Women in 2021 continue to make history while fighting for equality

Kathryn Williams, Crier Staff

As the United States celebrates Women’s History during the month of March, we reflect on the historical events of the past year and continue to examine societal issues to pursue equality.

Regardless of political affiliations or beliefs, it is important to acknowledge the election of Vice President Kamala Harris as a monumental occasion for women. Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Alicia Finn said that she “joyfully witnessed a glass ceiling finally be broken in a highly male dominated institution, the government.” As society moves forward and looks towards future elections, many hope to continue the trend of women in leadership roles. “It paves the way for it not to be remarkable, for it to be normalized,” said Susan Gabert, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Campus Ministry. “It brings to mind the history, how far we have come and how far we need to go. It’s the first step to something being normalized,” she continued.

Looking back on the many powerful women in politics, Americans remember the legacy of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg who passed in 2020. She was the first Jewish female Supreme Court Justice and an advocate for gender equality. “She was a first, she demonstrated a real collaboration in many ways,” said Dean Gabert.

Ginsburg’s friendship with the late Justice Antonin Scalia demonstrated her ability to rise above ideological differences to see the good in others. “She also wasn’t afraid to share a perspective that was different, and I think that having multiple voices at a table helps us to hear better and address the issues at hand,” Dean Gabert continued. In a tumultuous political climate in America, there are many lessons of collaboration to be learned from the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The Coronavirus has brought to light some of the equality issues that America still struggles to resolve, including those of women in the workforce. Dean Gabert noted that each family handled the pandemic differently, but she said, “from what I’ve heard by listening and watching the news, the childcare responsibilities have fallen more heavily on women because that is part of the culture.”

Childcare was a particular challenge for working parents as they tried to balance remote schooling and work. Molly McKean, the Executive Director Human Resources at Saint Anselm, said that the college was a very family friendly place to work for both women and men. “We’re big enough to be flexible, but small enough that we can try to meet individual needs,” she said. As the economy and workers continue to feel the strain of the pandemic, there is a glimmer of hope that change may be on the horizon and that these issues will be addressed.

Although women have made tremendous strides in fighting for equality, violence against women continues to be a prominent societal problem. The murder of Sarah Everard earlier this month by a police officer has sparked outcry worldwide and the phrase “she was just walking home” became plastered throughout social media. Although this event happened in the UK, many women across the world felt it deeply. The Saint Anselm campus is considered by many to be a relatively safe community.

“But that doesn’t allow us to be complacent,” said McKean, who works closely with the Title IX team on campus. She explained the importance of campus wide education for both men and women to promote safety. Dean Gabert explained the need for society to reframe the way it approaches the narrative in cases of assault. “Why aren’t we talking about the behaviors of the perpetrator instead of what the woman was doing? The focus should not be on the person who is walking home and more on the perpetrator,” she said.

As with all progress in society, it is important to reflect upon how far we have come while continuing to always work for positive changes. Women have made historical leaps and bounds but continue to fight for equality. “As you get further and further up the ladder, reach out for the people behind you,” encouraged Molly McKean. If society is intentional in learning from the past, women will break through each of the glass ceilings and continue to honor the women that came before them.