Interning the best people I know I met

Interning at the Gender + Equality
Center, I have learned so much about social justice issues and experienced them
firsthand. I never thought I would truthfully understand these issues but
working there, I gained a broader perspective and am much more knowledgeable
than I was before I started. Although I ran social media, I was able to work in
all parts of the GEC. From LGBTQ Ally Trainings, to Lunch & Learns, to
Mosaic and Our Voice and absolutely so much more. I attended all of these and
expanded my understanding.

                  This
experience taught me about the struggles people in the LGBTQ community face,
how to be an active bystander, Transgender rights and stories and much more. I
was able to meet so many incredible people that have impacted me and taught me
so much that I’ll never forget. Some of the best people I know I met through
the GEC.

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                  For
this essay, I’m choosing to focus on gender roles specifically in all aspects.
Not only in the workplace but in everyday life and how it impacts a person and
everyone around them. At the GEC, there haven’t been any gender role issues
because it is a very inclusive environment, but I learned even more than I
already know about it and experienced these types of issues in different
settings.

                  In
the GEC, all genders were able to work and intern together and cooperate
without any superior or dominant gender which I really appreciated. I know in
other workplaces and settings, there are clear divisions between genders and
are typically male dominated.

                  The
GEC hosted a seminar where people discussed their challenges with gender roles
specifically within the workplace. One African American woman talked about how
she has had even more issues in the workplace, not only because of her gender,
but race as well. She discussed how she was just as qualified as the male,
white man to get a promoted position and he got it over her.

                  So
many factors besides gender come in to play when it comes to gender roles. Race
is also a major factor that takes place in these issues. As a Social Justice
minor and intern at the GEC, I found that race, class and gender are three of
the most defining factors of separation and injustice.

                  As
for class, at the seminar a man discussed how he was not given a job because of
his background and financial status. He explained he thinks he didn’t get the
job because he wasn’t as wealthy or “high class” as his competitors for the
position. This is another example of the injustice in our society. Someone may
be equally as qualified or more qualified and not get the job. Connections and
status tend to play a huge roll, as well.

                  With
my experience as an intern, I witnessed as well as heard about many different
examples of social injustice and gender roll issues. During the Step in, Speak
out trainings I heard sexist and demeaning, uneducated responses from males
specifically. Although it wasn’t said outright, my peer educators and I noticed
the men felt superior and more in charge even though the examples of sexual harassment
weren’t to be taken lightly.

                  Some
of the men at the training would get very defensive and not really take it
seriously, some thinking it wasn’t as big of a deal as we were making it out to
be. Although this isn’t an example of gender roles in the workplace, it’s a
good example of gender roll issues in general.

                  I
found a video online from the Huffington
Post called “How ‘Stereo’ Reverses Gender Stereotypes.” It switched the gender
rolls or stereotypes of girls and boys and how they dress, what activities they
choose to take part in and more. At the end of the video, the girl explained to
her mother who was unaccepting of her choices that “a piece of fabric doesn’t
have a gender” and it shouldn’t matter.

                  This
video was a good representation of how out of the ordinary and unaccepted or “weird”
dressing or acting like the opposite sex is portrayed, even though every person
is unique and should be able to express themselves any way they want to.

                  From
clothes “meant for the opposite sex” to gender roles in the workplace, these
both go hand in hand. Just because something is expected of a person or the
norm doesn’t mean they have to do it at all. For example, just because you’re a
male in the workplace working with other females, it doesn’t give you more authority
just because of the gender that was assigned to you at birth.

                  This
video did a great job of portraying gender roles in a reversed issue where the
boys wore the dresses and painted their nails and the girls played football and
acted tough. It got me thinking. These gender roles are archaic and
stereotypical.

                  Interning
at the GEC, I saw so many examples of gender role issues, especially for those
who are trans and being expected to act a certain way after they have
transitioned. After hearing firsthand stories from people of the transgender
community, there are even more obstacles to overcome with gender roles.

                  After
reading the article “Gender Inequality and Women in the Workplace,” it
reiterated that even though women have built their way up, inequality still
persists. Women also make less money than men do in the same position. According
to the US Census Bureau, women get paid 80 percent of what men earn. The sad
reality is this isn’t shocking to me being knowledgeable of the gender role
issues taking place.

                  “In
the United States and a number of other countries, women now actually surpass
men in educational achievement.” Since women surpass men educationally, there
shouldn’t be any excuses. I however, didn’t take this into consideration in the
first place, but if women are working, they are simultaneously expected to be
the caregivers and balance work, family and other responsibilities. At first, I
thought about it being one or the other. The woman would either be staying at
home with the kids or working, but I never thought about how she balances both
and how it affects her status and experience in the workplace.

                  It
depends, however, on how women prioritize their time if they’re juggling both
household activities and the workplace. Women are at a severe disadvantage if
they put in many more hours at home than they do at work. It may be unrealistic
to expect women to have equal gender roles if they don’t have the availability
that men do. This brings in the other issue that solely women are expected to
be the caregivers and stay with the kids.

                  At
the Gender + Equality Center, my supervisor, Kathy Fahl is the director. She’s
the one in charge of everything, and she’s an excellent boss and leader. She is
able to balance work and countless meetings and conferences with her family
life, and she does it tremendously. She’s my firsthand proof that women can do
anything men can do especially in the work place, so there is no reason to be
treated as less or to be underpaid whatsoever. As I mentioned earlier, women
have been making great strides in the workplace, but it isn’t enough for gender
equality. The United States, however, is exceedingly ahead compared to other
countries on defying gender roll issues.

                  In
an article from Social Science Insights
called “How to Promote Gender in Your Workplace,” I was able to connect a lot
of what the author was saying to my experience at the GEC. Dr. Zevallos
discusses how social privileges operate for men and women at work. I learned
that “men are often unaware they’re excluding women… In general, men report
that there isn’t a problem with gender discrimination because they haven’t
personally experienced sexism or because they’ve never seen it happen.”

                  I
think the main problem is that men don’t understand how sexism relates to
social privileges as well as equal gender rolls in the workplace. Dynamics of
gender roles, as I mentioned earlier, vary depending on your race and class and
if you necessarily “fit in” or belong to a socially dominant group. Those
within that “circle of power” tend to think that there isn’t an issue of
equality between gender and races, because they’re already a part of that
dominant group that is secluded from others in a way.

                  In
an article called “Female vs. Male Roles in the Workplace,” women were found to
be more of team players and more accepting of challenges. Whereas for men, they
were found to be stronger negotiators and more confident. This article also
reiterated the progress women are making, but it isn’t enough.

                  In
conclusion, a white woman has less power than a white able-bodied man, and a
woman of color has even less power. This is the case in many work environments
where women are constantly the underdogs. With my internship at the GEC, I was
lucky enough to work in the most inclusive environment I had ever worked in
before, but I was also able to learn extensively about gender roll issues.

Author:

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Hi!
I'm Eileen!

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