Vol 39 No 11
Mar. 15, 2007
News & Notes
Out and About
Papers & Presentations
April 5, 2007
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By Jillian Terry
Women on campus striving for equality and celebrating success
With the CIS Women’s National Basketball Championship on campus this past weekend, as well as the International Women’s Day fair organized by the Women’s Resource Centre, there was definitely no shortage of females taking part in what is a global celebration of women’s achievements on the eighth of March each year. First sponsored by the United Nations in 1975, International Women’s Day aims to provide political and social awareness of the worldwide struggles of women at home, school, and in the workplace.
As a modern-day female university student, it is sometimes easy to forget the hardships that were faced by women seeking a post-secondary education in the not-so-distant past. Unlike my predecessors, I am not discriminated against by other students or professors, and am given the same opportunities to succeed as my male counterparts gender does not render the same obstacles against women that it did for most of the history of humanity.
For example, women who were seen as bright and ambitious during their teenage years were rarely given the chance to go on to post-secondary education, as their skills were urgently needed in the education of the next generation. Almost three quarters of a century ago, my grandmother was taken directly out of high school after graduation and began teaching children just a handful of years her junior. It was not until several decades later when, after having raised eight children of her own, she was able to realize her dream of studying at Memorial and receiving a university degree.
In 1921, women constituted only 16 per cent of undergraduate students at Canadian universities. That number has since more than tripled, and in the 2004-2005 academic year, six out of every ten undergraduate students in Canada were female. Clearly, many inroads have been made many female international students come to Memorial and other universities in Canada each year for the opportunity to continue their education, a privilege that, in many developing countries, has not yet been afforded to women. However, while the successes of women in post-secondary education must not be neglected, there are still improvements to be made.
Take, for instance, the ratio of male to female full-time professors in traditionally male-dominated academic departments. The conventional gender roles of men in science-oriented disciplines and women in the humanities continue to ring true, albeit to a lesser extreme than in the past. But in a less predictable department, such as Political Science, one may be shocked to find not one full-time female professor currently teaching undergraduate courses. Such a situation causes problems for students, such as myself, wishing to explore the increasingly popular field of feminist political theory and its inevitable implications as experts in the area, not surprisingly, tend to be female.
Evidently, each department at the university is not financially able to hire a specialist in every subcategory of their designated field of study, but a more equal ratio of male to female faculty would most certainly help to provide different perspectives which, by fostering discussion, directly address one of the main mandates of post-secondary education. An open dialogue between both sexes about the inequalities that still exist within the university and society as a whole will help to pave the way for a system where young female students have an even stronger foundation from which to start their futures.
So, as the women Sea-Hawks claimed their first-ever CIS basketball podium position at the Field House and the University Centre was buzzing with female artists and entrepreneurs last week, women at Memorial celebrated International Women’s Day by highlighting some of their many achievements. By taking survey of the past and looking optimistically towards the future, women in post-secondary institutions - both students and educators can strive for a fully equal place in the diverse mosaic of university life.