The world seems heavy now. Even heavier than it has been in the past weeks and months. As women, our daily lives are filled with the meaning of a society that values us less. This has been clearly and long discussed since March 2020, as the epidemic has had a disproportionate impact on women and a regressive effect on gender equality. Feelings of anger, sadness and frustration have grown since the recent leak of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion to overturn Rowe v. Wade, but as academics we are agents of change in many ways. We can elevate each other with the daily work of confirmation and prevention.
The day the leaked draft opinion was reported, I scrolled and absorbed the frustration and analysis. I would have been really secretive if there hadn’t been a college-wide event to coordinate that afternoon. I, of course, fulfilled my responsibilities and led the event. Surprisingly, the incident lifted my spirits. Spending an afternoon with a group of community college teachers dedicated to a socially just world where their students and their communities can thrive as a work of resistance.
We work in an industry that was created for white male landowners. We have made some progress, but not enough. As a white, Sisgender woman with ample opportunities, I am doing a job while I am working to develop habits and ways to be that small work of resistance. I also found some mistakes with grace.
How are you What can you do today? How do you see peer support in promoting equity? When you visit the campus or your computer, think about what you can do to promote women in your organization. Prevention and support don’t have to be big gestures. Options may include tasks such as:
- Make a list of your strengths and interact with them – focusing on your strengths boosts your confidence. We have to take our place.
- Tell a woman that you appreciate the strengths you see in her.
- When asked to speak on a panel, find out if other women, especially BIPOC women, are included. All-male and all-white panels perpetuate under-representation and misrepresentation of women and women of color, as well as transgender and non-binary colleagues. If the panel does not include different representations, consider this as a condition for your participation. (Google “Manel” and “Wanel” to learn more.)
- Deliberately build your network of other women. Women need the support of other women to fight inequality. If you are a male, advocate for gender equality in your network
- Find or create a community of like-minded women, such as an affinity group, a book club, a women’s network, or a community of practice.
- Learn about equality issues that interest you and share what you learn. Take an intersectional approach as part of your learning strategy and support BIPOC and LGBTQ + writers, teachers and leaders.
- Create boundaries around your work without compensation, invisibility, and mental labor, such as advising BIPOC students about managing your own feelings for others or navigating a predominantly white campus.
- Create boundaries around your availability.
- Commit to getting the sleep, nutrition and rest you need.
- Deliberately facilitate meetings so that women can be heard.
- Extend women’s work in your organization through awards, recognition, assignments or social media.
- Set an expectation that white men in positions of authority will deliberately use their privileges to expand women’s contributions.
- Offer advice to an employee or student.
What inspirational work of prevention and support are you seeing right now? One thing you can prevent or help, even if it’s small?
Kim Burns has worked for 26 years in leadership and administration roles at Massachusetts Community College. She now provides skills and support to organizations and individuals as a certified trainer and mentor based on extensive experience. Learn more about her at drkimburns.com.