated the “Can you have it all?” panel of three faculty members, each with their own expertise and vision in the field, to lead the discussion.

Adrienne Davis, right, speaks on a panel alongside Mark Smith from the Career Center and Jami Ake, an assistant dean for the College of Arts and Sciences. The panel entitled “Can you have it all?”, discussed the intersection of gender and the workplace.Stephen Huber | Student Life

Adrienne Davis, right, speaks on a panel alongside Mark Smith from the Career Center and Jami Ake, an assistant dean for the College of Arts and Sciences. The panel entitled “Can you have it all?”, discussed the intersection of gender and the workplace.

Vice Provost Adrienne Davis spoke first on the issue, noting the gender gap with respect to the impact of children on career aspirations.

“51 percent of women said having children made it harder to advance in their career. Only 16 percent of men said it made it more difficult,” Davis said.

Women often believe that having a child will limit, and sometimes take away, their chances at having a successful career. Assistant Dean and Senior Lecturer in the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Jami Ake spoke on this issue from the perspective of a woman in the field of academia.

Associate Vice Chancellor Mark Smith of the Career Center said that some women might change their career paths in order to raise families as well.

“I never see men wonder how they can balance a family with work, but women often do,” Smith said. “I worry that some women may, instead of going into neurosurgery where their real passion is, become a pediatric surgeon.”

However, as Davis pointed out that it’s difficult for a powerful woman to balance a family life and a career.

“When I graduated from law school, I got an offer from a big Wall Street firm, but at the time there were only two women partners,” Davis said. “One of the women was a complete go-getter. She was doing deals from her labor bed until they wheeled her into the actual hospital room. Before she even got out she had three nannies. ‘That’s how it’s done’ they said. I could’ve done this, but it just wasn’t the life I wanted for myself.”

Smith noted that his wife made the decision, as he had earlier, to work for Washington University. After this decision, they both felt more satisfied and in control of their lives.

In a discussion that might seem to be focused on women, Ake made clear that men also could have their own part in the fight.

“If you are a man, you’re an ally of the struggle to get to gender equity,” Davis added. “For the men, be good partners at home. Don’t let there be a five-hour leisure gap between wives and husbands.”

The panelists also told those in the audience what they could do now and in the future, to help narrow the inequity gap between men and women in the workforce, something freshman Sammy Levin greatly appreciated.

“I liked how they offered suggestions on how to solve the problem, rather than just explaining that there was a problem,” Levin said.

Sophomore Elana Ross, who was in charge of organizing the panel on behalf of The Representation Project, was very proud of the panel’s turnout and what it could mean for our future.

“It’s important that we have students advocating for gender equality and breaking down gender and sexual hierarchies on this campus,” Ross said. “That’s what I hope this group aims to do.”