Females still face unique challenges

Despite recent progress, gender inequality still exists.

Tiffany Trawick

The University of Minnesota is a place filled with great educational opportunities for both male and female students and offers what seems to be a level playing field for both genders to succeed. Hidden behind the structure of this institution however, is a plethora of struggles for women who walk this campus.

There are many problems specific to women that have persisted in America throughout its history. For example, women are often perceived as not being as qualified to succeed and expected to passively submit to male counterparts. They also have to deal with other issues like sexual assault and harassment simply because of their gender. The female identity struggles to define itself against the cultural hegemony of the 21st century in work and in education.

These issues are very real, yet are often overlooked, even by many women. But the degradation of this group still exists and has an impact on their successes, personal and professional.

Carla Wilson, a junior at the University of Minnesota, and member of the WomenâÄôs Student Activist Collective, shared some of the injustices that still prevail on and off the college campus. For women that are aware of these inequalities in our society she said, âÄúI believe there is a lot of fear in our culture, fear that women canâÄôt be successful or canâÄôt get to where she wants to be on her own merit.âÄù The prevailing cultural attitude, even among some women, is that womenâÄôs successes arenâÄôt achieved due to the womanâÄôs hard work, but are rather just an outcome of the system.

In addition to obstacles to educational and occupational success, women can face other challenges that men donâÄôt. In the simplest terms, as Wilson said, âÄúMen can feel a lot safer than womenâÄù.

Rape and sexual assault are very real dangers that exist not only in the larger society but also at the University of Minnesota. Last year there were several sexual assaults reported on campus and likely many more that went unreported. 

âÄúWomen on campus have to watch their every move,âÄù Wilson said. Along with this challenge, women must deal with the unfair attitude of some that the woman is somehow responsible for being assaulted. âÄúSome people say if a woman dresses a certain way she was just asking for something to happen,âÄù Says Wilson. The victim of sexual assault is never to blame, but these cases go to show the additional burdens women can face simply due to their gender.

However, despite the many disparities, over the years there has been noticeable closing of the gap between men and women in some of these areas, namely in education. In the 1960s, the number of male college students was notably greater than that of females âÄî 1.6 males pursued an undergraduate education for every one female. Now, however, this statistic is almost reversed âÄî more female students attend college than male students.

Though this statistic is a silver lining to the overall situation, its effect is quickly dulled when we take the time to look at employment rates. While the gap between men and women is also improving in this area, there is still a substantial gap in wages between males and females. A report by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation says, âÄúOne year out of college, women working full time earn only 80 percent as much as their male colleagues earn. Ten years after graduation, women fall farther behind, earning only 69 percent as much as men earn.âÄù

This paints a bleak picture of how our society treats women, but there are some things we can do to improve the situation.

SHE is a student group at the University of Minnesota that works to tackle many of these issues. Their goal is to empower and provide support for women. Lulete Mola, a sophomore at the University of Minnesota and the founder and president of SHE says, âÄúEvery woman has an ethical responsibility to women in need.âÄù

Talking to Wilson, she pointed out how, despite the fact that womenâÄôs issues usually present a male-female binary, there is a lot of âÄúfemale on female crime, a lot of women who donâÄôt support women as well.âÄù She works to fight this attitude and build a community of support for women.

SHE represents all women of all backgrounds, ethnicities, races and cultures in order to come together and make a difference for all women in our society. The WomenâÄôs Student Activist Collective has a similar mission: fighting against inequalities of all types, and on behalf of all different types of women.

As students, I think we need to embrace this same idea. I believe it starts, however, with being aware. Many students, including females, are oblivious to the way our educational, social and occupational structures work today. However, even though we donâÄôt notice it doesnâÄôt mean that it does not exist. Not only do these structures exist, but they have a direct impact on many of us and our goals for the future.

On the bright side, it is clear that some issues are slowly improving, but they can only continue to improve if we continue to be aware and continue to fight against injustice. Slight improvement can sometimes lull us into a comfort zone and make us forget that we need to keep fighting.

Groups such as WSAC and SHE are fighting for awareness and change, as should we all. Interested students should get involved with these groups. In order to make change you must first be aware. Informing yourself about these problems is the first step toward changing them.


 Tiffany Trawick welcomes comments at [email protected]