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March 12, 2013

U of C celebrates International Women’s Day

University students celebrated International Women’s Day with a “Women in the Classroom” workshop at Ida Noyes Hall on Friday.

Graduate students across multiple departments formed the Graduate Students United committee “Gender and Academia Working Group,” which planned the workshop as its first event. According to cofounder Francey Russell, the issues that women in academia face as minorities raise the need for a community to discuss and improve these issues.

“Women in the Classroom: Challenges and Solutions” centered on a panel of three graduate students who gave anecdotes of sex discrimination and other gender issues in academia within the University of Chicago classrooms as students, educators, and in the content of class materials. The three-hour workshop was interspersed with breakout groups to discuss these topics, such as personal encounters of sexism in academia and possible solutions for this issue within the University as a whole. The organizers aim to have frequent, similar events in the upcoming year.

“At the moment, there isn't really a women’s center on campus. We have the Gender and Sexuality academic space, which is fantastic, but we don’t have a community space. This meeting is, in part, a response to the need to have an occasion to get together and share these stories,” Russell said.

Emily Dupree, a philosophy graduate student who spoke on “women as students,” is used to being the only woman in her classes. She warned of “stereotype threat,” in which minority students perform worse when they’re told that their status is stereotypically linked with lower performance.

“Study after study confirms that it’s more difficult for students to speak up in class when they are in the minority relative to the other students in the classroom. If there’s a perception among students that someone’s presence is a result of tokenism, rather than merit, their contributions are unlikely to be heard at face value,” said Dupree.

The workshop was sponsored by the Office of International Affairs, Graduate Students United, and the Gender and Sexuality Studies Workshop.

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