100 years ago, women were given the right to vote. 100 years later, women are finally breaking the glass ceiling beyond the ballot and into the workplace. With a rise in feminist culture, college graduation rates and love for things traditionally considered ‘male’ job titles have risen among women; women no longer have a place in ‘the kitchen’; rather, they have a place wherever they want it to be.
The feminist movement is stronger now than it ever has been before. With women’s marches and protests, the voice of women is being heard because people no longer have the choice but to listen. There are many fields of study that were previously entirely powered by men, but those workplaces are starting to shift.
The office used to be a woman-at-the-front-desk and a man-in-the-corner-office kind of place, but now women are taking those offices too. This is true across the board, but namely in the field of sports, law, and healthcare women are making a significant splash. Although none of this is possible without the power of a strong person, every single person is paving the way for those who follow. To those who are pursuing, those who are leading, and those who are dreaming; there is now a place for you.
Feminism is defined as the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of equality of the sexes. Drue Barker is a student at the University of Utah who has not allowed her gender to impact her chances of success. She’s working to complete her major in Health, Society, and Policy. She associates herself as a feminist but denies that it is a fight for women to be better than men.
“I also think women forget about feminism when it comes to women making decisions that are deemed morally wrong by our society,” Barker said. “I think a huge part of feminism is giving women the freedom to make decisions that I myself may not make, but seeing a larger perspective.” Through thinking of many different forms of feminism Barker has been able to pave her own way and watched others forge their personal paths along the way.
People are starting to stand up for feminism beyond the empowered female. Jackie Farnsworth teaches in the Health Promotion and Education department at the University of Utah and has taught the Health and Diversity class for many years. She has observed women changing in her classes and noticed that they are starting to stand up for minority groups and cultural dilemmas. She also believes that there are many misconceptions about what feminism is.
“I think a lot of people when they hear the word feminist their immediate gut reaction is one of fear as if it means women who think women are better than other people. I think that that idea mostly started by people who are afraid that women are gaining power, which we have been,” Farnsworth explained. She included that men are also starting to stand up against the biases toward minority groups and people that are discriminated against. Feminism is for the empowerment of everyone, not the perfect ideal female. She and Barker are some of many people who have seen and been the women who are taking steps and starting to see the glass ceiling break.
Farnsworth has studied how men and women are different in the ways that they function and how they work. Generally, men work through product-oriented communication whereas women traditionally work in a process-oriented style. This has created a problem in how men trust and react to the way in which women communicate in a job. In male-dominated fields, this process-oriented style is traditionally misinterpreted. Men with product-oriented styles are perceived as much more strong-willed and forceful, but neither of these styles are negative ways of working. This misinterpretation has made it more difficult for women to break into powerful fields.
“We don’t want to be too pushy, we don’t want to be too aggressive,” Farnsworth elaborated. “And then when women do take on leadership roles…we don’t expect it from them so they’re often punished for that. So if I use my negotiating style I don’t have credibility, but if I use the dominating style then I’m a bitch.”
The glass ceiling was a term coined by feminists to name the barriers that high-achieving women were facing. It has since moved to mean the barriers that any marginalized person faces. The feminist movement has not only allowed women to break into different career paths but many others as well.
“For me, it is a limit set by society that I can clearly see through, that I know if it is smashed, creates endless opportunities for not only myself but for every single woman that comes after,” Barker said “Sometimes the ceiling feels heavy. I feel bogged down by the weight of possibly not getting something I deserve because of my gender.”
Women in Sports
Malia Robinson spent the summer of her junior year interning in Ohio with the MLB team, The Cincinnati Reds. She worked with the Youth Academy to help kids spend their summer doing meaningful work in relation to sports. She noticed the ratio of women to men, but never let that change her experience.
“You can certainly tell when you look around that it is predominantly males, which is an interesting environment to walk in on, but once you show that you are capable of doing just as much the respect level shows,” Robinson said. One day she and her female counterparts took it upon themselves to show that they can do just as much as the male interns around them. She showed everyone that they could participate in the sporting exercises just as much as the boys; their gender didn’t influence their abilities.
Through her summer internship she saw kids’ lives change because of the Reds. She saw kids lighten up after spending days with counselors who taught them the importance of sports and growing strong, and pushed them to do their best. Robinson says she learned that allowing kids to break out of their shell and talk things out can make all the difference. Robinson spent her summer interning with the MLB, and giving the girls she worked with the idea that they could do the same. Women are entering the workforce and continuing to pave the way for those that follow.
“I think it is important to have women in a man-dominated workplace because being a woman, I feel like it is important to be able to take a stance on the fact that we can do anything we want and also be able to live up to the expectations of others.” Robinson saw that women can change the workplace, and she can bring something different than someone else.
Women must continue to push for their dreams, no matter what field that may be in. There are women that have taken the corner office, there are women that are working in coordination with men, and there are women in Congress. Sports have been traditionally noted as a male-dominated workplace but over time that stereotype has changed.
“It is so imperative that women push for dreams, even if they will be surrounded by mostly men,” Barker said. “When a woman earns a seat at a table, it means that there is a door open for more women at the table. Every area of life is made better when a woman’s voice is heard.” It is unavoidable that there will be no women working in large male fields any longer. Women are learning and empowering the same as men and men are working as hard as women. The playing field is starting to even.
Claire Donskey is an athletic trainer for the women’s basketball team at the University of Utah. She doesn’t notice a difference in her gender when she is working with her athletes. She wants to see them succeed as much as they want to get back to playing.
“I never felt that it was harder because I am a female,” Donskey mentioned, “athletes just want to get better and perform better, so if you have the tools to help them do that, it doesn’t matter if you are a male or female.” She worked through her schooling in order to get to the level she is into. To her, it never mattered what gender she was. When looking at male sports teams, the athletic trainers are, more often than not, female nowadays. There is no longer a fight that women don’t belong there because they have proved that they do.
“You see a lot of female athletic trainers getting hired in positions with professional and high profile male sports and I think that shows that it doesn’t matter who you are, it matters what you can bring to the table and what your skillset is,” Donskey continued.
Women in Health Care
Female doctors are not a dime a dozen. Just as in sports, women are not disallowed from entering into the medical field. Nursing, medical doctors, and physicians assistants are all increasingly becoming women. Men are also now being seen as not only the higher surgeons but can be nurses and PAs all the same. As the times and ideals of women have changed, so have the people that are in the hospitals and clinics helping others in need. Although previously men were considered the only people trustworthy of caring for the injured and sick, women have started to dream of becoming doctors and making that happen.
In her undergraduate, Barker has volunteered in many different places in order to advance her dream of entering the medical field. She is part of Connect2Health at the University of Utah and worked with marginalized groups that miss out on the benefits of health care.
“Every time I go down to volunteer at 4th Street Clinic and I talk with the female patients, I am reminded of sheer female strength and grit,” Barker spoke of her varying experiences. “I don’t think this has much to do with me, but more about these women, and the lessons they teach me. They give me a reason to fight, to have a voice.” There are many people she sees that will never have the chances she does, and that is one of the reasons she wants to find her career in helping others so that they can follow her and allow themselves to reach for their dreams regardless of the background or struggles that they come from or are going through.
Similarly, Kelli Geskes decided at 7-years-old that her dream was to become a doctor. After studying for months for the MCAT and applying to medical schools across the country, she is finally seeing that dream being realized. Although she is the first in her family to graduate from college, it has allowed her to continue to break boundaries.
“Without women advocating for others and accessibility to necessary facets, women’s health could disappear altogether. As nearly 50% of the population are women, healthcare should adopt a similar model so that all sexes and gender identities have proper representation,” Geskes explained. Women that provide top care are learning from other men and women and creating an example that anyone can follow.
Women in Politics and Law
More women have run for political office since the election of Donald Trump than ever before. In 2018, the women running in the midterm elections broke records and more women than ever are willing to run for president. Politics is no longer only considered a man’s job. Although women are still outcast and criticized, there has been a noticeable shift.
“My sister is an attorney for the government which is very much still a boy’s club and she is so good at her job and loves what she does, despite the degrading comments to her,” Barker attested. “Because I have watched her, I am unafraid to go into a career dominated by men.” When women are willing to break into something, it allows others to follow suit.
Zoe Wadge graduated from the University of Utah in 2019 and moved to become the first person and only woman in her family to attend a graduate school. She started her law career at The University of North Carolina because she found it rewarding to make a place at the table that she wanted to sit at. She also focuses on her ability to take the table and reach back to help others get there with her.
“There’s something about the ability to communicate information effectively and credibly to a hostile audience that is sobering and humbling because it reminds me that my voice doesn’t just speak for myself but also for others. It reminds me why I’m there,” Wadge divulged. She sees the future of law continuing in a direction that is equal for all those that want to pursue it. There does not have to be an outcast group in order for another to succeed.
“I think it’s a really hopeful time for the women who were told as girls that they could become anything they wanted when they grew up. I think for the first time in history, we’re in a position that we can believe it’s true.” Wadge concluded. The time for equality is not near, the time is now.
The feminist movement has been happening beyond the realization of a term for it. Women have been fighting for their rights since the beginning of time. It wasn’t the first movement and it won’t be the last, but it has withstood aggression. It has allowed women to find a voice in a workforce and create something they would not have been able to in the past.
“There are females that are unbelievable athletes, CEOs, physicians, and politicians,” Barker said. “These women can have a voice in society, albeit not as strong or loud as I sometimes hope, but we are forcing our way to the biggest tables and demanding to be seen and heard.” So, break out of the social norms and break into your dreams, there is no destination which you cannot achieve.
With the amount of growth that has happened, there is still more to go in allowing women to prevail. Not beyond men, not beyond anyone else, but as themselves. The feminist movement is far from over, especially as women continue to become educated. Feminism is not only for women; it is for everyone. Allowing those around you to thrive regardless of who they are is the most important part. Women can do the same job as anyone else and men can give them the space to do that alongside them.