May 23, 2014 by Meghna Malhotra
In a land of infinite opportunity, within a city of strong-minded individuals, in an institution that promotes diversity and forward thinking, resides a young lady who can’t help but wonder when her reality grew out of boys and girls climbing trees as equals, into adult men and women caught in a constant power struggle between feminists and misogynists.
Granted that extreme viewpoints aren’t the best comparison when used to elucidate a general idea, but riddle me this: How would you choose to express concern in an argument that has been thoroughly scrutinized by so many ideologists, philosophers and realists, each of whom have been driven to the edge of reason and yet not found a solution? Would you be willing to gracefully acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that all men command authority simply by virtue of the fact that they are absolutely and unequivocally male?
The innate human needs to be appreciated for who we are and to have equality present themselves as the two defining challenges to the ethos of any era. Ideas stemming from these convictions motivate the most remarkable changes that have been influential in measurably altering life as we know it. Such progress brings with it the amelioration of the human condition in reference to the disintegration of the gender bias.
Sheryl WuDunn, the first Asian American to win a Pulitzer Prize, got it right when she said, “It’s no accident that the countries that have enjoyed an economic takeoff have been those that educated girls and then gave them the autonomy to move to the cities to find work.”
As creatures of habit it is significantly easier for us to conform to familiar and comfortable patterns rather than make a conscious effort to effect change. To dispute traditional gender roles that have been upheld for centuries takes true grit, abundant perseverance and aplomb.
George Bernard Shaw once said, “Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.” It is in this very spirit that I propose we all take a moment today to re-examine the eternal conflict that is gender discrimination.
I have chosen to align my career interests with the field of technology and computing, which is notorious for being unyieldingly patriarchal. But even a pragmatic, political being like myself was admittedly taken aback by how deeply ingrained gender disparity is in our society today. Not two weeks ago, a middle-aged woman who is the regional manager for the software and IT departments in a renowned chemical company in Philadelphia arrived in our classroom with two of her male employees to give a presentation about the inner workings of their company and the skills potential employers seek when hiring co-op students.
She provided valuable information and initially portrayed a very convincing picture of a confident woman who had been successful in her career of choice. However, once she started speaking about the qualities and level of competence desired of the students by their future employers, the entire focus of her talk shifted to degrading the capabilities of women in the computing society.
She presented to a class of college freshmen — who can be very impressionable, especially when it comes to adapting to the opinions of potential co-op employers — myriad examples of women who couldn’t hold their own in interviews, women who had bad handshakes, women ill-informed about advancements in their field of interest, and women who lacked talent in technology to the point where they couldn’t answer questions based on material they had been taught in class. A good 45 minutes later her talk reached its end and the class was dismissed. I stayed seated until the last of my peers had left, shocked by what I had just witnessed.
A modern world that boasts of gender equality even within the most impenetrable of spheres is and will certainly remain a fantasy until the unduly victimized change their attitude and learn the value of amour propre. Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook and the best-selling author of “Lean in — Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders,” gave a very important message to all women aspiring to succeed in any field anywhere in the world when she said, “Believe in yourself, negotiate for yourself, and own your own success.”
I say that it is not OK for a woman to walk into a room that contains a majority of male occupants and with a few seemingly inconsequential examples ruin the impression these men have of the women they will be working with for the rest of their professional lives. Even so, no matter what, each and every one of us will only strive to work harder and shine brighter until the world realizes that it is illuminated equally by two kinds of lights: “sons” and “daughters.”
Meghna Malhotra is a freshman software engineering major at Drexel University. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.