The College celebrated Women’s History Month this year with virtual events and initiatives to inspire and inform our College community. In light of the endlessly faceted nature of womanhood, the events centered around women of all different backgrounds who shared their stories and experiences, creating dialogue that felt relevant to the diverse population of women and femmes at the College.
Women’s History Month brought women who are leaders in their respective fields into our College community to share their knowledge on topics such as career advancement, workplace diversity, physical and mental health, and more.
The first event, Challenging the Process, which took place on March 1, was hosted by Judge Maria McLaughlin, who highlighted the tenants of exemplary leadership and spoke to her audience about techniques women can use to enable themselves and their teammates to perform to the height of their ability.
Next, Leslie Chapman, a distinguished engineer at Comcast, hosted Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion & Your Career on March 5. Demonstrating that diversity in the workplace isn’t just important, but necessary, Chapman shared her experience working as a technical lead for the X1 entertainment platform at Comcast. Due to the need to market this product worldwide, the design process had to be informed by perspectives of people from many different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. Chapman proved that companies will need a diverse workforce to compete in the global marketplace, and that women are the leading the charge in diversifying the workplace.
Helping women to adopt a mindset that will allow them to push through the inevitable difficulties of life while standing tall with “grace, confidence and resilience,” author Kimberly S. Reed discussed her book “Optimists Always Win!” at a virtual event on March 16. Reed is an award-winning speaker, author, corporate trainer, and diversity, equality and inclusion executive.
On March 18, Class of 2020 commencement speaker Kendall Stephans hosted a panel discussion that illuminated the nuance, joy and difficulties that inform the experience of transgender womanhood with local activists and educators Alonda Talley, Miayanna Brooks, Paris Ryan (aka Lamia) and Sa’mantha Sayten. The group shared the stories of how they came into their womanhood (for lack of a better term, as one panelist, Sayten, identifies as non-binary femme), and discussed the fact that womanhood comes in many shapes and sizes; all that matters is that one must be a woman or femme in heart and mind. They celebrated the joy and resilience that each of them has embodied by honoring their authentic selves and owning their transgender identities and shared some of the barriers that they and other transgender people face due to lack acceptance in society at large.
One of the most popular events held through the month was Dr. General’s Fireside Chat. The event focused on domestic violence that has targeted women in Asian and Pacific Islander communities both in the U.S. and abroad, discussing the violence specific to the COVID-19 pandemic especially. Dr. Michelle Myers, associate professor of English, performed her spoken word poem, "It's Nothing". Dedicated to the mother and sister of a young Hmong youth named Fong Lee who was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer in 2006, Myers’ poem speaks to the insurmountable pain inflicted on victims and families of police violence and white supremacy.
“Just once/ I wish I could help you feel safe, to be happy/ and just simply live again/ I wish I could do more than just / Cry on stage for you, fight for you, be angry for you/ With these never-lasting words/ But this, this is the best that I can do and this is nothing/ Because it is what I must do to demand something/ Something more for you /For us / For Fong.”
Another widely attended event was Enough Is Enough: Health Care Disparities in Women of Color, featuring Dr. Chidinma Nwakanma and hosted by assistant professor of Nursing, Petrina McFarlane. “Health care disparities exist because there have been historically and systematically experiencing greater obstacles to health. And that can be based on your ethic group or your racial group, that can be based on your socioeconomic status, mental health, even where you live in this country,” Dr. Nwakanma explained.
She explored a number of topics, including conscious and unconscious bias, and medical myths that persist in the field of medicine today. Sharing helpful tips, like the fact that patients have a right to request a medical interpreter If English is not their first language, or the importance of getting a second opinion, Dr. Nwakanma empowered women of color in our College community to advocate for themselves when seeking medical treatment.
“If you feel like your doctor is not listening to you or if you feel like they’re speaking over you or trying to finish your sentences, or if you feel like your complaints are not being addressed or they’re being casually dismissed, or you feel judged or disrespected...these are cues that there might be some implicit or explicit bias at play,” said Dr. Nwakanma.
Adding to the month’s initiative of women-focused community building and knowledge, a Virtual Reading Room, book giveaway and lists of local women-owned businesses were shared with the College community.