EDLP704he Blog Post 5: When There Are Nine…

When There Are Nine…

As leaders in a leadership Ed.D. program, what legal/regulatory/policy changes do you think you would like to see to address inequalities, particularly gender inequality? What’s most realistic? And, most importantly, how can you be a leader for this kind of change?

I felt compelled to craft my answer to this complex question by envisioning change through the lens of a famous, powerful quote attributed to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg:

“When I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women judges on the US Supreme Court bench] and I say, ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”

The legal/regulatory/policy changes that need to happen to create greater gender equity need to not just be the remedial type of fixes that have long been the crux of our approach in this country, ie. ensuring token representation or creating protections for individuals experiencing discrimination. As a society, the Feminist and Civil Rights Movements were critical in ensuring that discriminatory and harmful practices were addressed and changed. We haven’t done as well repairing the damaging legacy of white male dominance and supremacy in our country, possibly because we are still living through it. In our latest dive into Title VII in this course, we have also seen just how slowly change occurs when driven mostly by legislation and policy doled out by male-dominated systems. Those changes and protections are critical, yet they often move far more slowly than social change. It’s not surprising when the majority of these systems (legal, institutional) are still vastly dominated by men.

True change needs to be aspirational and visionary. If we worry to much about what is “realistic,” we end up with watered-down half-measures that don’t come close to best practice. Until we take an “all-in” approach to social justice, we risk continuing to focus on smaller, individual-level change, ie. We make gains in one area while stagnating or moving backward in others, or only some womxn benefit while others continue to be oppressed and marginalized. I want a world where it is taken for granted for womxn to be thoroughly represented in all spaces men have inhabited, both literally and metaphorically, for centuries. Any changes also need to be intersectional. It does nothing for our society if cis, hetero white women continue to be the womxn predominantly benefitting from gains in gender pay equity or the ones showing up in positions of power and authority. Until womxn are thoroughly represented in the spaces where all decisions are made, I doubt that we will see the real changes that need to be made to protect womxn moving forward; Changes such as gender pay equity, prioritizing caregiving/teaching/work that has most often traditionally been done by womxn, access to top level leadership positions, universal access to healthcare, improved pre/post natal outcomes for pregnant womxn, paid and extended parental leave, affordable childcare, an end to sexual violence and harassment, increased legal penalties for perpetrators of intimate partner violence, and an overall abandonment of such rigid notions of gender that also serve to devalue and objectify womxn. These changes are for the benefit of all. It is a fallacy that gender equity only benefits womxn.

As a womxn identified practitioner, learning to navigate gender politics and inequity in the workplace has been an education in itself. By virtue of the work I have chosen to do throughout my professional career in focusing on violence prevention and health promotion, I have had the probably somewhat unique experience of working for several organizations all led and staffed primarily by womxn. My mentors and supervisors have, for the most part, been other womxn. It wasn’t until I came to my current institution that I experienced an environment where racial and gender inequity is more apparent and pronounced. I knew it existed, but in the mostly womxn dominated spaces I have tended to inhabit, we were more focused on working together to ensure change in the world around us. It wasn’t difficult to identify the right or the best way forward. Equity and social justice were always central to the work we did together. As a result, we led with our values of equity, empathy, and empowerment. This is the kind of leader I have always striven to be- a values driven leader who is equity and social justice oriented. I have tried to bring that orientation into all of the roles I hold, leading from where I am.

One thought on “EDLP704he Blog Post 5: When There Are Nine…

  • May 6, 2021 at 4:56 pm
    Permalink

    “Changes such as gender pay equity, prioritizing caregiving/teaching/work that has most often traditionally been done by womxn, access to top level leadership positions, universal access to healthcare, improved pre/post natal outcomes for pregnant womxn, paid and extended parental leave, affordable childcare, an end to sexual violence and harassment, increased legal penalties for perpetrators of intimate partner violence, and an overall abandonment of such rigid notions of gender that also serve to devalue and objectify womxn. These changes are for the benefit of all. It is a fallacy that gender equity only benefits womxn.”

    All of that. And, yes, those last two sentences say so much.

Leave a Reply