Panel suggests that empowering women can improve gender equality at UVU

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As a part of Ethics Awareness Week, the Utah Women and Leadership Project hosted a panel to discuss the need for a better approach to dealing with gender issues both on campus and in the general public sphere.

The panel included Dr. Ann Weaver Hart, president of the University of Arizona, Dr. Katherine Brown, UVU’s associate vice president of academic administration and academic information technology, and Linda Making, the university’s vice president of planning, budget and HR.

The conversation covered a wide variety of issues, including sexual harassment, as well as  the gender wage gap currently undercutting women worldwide.

“The public sphere is far broader than we might think,” Dr. Hart said.

The women shared experiences of times when they were treated differently and unequal based on their gender. Brown recalled a time when she was told a woman couldn’t make a good department chair. Makin shared an experience where she had to promise not to have kids for two years before she would be hired for a new job.

The panel went on to explain that the public sphere includes any publicly funded institutions or organizations. In addition, it also includes any private institutions who offer resources to public establishments.

When speaking about ways to fix current gender issues, Makin expressed that she believes the answer lies in empowering women.

“When women do not feel empowered, people will exercise power over them,” Makin said.

Brown claimed that the solution for resolving gender issues is to “break the norms.” She further stated that it is partially up to men to hold other men responsible for sexist behaviors.

“Men need to call out other men in these behaviors,” Brown said.

While much of the panel focused on how men were key players in fixing these gender issues, a few male students in attendance felt the panelists were contradicting themselves by not including male voices on the panel.

“I feel like there was a detractment from what I could have learned because the panel was completely [made up of] women who generally felt the exact same way about the issue,” said Nathan Alder, a junior studying business administration. “Men deserve equality, and I wish that would have been touched on in this light.”

Taylor Jensen, a senior studying philosophy, went on to agree with Alder.

“I kind of wish there [had been] a well informed man up there to add other voices to the panel,” said Jensen.

The panel noted that it was both fitting and critical to have a conversation about gender during Ethics Awareness Week.

Dr. Susan Madsen, founder of Global Women’s Leadership Alliance, who mediated the panel, ended with a powerful call-to-action to anyone looking to make a difference.

“We need more men and more women to be leaders, and to step forward and use their voices to do better for people — to help people rise up,” Madsen said.

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