Gender inclusivity and International Women’s Day

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A photograph of a group of three people in business casual wear standing in a public space and joking with each other while two are holding coffees in one hand. The one on the right has a jacket draped over their arm.  
Ever heard of the movement 4B? Looks better and better each day, to be completely honest… Surprising_SnapShots via Pixabay

A movie recommendation, topics to research, and a small history lesson 

by zinia jaswal, contributor

Mona Lisa Smile is a film addressing the idea of women’s role in society. In the 1950s, many people believed that women’s position was as mothers and wives. Society at that time was extremely patriarchal and most women were expected to put marriage and family above the pursuit of their own careers.  

“A few years from now,” the Wellesley students in the film are solemnly informed, “your sole responsibility will be taking care of your husband and children.”  

The main character, Katherine Watson, finds it hard to believe that women could so readily accept leaving behind their ambitions in favor of getting married. Mona Lisa Smile criticizes the traditional views about women’s role in the world and concludes that women have the right to make their own choices. 

Abandoning her future career in favour of building a family is not a priority Watson can agree with. She tells the school president, “I thought I was headed to a place that would turn out tomorrow’s leaders, not their wives.”  

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, it’s important to reflect on the journey of women in higher education. The pursuit of knowledge extends beyond personal ambition; it carries the torch of progress for future generations. 

Each lecture, assignment, and discussion is a testament to the resilience and determination of women throughout history who fought for an equal right to education. As we navigate our academic endeavors, let us draw inspiration from their stories, recognizing that our education is not just for ourselves but for the empowerment and advancement of people worldwide.  

By embracing our roles as scholars and trailblazers, we pave the way for a brighter, more inclusive future where every person can pursue their dreams and aspirations, regardless of gender norms. 

In general, young people seem to be living more equal lives. Unfortunately, there is a predetermined path each person is being placed on by the encouragement they receive from their elders while they are in primary and secondary school.  

While boys are encouraged to study topics such as engineering, medicine, law, and journalism, girls are more likely to be encouraged to pursue positions that require emotional labour and which would leave time to be a homemaker.  

 Women are also more likely to end up in precarious work. According to Anna Paraskevopoulou in Gender and Precarious Work, this is “nonstandard or atypical employment, insecure, or casual employment.” 

Despite the legal requirement in Canada and other countries for people to be paid equally for equal levels of work, there is a long way to go. White men are paid the most for the same work that other sectors of people could do but would be paid less for.  

In Canada, according to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, the general pay gap is considered to be 89 cents per the White man’s dollar and it drops to 59 cents for racialized people who present as women. 

Young White men are also more likely to assume they are qualified for a position and apply to positions that their equally qualified peers may consider themselves unqualified for due to impostor syndrome and lesser self-confidence in their place within the world. This results in a gender disparity in higher ranking positions across all sectors of work. 

It is crucial to recognize that education should not be confined to gender norms. Education frees women from dependence and empowers them to maintain independence. Individuals, communities, countries, and the globe may all benefit from universal access to high-quality education.  

Although all states have pledged to realize the right to education for everyone, less than half of the world’s countries have achieved gender balance in education. Denying women the fundamental right to education is the most devastating kind of discrimination. It robs our planet of the creativity, innovation, and accomplishments of more than half of mankind.  

Despite historical barriers, numerous women have defied the odds and achieved remarkable feats in their lives, garnering Nobel Prizes for their groundbreaking contributions. Among these luminaries are: 

Marie Curie (1867-1934): A pioneer in physics and chemistry, Marie Curie remains one of the most celebrated scientists in history. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the only person to win Nobel Prizes in two different scientific fields: physics and chemistry. 

Rita Levi-Montalcini (1909-2012): An Italian neurobiologist, Levi-Montalcini won the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1986 for her discovery of nerve growth factor, a crucial protein involved in the growth and maintenance of nerve cells.  

Jane Austen (1775–1817): Her literature legacy is essentially the birthplace of the rom–com genre, transcending generations and inspiring adaptations and interpretations that resonate with audiences.  

Nellie Bly (1864-1922): The investigative journalism standard was basically set by her. Bly addressed more serious topics like mental health, poverty, and political corruption at a time when women writers were confined to society pages.  

Her most famous undercover operation was at Blackwell’s Island (now Roosevelt Island). As a result of her exposé of the horrific conditions, changes in patient care were made that were much needed. Her circumnavigation of the globe also set a world record. She completed the investigation in 72 days.  

Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000): She co-invented the “Secret Communications System” radio signaling device. During World War II, the system changed radio frequencies to confuse and hinder enemies, and it continues to be an integral part of wireless communication today. 

Katherine G. Johnson (1918-2020): a mathematician who was one of the brains behind the complex calculations that helped to successfully send the first man to the moon.  

These extraordinary women serve as shining examples of what can be achieved when talent, perseverance, and determination converge in a woman’s world. 

The struggles faced by women in education and careers are undeniable, yet the resilience and brilliance of women in these fields continue to inspire. It makes me so proud when I see young women in university working in labs and studying in lectures.  

These young women are not only shaping their own destinies but also breaking barriers and paving the way for generations to come. Their presence in academic settings is not symbolic; it is transformative, showing a shift towards a more inclusive and equitable society, reminding us of the limitless potential that lies within every individual, regardless of gender.  

It is imperative to challenge stereotypes, promote inclusivity, and provide equal opportunities for all individuals to succeed in education. By recognizing and celebrating the achievements of women, we not only honor their contributions but also advocate for a more equitable and diverse future in science and technology.

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