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GRC hosts “Gender in the Workplace” panel

| Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Senior Kelly McGee stated the obvious: Notre Dame students are dedicated to their professional futures. However, these futures could already be influenced by an uncontrollable factor — gender.

The Gender Relations Center (GRC) hosted a dinner and conversation Tuesday night to discuss the relevance of gender in the workplace. Eric Love, director of staff diversity and inclusion in the Office of Human Resources, began the conversation by talking about the slow progression of gender equality in the workplace.

“Unfortunately, our society’s not moved far enough along yet … to make external changes outside of individuals,” Love said. “It takes a lot of patience, it takes a tough, thick skin sometimes to transform a whole environment. … I think the end goal is to create a better environment that’s conducive to everybody to do their best work in the workplace.”

Love talked about the importance of diversity in order for creativity and innovation to take place. He talked about his own experience being bi-racial, and how growing up, he was told he would have to work twice as hard to achieve half the credit of his white counterparts.

“That’s almost the same for transgender [people] and women in sciences. It’s not fair, it’s an unfair burden, but I think we’re making some movement in some areas,” Love said.

Victoria Goodrich, director of the first-year engineering program and advisor to the Society of Women Engineers club, talked about the lack of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors.

“Within the College of Engineering there are about 30 percent women, which is actually double the national average. But if you go into actual engineering companies it’s about 11 percent women,” Goodrich said. “I never had a woman STEM professor as a student until I went into graduate school.”

Maternity leave was another topic brought into the conversation. Kevin J. Burke, assistant professor at the department of language and literacy education at the University of Georgia, said the United States is one of the few developed countries that does not mandate paid maternity leave, and even when maternity leave was offered, in many cases the expectation women would not to take it.

“When I had my daughter, my friends told me they would understand because it happens all the time,” Goodrich said. “But I was actually only the second person who was in that engineering department that had a child … so they actually never had this problem. That was just something I had to know and I had to know how to negotiate that.”

Burke said that one of the ways to drive change is through policy and voting. He said change takes smart young people who are committed and willing to do the hard work to make history.

“History also matters,” he said. “The fact that education is predominantly women has a lot to do with the fact that we’ve been paying women a lot less money and there wasn’t a lot of money in the profession. Some of this is about figuring out the history.”

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About Selena Ponio

Selena Ponio is from Dallas, Texas and is currently a senior at the University of Notre Dame. She is the Associate News Editor for The Observer. Selena lives in Breen-Phillips hall and is majoring in International Economics with a concentration in Spanish and is minoring in Journalism, Ethics & Democracy.

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