Giving Girls an Opportunity at Harriton
April 11, 2016 • 476 views
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In her second attempt, Hillary Clinton seems to have a real shot at being the next President of the United States of America. How might her election impact women in America? Currently, women still make $0.79 to the $1.00 men make in the work force. According to the Huffington Post, “[t]hose who do work are generally paid much below that of male workers, despite being equally capable and skilled. Furthermore, their status and promotion is limited to middle or below ranks, they are laid off pre-retirement age more frequently than men, they have limited educational opportunity, and they typically run smaller farms and less profitable enterprises.” Having a woman president might make close the gap between salaries and leadership opportunities.
Additionally, even though the world population is over 50% female, women head only 7% of governments in the world. There are national and international measures at work to fix these women’s rights issues, but they are not sufficient to eliminate the problem. A cultural and social movement that has equal perceptions and treatment of people, regardless of gender, can fix these problems.
This brings me to our culture at Harriton High School. Have we committed to being a community that celebrates both genders, allowing equal opportunities in leadership, social events, athletics, and classes?
What brought my attention to this issue was Mr. Harriton. Commonly known throughout the high school, Mr. Harriton is a talent show that focuses on the male talents of the junior and senior class. I observed in the 2016 showing of Mr. Harriton that the participants consisted of males while the only girls in the show were props or assistants.
My friends and I were uncomfortable watching this inequality, so I began to ask questions. After talking to Dr. Eveslage, I found out that girls were already able to participate. Who knew? I didn’t. Was it advertised or promoted as a talent show for all? I didn’t see anything to suggest that. Furthermore, the name itself is Mr. Harriton. Maybe it’s time we advertise this fundraiser as all-inclusive so the word gets out that girls are encouraged to display their talents, too. Maybe it’s time we start calling the fundraiser Mr. and Ms. Harriton to represent its inclusiveness.
Are there other areas where Harriton could encourage and engage female leadership and involvement? Take, for example, our school’s leadership. Student Council’s officers are all male. Although I believe that our Student Council officers have done a great job this year, girls have absolutely no voice in the higher officer setting, besides putting in small bits of input at council meetings. I hope that HHS can change this and support a more diverse representation at our school. Gender composition in a room changes the dynamics. A recent study at MIT demonstrated the importance of female leadership in that girls set higher goals for themselves and girls became more ambitious. (1)
Beyond social and leadership aspects at Harriton, I have personally experienced where curriculum was led by and driven by a male-centric agenda. In one class, the central theme is related to football, a sport girls cannot play at Harriton or experience except as spectators. Of course the class is filled with mostly boys, but the curriculum could have been valid using a sport both sexes play.
I believe how we view, develop, and celebrate female athletes, starting at the high school level, can have positive impact on up the ladder to professional sports. Male athletes and teams are highlighted, promoted and given more opportunities to be successful. Mother Jones recently reported that the women’s US soccer team makes four times less money than their male counterparts (2). This wage discrepancy is despite the fact that the women’s team won more games than the men’s team and brought in more revenue for US soccer.
I doubt the teachers, coaches, or administration are purposefully setting out to place more importance on males than females at our school. However, self-reflection and an outward look on how situations can be perceived is an important part of creating an equal environment for all.
We can do better at Harriton. Our administration and leadership needs to promote girls’ participation in social events. Our coaches and teachers need to be aware of the messages they are sending in terms of development and curriculum. Our student body needs to include all members of the society it represents. When we do this, we will be sending out into the workplace women who are prepared and men who recognize the importance of women’s impact on the world. Regardless of whether we have a female president in 2017, we, at Harriton, can be the change we want to see in the world.