Interning at the Gender + EqualityCenter, I have learned so much about social justice issues and experienced themfirsthand. I never thought I would truthfully understand these issues butworking there, I gained a broader perspective and am much more knowledgeablethan I was before I started. Although I ran social media, I was able to work inall parts of the GEC.
From LGBTQ Ally Trainings, to Lunch & Learns, toMosaic and Our Voice and absolutely so much more. I attended all of these andexpanded my understanding. Thisexperience taught me about the struggles people in the LGBTQ community face,how to be an active bystander, Transgender rights and stories and much more. Iwas able to meet so many incredible people that have impacted me and taught meso much that I’ll never forget. Some of the best people I know I met throughthe GEC. Forthis 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 andeveryone around them. At the GEC, there haven’t been any gender role issuesbecause it is a very inclusive environment, but I learned even more than Ialready know about it and experienced these types of issues in differentsettings.
Inthe GEC, all genders were able to work and intern together and cooperatewithout any superior or dominant gender which I really appreciated. I know inother workplaces and settings, there are clear divisions between genders andare typically male dominated. TheGEC hosted a seminar where people discussed their challenges with gender rolesspecifically within the workplace. One African American woman talked about howshe 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. Somany factors besides gender come in to play when it comes to gender roles.
Raceis also a major factor that takes place in these issues. As a Social Justiceminor and intern at the GEC, I found that race, class and gender are three ofthe most defining factors of separation and injustice. Asfor class, at the seminar a man discussed how he was not given a job because ofhis background and financial status. He explained he thinks he didn’t get thejob because he wasn’t as wealthy or “high class” as his competitors for theposition. This is another example of the injustice in our society. Someone maybe equally as qualified or more qualified and not get the job. Connections andstatus tend to play a huge roll, as well. Withmy experience as an intern, I witnessed as well as heard about many differentexamples of social injustice and gender roll issues.
During the Step in, Speakout trainings I heard sexist and demeaning, uneducated responses from malesspecifically. Although it wasn’t said outright, my peer educators and I noticedthe men felt superior and more in charge even though the examples of sexual harassmentweren’t to be taken lightly. Someof the men at the training would get very defensive and not really take itseriously, some thinking it wasn’t as big of a deal as we were making it out tobe. Although this isn’t an example of gender roles in the workplace, it’s agood example of gender roll issues in general. Ifound a video online from the HuffingtonPost called “How ‘Stereo’ Reverses Gender Stereotypes.” It switched the genderrolls or stereotypes of girls and boys and how they dress, what activities theychoose to take part in and more. At the end of the video, the girl explained toher mother who was unaccepting of her choices that “a piece of fabric doesn’thave a gender” and it shouldn’t matter. Thisvideo 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 personis unique and should be able to express themselves any way they want to.
Fromclothes “meant for the opposite sex” to gender roles in the workplace, theseboth go hand in hand. Just because something is expected of a person or thenorm doesn’t mean they have to do it at all. For example, just because you’re amale in the workplace working with other females, it doesn’t give you more authorityjust because of the gender that was assigned to you at birth. Thisvideo did a great job of portraying gender roles in a reversed issue where theboys wore the dresses and painted their nails and the girls played football andacted tough. It got me thinking. These gender roles are archaic andstereotypical. Interningat the GEC, I saw so many examples of gender role issues, especially for thosewho are trans and being expected to act a certain way after they havetransitioned. After hearing firsthand stories from people of the transgendercommunity, there are even more obstacles to overcome with gender roles.
Afterreading the article “Gender Inequality and Women in the Workplace,” itreiterated that even though women have built their way up, inequality stillpersists. Women also make less money than men do in the same position. Accordingto the US Census Bureau, women get paid 80 percent of what men earn. The sadreality is this isn’t shocking to me being knowledgeable of the gender roleissues taking place. “Inthe United States and a number of other countries, women now actually surpassmen in educational achievement.
” Since women surpass men educationally, thereshouldn’t be any excuses. I however, didn’t take this into consideration in thefirst place, but if women are working, they are simultaneously expected to bethe caregivers and balance work, family and other responsibilities. At first, Ithought about it being one or the other.
The woman would either be staying athome with the kids or working, but I never thought about how she balances bothand how it affects her status and experience in the workplace. Itdepends, however, on how women prioritize their time if they’re juggling bothhousehold activities and the workplace. Women are at a severe disadvantage ifthey put in many more hours at home than they do at work. It may be unrealisticto expect women to have equal gender roles if they don’t have the availabilitythat men do.
This brings in the other issue that solely women are expected tobe the caregivers and stay with the kids. Atthe Gender + Equality Center, my supervisor, Kathy Fahl is the director. She’sthe one in charge of everything, and she’s an excellent boss and leader. She isable to balance work and countless meetings and conferences with her familylife, and she does it tremendously. She’s my firsthand proof that women can doanything men can do especially in the work place, so there is no reason to betreated as less or to be underpaid whatsoever. As I mentioned earlier, womenhave been making great strides in the workplace, but it isn’t enough for genderequality.
The United States, however, is exceedingly ahead compared to othercountries on defying gender roll issues. Inan article from Social Science Insightscalled “How to Promote Gender in Your Workplace,” I was able to connect a lotof what the author was saying to my experience at the GEC. Dr. Zevallosdiscusses how social privileges operate for men and women at work. I learnedthat “men are often unaware they’re excluding women… In general, men reportthat there isn’t a problem with gender discrimination because they haven’tpersonally experienced sexism or because they’ve never seen it happen.” Ithink the main problem is that men don’t understand how sexism relates tosocial privileges as well as equal gender rolls in the workplace.
Dynamics ofgender roles, as I mentioned earlier, vary depending on your race and class andif you necessarily “fit in” or belong to a socially dominant group. Thosewithin that “circle of power” tend to think that there isn’t an issue ofequality between gender and races, because they’re already a part of thatdominant group that is secluded from others in a way. Inan article called “Female vs. Male Roles in the Workplace,” women were found tobe more of team players and more accepting of challenges. Whereas for men, theywere found to be stronger negotiators and more confident. This article alsoreiterated the progress women are making, but it isn’t enough.
Inconclusion, a white woman has less power than a white able-bodied man, and awoman of color has even less power. This is the case in many work environmentswhere women are constantly the underdogs. With my internship at the GEC, I waslucky enough to work in the most inclusive environment I had ever worked inbefore, but I was also able to learn extensively about gender roll issues.