Talking about Gender on Campus

Today we had the privilege of listening to Dr. Mary Coussons-Read speak about the gender climate on UCD’s campus. She discussed job satisfaction by department in regard to gender. 

Some memorable information she shared with us included statistics such as:

  • Women were twice as likely to report that senior colleagues do not support junior colleagues in their department “at all.”
  • Women are more likely to report feeling isolated in their departments (this is exacerbated by 1.5-2x for women in the STEM fields).
  • 75% of men think gender discrimination is not a problem in their department; only 43% of women agree. 
  • Most GLBTQ women find their sexual orientation to be a moderate or frequent problem in the workplace, whereas men’s responses were distributed more equally across the board. 

While none of this information came as much of a shock to us, we are so glad that researchers such as Dr. Coussons-Read are bringing attention to these problems in academia. Her study was specific to UCD (with a survey sample of 319 faculty members, approximately half-male and half-female), these trends are generalizable to many other American institutions. 

What are some good ways to combat these issues? We discussed better mentoring programs, more collaborative work and more flexible working policies. What are your ideas?



Georgia State Senator Yasmin Neal (D-Riverdale) recently introduced the tongue-in-cheek bill No Child Left Behind in Ballsack. She says,

“Thousands of children are deprived of birth in this state every year because of the lack of state regulation over vasectomies. It is patently unfair that men can avoid unwanted fatherhood by presuming that their judgment over such matters is more valid than the judgment of the General Assembly, while women’s ability to decide is constantly up for debate throughout the United States.”

Neal’s bill comes as a sarcastic response to another bill up for debate in Georgia, one which would ban abortions after 20 weeks. With this legislation, she aims to point out the absurdity of allowing politicians, rather than doctors, make important reproductive health decisions.

Do you think bills like NCLIB make a good argument for women’s reproductive rights?

Majority of Americans Agree with Obama’s Birth Control Mandate

Politico reports that the majority– 59%– of voters agree with Obama’s recently proposed birth control mandate. The mandate would require that religiously affiliated employers (such as a Catholic hospital) include contraceptives in the health insurance for employees. The rule would not apply to religious institutions, such as churches. While you’ve probably heard much of the backlash from religious institutions, the fact stands that most Americans agree with the new rule.


It’s important to remember why this subject is so important, today and always. Contraceptives aren’t cheap but are very necessary for women’s reproductive health. Beyond preventing pregnancy, women may take the birth control pill for reasons such as: irregular or absent menstrual periods, menstrual cramps, acne, PMS, endometriosis, and for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. The birth control pill could mean the difference between getting up in the morning or staying in bed in excruciating pain. In this regard, as well as the more common use of pregnancy prevention, it must be covered by health insurance! Asking women to pay for it out of pocket is oppressive.

Another Culture War?

Female Genital Cutting (FGC), a practice that started in Egypt and spread throughout Africa, has been illegal in Egypt for years now. Still, a recent BBC News article shows figures that suggest that more than 90% of the women have been subject to female genital mutilation (FGM). The figure is from a survey Unicef carried out in 2008, the year that the practice was banned. Also, recent discussions at the State Department have brought attention to the fact that FGM is not a religious practice, but rather a cultural practice. The influence of tradition causes many women to believe they have to continue FGM since it has been practiced for thousands of years as a “right of passage” despite the health problems that arise, especially in childbirth.

Despite Secretary of State Clinton’s assertions, FGC is such a culturally sensitive topic and it must be approached within the community the practice occurs. Various organizations recognize this, and are working village by village speaking with mothers to educate them about the critical health issues that FGC can cause.

The Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA), the Fund for Grassroots Activism to End FGM  established by Equality Now, and several other grass roots organizations provide networking opportunities for activists to share best practices in the movement to end FGM. Their goal is to inform women about the health problems associated with this procedure in order to empower women to choose not to continue this practice. To date, 36 groups in 19 countries have received grants under the FGM Fund.

What do you think? If FGM is approached as a public health concern, will entire communities listen and fight for women’s health in their villages? Tell us your thoughts!

Feeling Sad?

These adorable animals have messages of social justice to brighten your day! There are not a whole lot of pictures right now but new pictures are being added all the time, so check back often!

Why Men Earn More?

Business Week just released an article on the gender wage gap… sort of. Comparing information of gender wage gaps by field to data on students graduating from college, BW concludes that much– but not all– of the gender pay gap can be attributed to career choices, such as choosing a finance job versus an HR job. The author writes:

“The pay gap then, isn’t entirely a function of discrimination against women, although I’m sure there’s probably some of that too. It’s largely a function of the choices men and women make. There may be perfectly good tactical reasons for those choices–the need to repay student loans or the desire to start a family, for example. But they have consequences, and one of them may be a bigger (or smaller) paycheck.”

The problem we have with this conclusion is that it fails to recognize that “male” versus “female” jobs IS discrimination against women. Women are more likely to go into HR than men, the article says. This is not a “choice,” but rather the force of a society that still believes women are better with communication than men. Men are more likely to go into finance because, again, society believes men are better at math.

Any time a certain career is predominately male or female we should ask ourselves why. Simply declaring it an effect of  “choice” is ignoring the societal problem at hand here.

What do you think about the gender wage gap? Is it just discrimination or are there other factors contributing to it?


Lisa Chan Apologizes for Racist Ad

Last week we posted about Pete Hoekstra’s anti-Chinese campaign ad, aired during the Super Bowl in Michigan. (Revisit that post here.)

Today Lisa Chan, the actress from the ad, issued an apology for appearing in the ad. In her statement she says, “I feel horrible about my participation and I am determined to resolve my actions.” Read the whole statement here

What do you think about Chan’s apology? Why do you think she starred in the ad in the first place? 

On a side note, we’re pleased to report that Hoekstra’s poll ratings dropped 11 points after the release of the ad. His opponent, incumbent Debbie Stabenow has received $170,000 in donations in response to the ad. Hoekstra’s camp has since released an apology.