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Gender in the Classroom

Hello and happy Friday! I hope each of you are taking some time during this busy and stressful time of year - time for yourself, time to pause, time to unwind, and time to reflect.

Upon my own reflection throughout the past week, I found myself returning to the same topic, one that affects many of us: our role as females before even reaching the workplace, our role as females in the classroom. These thoughts were first ignited this past Sunday, December 6, the anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre, a day we now know as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. This terrible tragedy took the lives of 14 young women and injured 10 more - simply because they were women attending university. This day, while a horrific moment in history, offers us an opportunity each year to think about the incredible strides made by and for women in education while simultaneously recognizing the lengths we still have to go.

50 years ago, women only made up 32% of university students; today, women make up a whopping 56% of university students… Yay! …. But access to the system is not where progress ends. Women are still consistently underrepresented in STEM subjects, experience gendered microaggressions on a regular basis, and are 5 times as likely to experience sexual violence on campus as male students. These still very present issues remind us we still have a long way to go.

As I enter the last semester of my university career, I can speak to nearly four years of experience as a female student. I have been pursuing my degree in Media, Information, and Technoculture - a program renamed predominantly by our male peers as “Mothers In Training” (*eye roll*). This is a primary example of an obstacle faced by female students that often goes untalked about. If you ask me, we need to start conversing about things like this, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant. So let’s start here…

I ask you to reflect on your own experience as a female student with me. I, and countless of my fellow female students, endure “funny” comments made by our male counterparts which work to belittle or discredit our place in a university setting, have you experienced this? Have you remained cool while being interrupted or spoken over during class? Have you recognized the obvious disappointment on your male lab partners face or in his tone when he is told he must work with you? Have you attempted to speak on a gendered issue or use a personal anecdote in class and been shut down by a male instructor?

Did you answer yes to any of these questions? Me too. Now, let's use this reflection to move forward, to encourage conversations with fellow female students, to share experiences, learn and grow from them, and make change. The more we talk about the obstacles we face, the more likely we are to combat and eradicate them.

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