Let me set the stage for you: 6 women, all graduates from Warnell, a room full of faculty and students, and an inspirational and enlightening discussion about what it means to be a woman in natural resources.
Last week, Warnell hosted a discussion panel called Women of Warnell. To be quite honest, I had little involvement in any of it… I just helped decorate Warnell and set out food. Having previously met most of the six women invited to speak, I knew all of the attendees were in for a treat, and I was personally excited to see what our staff had planned.
All fields were represented; some of these ladies were entrepreneurs, others worked for federal agencies, and another was a stay at home mom. They have each led unique lives and experienced different challenges. I thought it might be interesting to see the reactions to the panel from 2 different viewpoints: that of a woman and of a man (who we’ll now refer to as Pebbles and Bam Bam)!
I was thrilled to attend the Women of Warnell panel discussion! It truly was a breath of fresh air to hear from six experienced women who have been there, done that, and are still doing it! Our discussion actually began with stats across the board, some positive, some not so much: 71% of females with children are in the work force, however only about 20% of women are represented in Congress, both House and Senate. Not to mention only 6 out 60 Warnell faculty are women- something I never realized being a student until now. Fortunately, all of our panel members who were Warnell alumni agreed that it never was an issue, and I can attest to that.
As clueless as I am when it comes to understanding women, I did understand the resounding message that was being sent at the Women of Warnell Panel discussion and that message can be summed up in one word: equality. Throughout the many topics discussed that night, each one centered on the idea of equality in the workplace. A panel comprised of professional Warnell graduates, who happened to be women, fielded questions from a group of about sixty students and faculty. I was one of about seven males, which I was a little disappointed by, because I believe men stood to learn just as much as a woman from this discussion. The biggest lesson, and not one I did not previously know, but one that was reinforced, was that women want to be judged by the quality of their work rather than the sex they were given.
For a woman this strongly revolves around the idea of raising a family. It was interesting to hear that even in just one decade the question of bearing children has changed from “when?” to “if?” It was enlightening to hear from our panel of women, some with multiple children and some with none. Regardless if you have children or not, everyone agreed that it is crucial to raise the next generation to view men and women both as having equal potential in whatever they set their minds to. And when a woman does want to have a child, there is never a “perfect” time, and you must do what feels right to you.
I have found a new guideline to live by, and that is to never ask a woman if or when she is having kids. The question is offensive and inappropriate to most, so I think it is a good idea to ignore the question altogether.
WHAT’S APPROPRIATE IN THE WORKPLACE
Miniskirts and cowboy boots are out, and it’s better to be dressed as a senator instead of a newscaster. However, do not fear your womanhood. Embrace you for you! And when it comes to other men just set boundaries at the get go to avoid any future problems. One chord that struck true to me was the extra concern about questioning the safety of a woman being outdoors or alone. I may not be a former linebacker for my high school football team, but I do not appreciate being doubted in my own personal comfort zone of the outdoors.
Women do not like to be hit on at conferences by men twice their age. I know that sounds crazy but its true. It was interesting to hear about how some companies strived to hire women, and others seemed to push women away. The attitude towards those types of companies seemed to be more of “their loss” than anger towards them, and I agree. I know being a sample size of one I do not represent the whole male population in my views, and I also disagree with those companies. Not because women should be hired to increase diversity per se, but instead many women are just as qualified to work in any given field as a man, and to discount a person because of their sex is not only illegal but also shortsighted and idiotic.
Own up to your womanhood and, be the best you can be! Don’t let these gender issues stand in the way and if you do run into it, work around it. These obstacles will only bother you as much as you give into them. This can be easier said then done but now I know I have six experienced women and a room full of students to back me up when I need it!
I went to this panel discussion not quite knowing to expect, but in the end, I am glad I went. It was illuminating to see what topics mattered to women when talking about workplace settings but also the challenges that women face when breaking into a man dominated set of industries. And next time I hope to see more men there too.