Graphic by Sana Amin/The Gazelle
Today, physical and sexual violence directed toward women is rising
at alarming rates across the world. Women continue to struggle with public and private representation in decision-making and are victims of discrimination in wages and labor standards. It seems like women need permission to be great. The opportunity to have subsistence and to pursue a life beyond that subsistence is statistically harder, should you be born a woman.
So, do we need to empower women? I believe the answer is a resounding yes. Gender should not be a qualifier that benefits some while systematically disadvantaging others. Allocating resources to break up the structures that hold certain genders aloft, therefore, seems necessary. However, these resources involve time, effort and money that many feel should be allocated elsewhere.
When considering how we spend our limited time on this campus, should we feel the need to empower women in our community? NYU Abu Dhabi is what many would consider a place of equal opportunity for all genders. Both women and men serve in leadership roles on campus and are allowed to pursue academic tracks in whatever fields they wish. Some would then argue that because NYUAD is as a place of equal opportunity, the allocation of university resources for the purpose of empowering one gender seems counterintuitive. Do we really need Student Interest Groups and other entities to focus exclusively on one segment of the student body?
I believe we do. NYUAD is not an air-tight bubble. Sexism stains, and just because we are participants in this cosmopolitan experiment in education doesn’t mean that we are clad in white. We enter this university with perceptions about gender and ability, colored by where we’ve come from and what we’ve been told. Inequality exists in those places. When we leave this institution after four years, that imbalance will still be there. We know that discrimination targets women all over the world, including here, on Saadiyat. Instilling an ability to think critically about these issues and to grow despite them is valuable as we transition to the rest of our lives and the rest of the world. If NYUAD hopes to prepare us to face that world, it should acknowledge that these issues exist and that they require time and effort to change.
"Gender should not be a qualifier that benefits some while systematically disadvantaging others."
Organizations like Women Empowered in STEM, the Women’s Leadership Network and many community service initiatives focus on issues pertaining to women and female empowerment. These organizations were created to address the validity of women in spaces with typically masculine associations. They strive to equip women with the skills necessary to succeed in whatever life they choose to live. They foster conversations around gender, representation and education that are important as we reflect on our values as a community and as people. These organizations allow all of us to navigate the complicated waters of gender and equity more easily, and provide a place for women to grow professionally and personally in order to face life in a sphere that isn’t as kind as NYUAD.
I don’t mean to suggest that men do not suffer from sexism or that men’s issues are not important ones. Many of these organizations on campus welcome voices of other genders in this important dialogue, and advocate stronger for it. Recognizing and addressing sexism in all of its forms is vital when having conversations like these.
The empowerment of women empowers entire societies. I do not believe that women’s development and education is a zero-sum game. We want our doctors, teachers, scientists, caretakers, executives and heads of state to be the persons best qualified for the job, regardless of gender. We don’t want the individual who best fits our cookie cutter conception of what leadership or competency is. By providing resources and opportunities for women now, we can prepare them for what comes next to the benefit of many.
Jocilyn Estes is opinion editor. Email her at email@example.com.